Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You Gotta Love Mildred Pierce

This classic postwar film noir was released in 1945. Based on a 1941 novel by James M. Cain, it takes place in Glendale California during the 1930s depression era.

Most notable in this film is the performance of Joan Crawford who delivered one of the best performances of her career. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Eve Arden and Ann Blyth, both with their only career nominations), Best Screenplay (Ranald MacDougall), and Best Black-and-white Cinematography (Ernest Haller, who shared the Color Cinematography Oscar for Gone with the Wind in 1939.) Crawford won the film's sole Academy Award as Best Actress. It was her sole win out of her three career nominations.

Joan Crawford was one of Hollywood's most prominent movie stars and one of the highest paid women. By the end of the 1930's her career was suffering and her films were losing money. MGM bought out her contract on June 23, 1943 which humiliated her. Subsequently she endured a two year absence from film making so obtaining the role of Mildred Pierce was extremely important to her. Betty Davis was originally scheduled to play the part but she turned it down as she didn't want to play a woman of that age. Warner Brothers made Joan take a screen test for the part, which was a major insult., however, in the end she did get the role of her life, Mildred Pierce.

One of the most notable features of this film was the wardrobe. Milo Anderson was costume director for Warner Bros at that time. It is unknown if he personally dressed the stars or if the job was handed down to one of his many staffers. So sadly we'll never know who is responsible for this fabulously costumed movie.

I've seen Mildred Pierce at least 10 times, drooling over Joan's wardrobe. Her square shoulder minks with matching hats became a fashion rage after the release of the movie. Take note that all the stars are wearing wonderful 1940's dresses, suits, coats and hats. During the tear jerking scene where little Kay has died and Joan is sobbing over her bed, I couldn't help but notice through my tears that Mrs. Biederhof was wearing a fabulous applique wrap hostess robe. Somehow I bet it was deep salmon color.

Anyway if you like old movies, vintage clothing and Joan Crawford this movie is a must. Below are some interesting facts concerning Mildred Pierce.

Production started December 7, 1944 and ended May 1945. Took only 6 months from start to finish.

Film cost $1,453,000 to make and grossed $5,638,000.

The home used for Mildred's beach house was located at 26652 Latigo Shore Drive in Malibu. Built in 1929, the two-story house collapsed into the ocean in late January 1983 after an intense week of storms.

Interesting fact: Joan Crawford achieved success with the movie Letty Lynton (1932). Soon after its release, a plagiarism suit forced MGM to withdraw it. It has never been shown on television or made available on home video, and is therefore considered the "lost" Crawford film. The film is mostly remembered because of the "Letty Lynton dress", designed by Adrian: a white cotton organdy gown with large ruffled sleeves, puffed at the shoulder. It was with this gown that Crawford's broad shoulders began to be accentuated by costume. Macy's copied the dress in 1932, and it sold over 500,000 replicas nationwide.

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