I think it’s time I introduced a new series for my blog. One that will allow me to explore an area of film that has always fascinated me but also one I don’t have much experience in. And that, is the films of Classic Hollywood. By that, I mean the first few decades in which Hollywood transitioned from silents to talkies; a period which had been glamourised throughout the decades and fascinates me. All films discussed will have been made between the 30s and late 50s and will be a mix of genres. So, let’s crack on and discuss one of the classics: Mildred Pierce.
Made in 1945, Mildred Pierce, is classic film noir. Starring Joan Crawford in the title role, it follows a woman who, after separating from her husband, begins to work in a restaurant in order to earn money to spoil her greedy daughter, Veda (Ann Blyth). After success as a waitress, she begins making pies for the restaurant and finally opens her own chain which leads her to great financial success. However, this isn’t just a film about a woman’s rise to success, at its heart it’s a murder mystery and the victim is Mildred’s second husband.
After watching for the first time, it’s no surprise that Crawford went on to win an Oscar for her performance. She delivers a strong performance as a hard working and strong woman, who is dominated by her greedy and ungrateful daughter. Dominated so much, that she’ll do just about anything to keep her happy; even marrying a man she doesn’t love. In fact, performances all round are terrific in this one; even down to secondary character such as Ida (Eve Arden) who plays Mildred’s boss-cum-friend.
Based on a book of the same name, Mildred Pierce is a classic crime film. With the majority of the plot delivered to us through flashbacks of Mildred telling us the chain of events that led to the murder of her second husband. We’re given a bunch of suspects and are allowed to run wild with theories before the final act reveals all; an ending that is both satisfying and saddening.
Like a lot of Noir films, Mildred Pierce has a beautiful mise en scene; the different settings work on different levels; the wonderful, homely feeling of Mildred’s restaurant is juxtaposed to the cold, heartless feeling of her grand mansion. Director Michael Curitz does a wonderful job of bringing a stylish and interesting story to life.
So that’s it. The first in a hopefully long line of classic films that will appear on my blog. Let me know if you liked this one and if you have any recommendations for future posts, let me know! Thanks for reading.
P.S: If like me, you love that era I must recommend you listen a wonderful podcast series called You Must Remember This, hosted by Karina Longworth it explores Hollywood’s first century and has the most interesting topics. I’ve just finished the series on Joan Crawford which inspired me to choose Mildred Pierce for the first post.