Mildred Pierce - the 1945 version
28 March 2011
I felt a bit apprehensive when I heard that Mildred Pierce is being remade. Kate Winslet is in the title role. You'd think I'd be happy because it's been one of my all-time favourite films for many years now. It was adapted from one of the five so called 'great novels' of noir writer James M Cain (he also wrote The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity which were both made into wonderful films too), the book has a different, very depressing ending, but the film stands alone as a great work. It was directed by Michael Curtiz who also directed Casablanca.
One of the characters I like the most is Mildred's wise-cracking pal Ida played by Eve Arden, there aren't enough female roles like this in films these days.
Come to think of it, maybe that partly explains why this film has obsessed me for so many years. It has such great female roles. In addition to Mildred and Ida there's Veda, the conniving, greedy and spoiled older daughter. Each part is just so compelling, and multi-faceted, none of them is mere arm candy, (though all gorgeous with great costumes) they are tough cookies these three. The main male characters are all weak and flawed in comparison to the female leads, who were all nominated for Academy Awards, though only Joan Crawford won one, and deservedly so because she drives the film.
Like many noir films of that period it has a cracking narrative that keeps you on tenterhooks even when you've seen it about 30 times like I have! It's visually beautiful to look at and it never descends into schmaltzy sentimentality, which it easily could. Ok that's why I"m apprehensive, because for me it's an almost perfect film, I don't want to see a pale imitation. I love this film so much that I had it on VHS when I lived in the states. When I moved home to UK my VHS copy didn't work here and I actually wrote a letter to Lovefilm.com begging them to release it on dvd so that I could keep watching it (saddo!)
My mum told me a story about when she was young. She was ill in a house where there was a new years party at which Joan Crawford was a guest (in the US). Joan heard my mum was ill and insisted on coming to her room where she made a great public fuss of her and made them call her own personal doctor. I think my mum just wanted her to clear off and leave her alone but still - imagine that... having the flu and Joan Crawford coming in!
Well I hope I have convinced you to buy or rent a copy of it. Let me know what you think, I'm sure you won't be disappointed :-)