Classic movies. Joan Crawford as ‘Mildred Pierce.’ Yareah review by Dewey Edward Chester.
The screenplay by Ranald MacDougell and William Faulkner, was adapted from the novel by James M. Cain.
Though Cain is often labeled a crime writer, his novel was a psychological work; while adaptation designed it as a thriller. Murder was introduced later.
After seeing the film, Cain sent actress Joan Crawford a signed ‘first’ edition of his original novel with the following inscription:
“To Joan, who brought Mildred to life as I had always hoped she would be, and who has my life-long gratitude.”
Joan Crawford won the Academy Award in 1946 for her portrayal.
Cain wrote this story at the intersection of the 1930’s and 1940’s, when “weepy” drama conflicted with “Independent-women” drama—insisting that women must not be submissive, remain in the home, or live through men.
In ‘Noir’ fashion, a man is shot dead inside an expensive California beach house. The camera does not show who pulled the trigger.
His name was Monte Beragon, the second husband of Mildred Pierce, a wealthy restaurant tycoon who owns a glamorous chain.
At the beach house murder scene, Police suspect Mildred, but under interrogation she offers a narrated flashback in search of the killer.
“I was a house-wife for Bert Pierce,” Mildred explains. “After we separated, I kept custody of my daughters—- 16-year old, Veda, and 10-year old Kay, my youngest.
“I discovered Veda longed for entitlement, which encouraged me to leave the home and find a restaurant waitress job to please her.
“When she found out, she embarrassed me, inferring my work was trashy.
“Kay, my youngest daughter died of pneumonia, which motivated my obsession of opening my own restaurant; and, with the help from friends, my store blossomed into a glamorous chain across Southern California; they made me wealthy.
“I smothered my daughter with affection, but she was still convinced I was somehow inferior.
Hoping to improve my image, I entered a loveless marriage with the ‘formerly’ wealthy Monty Beragon—-who turned into a scoundrel and ruined my business.
“When my daughter took up with him I was furious, staging a showdown at the beach house tonight.”
Mildred’s narrated flashback for Police concludes. The murder scene is reenacted—-the camera angle opens to reveal that Veda, angry over Monte’s unwillingness to divorce her mother and marry ‘her,’ is the one who pulled the trigger and shot Beragon, dead.
In front of the Police Officer, Mildred turns to Veda and says—“I’m sorry, Darling, I couldn’t please you any longer.”
Veda arrogantly replies—-“I’ll get by,” and is led away for execution.