Mildred Pierce (1945) is a classic, post-war film noir mixed with typical soap-operish elements of the woman’s melodramatic picture or “weeper,” including a strand of a typical murder mystery often told by flashback. The family melodrama was significantly modified from its original source due to pressures of the Production Code regarding its sordidness – namely, the incestual behavior of the dissolute playboy character named Monte.
Famed Hungarian-born director Michael Curtiz (who had already directed many diverse film genres, including The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940), Casablanca (1942), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), and This is the Army (1943)) shaped this significant film in the genre. Curtiz reluctantly began filming with ‘has-been’ star Joan Crawford, who had developed a reputation for being mannered and difficult, but was pleasantly surprised when she delivered one of the best performances of her career.
This film, a tremendous box-office hit and critical success, was an adaptation by Ranald MacDougall and Catherine Turney (and William Faulkner) of James M. Cain’s 1941 ‘hard-boiled’ novel of the same name. Cain’s original novel was a satire about bourgeois values, and a tale of poor parenthood. [Cain was responsible for two sources for film noir classics – his 1936 novella for Double Indemnity (1944) and his best-selling work for Mildred Pierce (1945).] Atypical for film noirs, the main protagonist in the film is a female – but she is typically brought down by a femme fatale – her own daughter. The intriguing murder story is told with a flashback structure reminiscent of Citizen Kane (1941). Successful promotional copy for the film read: “Mildred Pierce – don’t ever tell anyone what she did.”
1.62GB | 1h 51mn | 20×540 | mkv