Rent Mildred Pierce (1945)

4.0 of 5 from 122 ratings
1h 47min
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Melodrama casts noirish shadows in this portrait of maternal sacrifice from Hollywood master Michael Curtiz. Its iconic performance by Joan Crawford as Mildred, a single mother hell-bent on freeing her children from the stigma of economic hardship, solidified Crawford's career comeback and gave the actor her only Oscar. But as Mildred pulls herself up by the bootstraps, first as an unflappable waitress and eventually as the well-heeled owner of a successful restaurant chain, the ingratitude of her materialistic firstborn (a diabolical Ann Blyth) becomes a venomous serpent's tooth, setting in motion an endless cycle of desperate overtures and heartless recriminations. Recasting James M.
Cain's rich psychological novel as a murder mystery, this bitter cocktail of blind parental love and all-American ambition is both unremittingly hard-boiled and sumptuously emotional.
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Jerry Wald
Ranald MacDougall, James M. Cain, William Faulkner, Margaret Gruen, Albert Maltz, Louise Randall Pierson, Catherine Turney, Margaret Buell Wilder, Thames Williamson
Ernest Haller
Classics, Drama

1946 Oscar Best Actress

Release Date:
Run Time:
107 minutes
English, Italian
Arabic, English, French, Italian
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen 1.33:1 / 4:3
B & W
  • Documentary Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star
Release Date:
Run Time:
111 minutes
English LPCM Mono
English Hard of Hearing
Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen 1.37:1
B & W
BLU-RAY Regions:
  • New conversation with critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito
  • Excerpt from a 1970 episode of The David Frost Show featuring actor Joan Crawford
  • Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star, a 2002 feature-length documentary
  • Q&A with actor Ann Blyth from 2002, conducted by film historian Eddie Muller
  • Segment from a 1969 episode of the Today show featuring Mildred Pierce novelist James M. Cain Trailer
  • An essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith

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Reviews (1) of Mildred Pierce

Stand up James Cain. - Mildred Pierce review by Steve Mason

Spoiler Alert

I suspect James M. Cain didn't get enough credit for Double Indemnity (1944) because his excellent serial was was so gloriously polished by other more auspicious hands. He contributes another great narrative for Mildred Pierce which again was brilliantly reimagined for the screen.

It was made more of a noir by the addition of a murder not in the novel, which prompts a long flashback narrated by Joan Crawford as a waitress who prospered to own a chain of restaurants, but lost everything else on the way. It was the role of Crawford's career, and she won the Academy Award, and surely identified with the ordinary woman born into poverty who achieved wealth through relentless toil and who alienated her children though proscriptive parenting.

It's a powerful studio film. Much of the dramatic thrust is provided by Max Steiner's orchestral score,  illustrating Ernest Haller's gorgeous high contrast black and white photography which gleams like tarmac in the rain. Director Curtiz was a master of expressionism back in the silents. Mildred Pierce isn't as much of an urban film as its contemporary noirs. It is mostly set in the suburbs of LA, but it still makes good atmospheric use of its environment, the beach towns and highways of South California, and features a typically noirish, lavish Malibu beach house where the murder takes place.

But its greatest strength is the depiction of psychological frailty through the experience of childhood. It is an opera of passive-aggression, an epic of bartered love, of desire and greed rendered so frighteningly sordid that they both mean the same thing. The sassy screenplay is joy. The casting is serendipitous, particularly Crawford, and Ann Blyth who was seventeen when she made this but is scarily believable as Mildred's spoiled, sociopathic daughter.

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