Monday, 31 January 2011
Old Movie Madness: Mildred Pierce (1945)
Now this is a film that I would describe as posh-noir, sharing many film noir characteristics but being altogether more slick and well put together than a lot of noirs I've seen and with a proper storyline too, plus it stars Joan Crawford, what could be better? (Bette Davis in my opinion, though she wouldn't have suited this role ;-) )
The film opens with a man being shot and falling to the ground, before he dies he utters one word "Mildred". when the murder is discovered the police believe the killer to be Bert Pierce, Mildred's first husband.
Under interrogation by the police Mildred relates her life story, which we see in flashback.
As Mildred starts her tale we see her married to Bert Pierce, who leaves her for another woman. Mildred and Bert have two daughters together - Veda and Kay. Tragically Kay dies from pneumonia brought on, it is alleged, by their sudden fall into poverty and so Mildred clings to her elder daughter Veda for dear life.
Veda is a snob of a girl, constantly asking her mother for money and sneering at their reduced circumstances and so Mildred takes a waitressing job in secret. After finding her food is a hit she strikes up a deal with an old admirer and a local playboy to rent a property at a huge discount and open her own restaurant. the restaurant is a roaring success and Mildred opens a chain across the country.
Despite giving Veda all the money she needs a a better lifestyle than she has ever had before the girl is still unsatisfied and frequently clashes with her mother about her working class roots. After Veda marries a young man only to divorce him for a large sum of money weeks later their relationship sours and Mildred kicks Veda out of their home.
Mildred leaves town for a while and returns to find her daughter singing in a nightclub - Veda still refuses to come home and so Mildred resorts to marrying the high class but poverty stricken Monty Beragon to improve her social standing and finally Veda agrees to return to live with her mother.
Monty and Veda get together behind Mildred's back and con her out of her business. Veda, who thinks Monty is going to divorce her mother and marry her, shoots Monty in a rage. Her mother, ever protective, confesses to the murder.
The film ends with the police having worked out who committed the murder after all and Veda being sent to prison.
This film reminded me somewhat of Stella Dallas, a story of a working class mother's love for her child forcing her to take extreme measures to make the child happy. However where the daughter in Stella Dallas was a loving and innocent thing, Veda is pure evil and so instead of finding Mildred's sacrifice noble I found I became increasingly irritated by her love for a child so ungrateful and downright spiteful.
It is a great film for suits and hats. Both Mildred and the older Veda sport some amazingly big shoulder padded ensembles throughout the move, and I am dying to try the full wave bang with victory rolls style Mildred wears for much of the film.