Mildred Pierce (1945): “alligators have the right idea… they eat their young”

Mildred Pierce (1945)

“this etched-in-acid film chronicles the flaws in the American dream…”
– Steven H. Scheuer

“Constant, lambent, virulent attention to money and its effects, and more authentic suggestion of sex than one hopes to see in American films.”
– James Agee

Mildred Pierce (1945)

One of the great Hollywood melodramas with an Oscar-winning performance from the luminous Joan Crawford as Mildred. Better than the James M. Cain novel on which it is based, Mildred Pierce under the assured direction of Michael Curtiz, and with stunning film noir photography by cinematographer Ernest Haller, is top-class entertainment.

The story of family tragedy played out against the pursuit of the California dream of wealth and ease through hard-work and ambition destroyed by wastrel conceit and shameless greed, is as strong an indictment of the moral corrosiveness of wealth and privilege as Hollywood has achieved. But it is also a story of profound humanity and the worth of simple decency and personal integrity. Mildred makes tragic mistakes and misplaces her trust and love, but she is always true to herself, and in even in her darkest hour towers above the morass of greed and selfishness that would suck her down.

These frames from the movie illustrate the visual dynamite that explodes on the screen in the film’s most dramatic moments:

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4 thoughts on “Mildred Pierce (1945): “alligators have the right idea… they eat their young””

  1. This is not even close to being one of my favorite noirs—ironically it was the first film to get the five-star rating at the Movie Zeal retro, but that’s another story—but it is admittedly as stated in the piece, an extraordinarily entertaining film thanks to the performances and plotting. It is often looked on as one of the lesser-heralded Curtiz gems, but Crawford’s Oscar has certainly insured its place.


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