Joan Crawford’s reputation as an actress tends to be overshadowed by he relationships with two significant women in her life. Her daughter Christina, who wrote the scandalous tell-all Mommie Dearest, and Bette Davis, the one-time co-star whose feuding with Crawford has become legendary.
But while Crawford inevitably suffers in comparison to the fearsomely brillant Davis, she was an Oscar-winning actress in her own right. Mildred Pierce is her signature role, and an excellent starting point for anybody who wants to explore her legacy beyond the twin camp landmarks of Mommie Dearest and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.
Crawford was a rarity in Hollywood in that her career arguably peaked while she was in her forties – usually an era of slow death for a leading lady. After emerging as an icon of youth and vivacity during the flapper period, she struggled to find worthwhile roles in the late 30s and early 40s. Mildred Pierce was her first major role in two years when it was released in 1945, and it quickly became the biggest box office hit of her career – and her sole Oscar win.
Mildred Pierce combines classic melodrama with film noir elements, via a slightly convoluted murder mystery told primarily in flashback. As the title character, Crawford embodies the socially mobile working class woman who endures hardship, tragedy and snobbery in her relentless drive for success – themes that would resonate in her personal life as well.
On this week’s podcast we discuss some of our highlights from the movie – including questionable police work, wild tonal shifts, shoulder pads for days and the most iconic slap in film history. We also brainstorm some drinking games, check in with our listeners and pitch some sequel ideas to imagine the next chapter in Mildred’s dramatic life.
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Next week, we’re lurching dramatically into the 90s with an explosive disaster movie starring a pair of action franchise icons. Until then happy listening and remember – never loan money to a playboy with a pencil thin moustache!