© 1945 Warner Bros. Pictures

Mildred Pierce (1945)

While Grand Hotel and the rarely seen Letty Lynton are the best examples of the first stage of Joan Crawford’s career (or her talkies anyway), this film is the best example of the second phase of her career, after she was fired from MGM and had to strike out on her own. The sheer glamour of her early career was a thing of a past, and Crawford was playing a truly dramatic role for the first time. This is the first of many of her roles and strong, strong-willed career women whose only weaknesses are emotional. Crawford won a best actress award and deserved it. Maybe the  the reason Crawford was able to so inhabit the role was because it mirrored her own life. She had been dropped by the studio that she was so loyal to and she found herself in a position that forced her to go find work to support her adopted kids, and had to rely on her wits, determination and fading looks to make a success of it. In the film, Mildred is left by her husband, and opens a restaurant in order to please her unbelievably selfish daughter. Crawford really inhabits the role and makes the film her own. That is why the upcoming remake with Kate Winslet (who is about 20 years too young) as Mildred and Rachel Evelyn Wood (who is about 10 years too old) is so ridiculously unnecessary.

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