Last year I watched, for the first time, Mildred Pierce (the famous film which led to Joan Crawford's first Oscar. Her receipt of that Oscar is another famous story in itself which I'll save for later.).
Of course, I posted my thoughts of the film at the forum of Classicmovies.org (yes, another nod to that forum), and I'm pasting it here in toto ----------------------
MILDRED PIERCE, WHY I WATCHED
Finally gotten around to watching MILDRED PIERCE. I'm not a Joan Crawford fan but I wanted to be prepared just in case I ever saw Carol Burnett's parody of the film, MILDRED FIERCE.
MISS CRAWFORD'S SYMPATHETIC PERFORMANCE
Miss Crawford here plays a most sympathetic character- everything Mildred touches turns out wrong, except her profession. How eerily like Miss Crawford's life.
I found a gem of a performance here. Much like Katherine Hepburn's in ALICE ADAMS - a tough woman turns in a beautiful, tear-jerking role. The roles are similar in that the title characters each are snubbed while trying to be accepted by Society.
BUT THERE'S A TWIST . . .
But where Alice's unceasing labor to reach the heights is sweetly futile, Mildred's quest is psychotically obsessive.
Mildred wants Society in order to please her spoiled kid, Veda. Mildred deserves what she gets from this relationship.
Mildred walks off the screen with her estranged husband in a poignant reunion, which is great.
But we are supposed to think of them as victims of Veda and Veda's snobby boyfriend.
Actually, they are parents who have destroyed both of their daughters- one kid by indulgence, the other by neglect.
Poor little Kay Pierce -the younger kid. No one pays attention to Kay because she doesn't cause trouble as her older sister, Veda, does. Everybody likes Kay, but figures she can take care of herself. This is why the poor kid dies -no one notices she has pneumonia until she needs to be hospitalized!
Neither the filmmakers nor the other actors do justice to the death of this kid's character. The child is made to be endearing in this film. So when she dies you expect something from her "loving" mother other than "I shall remember [her last words] as long as I live."
Usually, a mother like Mildred (one who earnestly believes she loves her kids) in that situation (30 seconds after the kid dies in front of her) is far too overwrought to make speeches.
The father does a far better job here - looking at the bed and wordlessly writhing in pain. There are no words for such a situation, so there shouldn't be any here, least of all from the character with whom we are supposed to sympathize.
It threw me off kilter that Mildred would speak here and in such unwavering voice. Miss Crawford seems to be merely reciting lines. Everybody in this scene over-acts, except the guy who plays the father.
The next scene we see Mildred broadly smiling as her business booms. This would have been fine (we know she's a workaholic) if she had grieved enough at the death scene. She doesn't grieve enough at the death scene, so it seems she really doesn't care much for Kay rather than valiantly trying to bury her grief in her work.
PARENTAL SELFISHNESS -& FAMILY'S DOOM; OLDER DAUGHTER
Mildred and her husband suffer by their own selfishness - the guy, rather than stick to his family when the going gets tough, walks out to be with some other woman. Throughout the movie, Mildred obsesses with pleasing Veda, the older kid, to the detriment of her marriage, all so that Mildred can feel loved by her kid.
Arrghh! I want to strangle Mildred and her husband!
So the parents have not taught the kid any discipline or to be respectful, which is possibly the ultimate selfish thing any parent can do. The kid will not have had any real love ( a love which tells a person when he needs to straighten his behavior), won't know how to love, and won't be able to function with normalcy in any world other than where she gets all and gives nothing.
Yes, Veda helped to mess up the family, but Mildred and husband created a monster!!
WHAT I'D LIKE...
I'd love it if each character had his own version of this story - one movie each. It would be wonderful to see this film from some other angle than glorifying poor Mildred.
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