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Thursday, August 25, 2011

MILDRED PIERCE (1945)

After 18 years and nearly sixty films at M-G-M, Joan Crawford took two years off before starting @ Warners with this classic MotherLove/Murder Mystery melodrama. Her big career gamble paid off: Raves, Box-Office & Oscar®, a movie-Queen trifecta, and the film is still, within certain parameters, very effective. Michael Curtiz’s swanky helming makes the most of its So-Cal stylings (the beach house, the curvy lines of Mildred and her restaurant, a decade’s worth of hair-dos & shoulder-pads), and his crackling pace & fluid camera help camouflage some unwieldy plot elements that were added to juice up James Cain’s original novel. At heart, it’s still the story of a sacrificing mom who works so hard at pleasing her disdainful, self-centered daughter (Ann Blyth), she can’t see the monster she’s raised. Crawford makes the most of Mildred, such a relief after those WWII adventures & tony B’way adaptations back @ M-G-M, but she also can’t help making a meal of it. And the script does Blyth no favors, giving the game away on her entrance. (Or perhaps it’s just that the plot twists & psychological underpinnings now look threadbare from overuse.) The rest of the cast are just great with exceptional work from the underrated Bruce Bennett as husband #1 and from Eve Arden as the restaurant manager with a wisecrack for every situation. She’s irresistible.

DOUBLE-BILL: Producer Jerry Wald must have liked attempted suicides and flashbacks. He used it first in THE HARD WAY/’42 with Ida Lupino & Joan Leslie as sisters who are a lot like Crawford & Blyth’s mother & daughter. Jack Carson is plenty good in both pics, but he's at his very best in the earlier one.

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