Joan Crawford's stardom faltered in the mid-1940s and from 1943, when her contract with MGM lapsed, until 1945 she was of work. The consensus was that with her 40th birthday approaching, her popularity was over. Then producer Jerry Wald at Warner's found her the role of her life. "Mildred Pierce" not only won her the Oscar but took a box-office fortune and put her back in the front rank, with a career that would extend another 25 years.
Adapted from a melodramatic novel by James M Cain, it is a magnificent blend of film noir and feminine soap, glossily crafted by Michael Curtiz whose versatile achievements included "Casablanca" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy". The noir tone is set at the opening, with a mysterious nocturnal shooting preceding a flashback that eventually returns to events on that ominous night. Crawford plays the indomitable rags-to-riches central figure and is hardly off the screen. Her husband (Bruce Bennett) having walked out, she struggles on for the sake of two growing daughters - one nice, the other a nasty snob. Her drive and energy brings huge success in the restaurant business and marriage to a rich playboy (Zachary Scott) with a Malibu beach house. The loathsome daughter, compellingly played by Ann Blyth, is the catalyst for what follows - her selfish, calculating, cold-blooded, duplicitous behaviour leads her mother towards a murder charge.
The cast also includes the ever-reliable Jack Carson as a stalwart would-be lover and Eve Arden as her smart-talking pal. But it is mainly Crawford's triumph, and the most remarkable comeback in Hollywood's history.
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