A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945)

Joan Crawford and Eve Arden in Mildred Pierce 
Mildred Pierce: Joan Crawford
Wally Fay: Jack Carson
Veda Pierce: Ann Blyth
Monte Beragon: Zachary Scott
Ida Corwin: Eve Arden
Bert Pierce: Bruce Bennett
Lottie: Butterfly McQueen
Mrs. Maggie Biederhof: Lee Patrick
Inspector Peterson: Moroni Olsen
Kay Pierce: Jo Ann Olsen

Director: Michael Curtiz
Screenplay: Ranald McDougal
Based on a novel by James M. Cain
Cinematography: Ernest Haller
Art direction: Anton Grot
Film editing: David Weisbart
Music: Max Steiner

Mildred Pierce provided Joan Crawford with her shining Oscar moment, even if she had to accept her statuette from her sickbed -- surrounded, to be sure, by press photographers. But I don't think it's her best performance. I prefer her as Crystal Allen in The Women (George Cukor, 1939), who, though she loses her sugar daddy still manages to kiss off the "respectable" women with a splendid curtain line. Or as Helen Wright, the consummate rich and predatory patroness in Humoresque (Jean Negulesco, 1946), treating the Fannie Hurst melodrama as if it were Ibsen, inhabiting every absurd moment with full conviction. Or even as Millicent Weatherby in Autumn Leaves (Robert Aldrich, 1956), in which she fights against the hardness into which her face was beginning to settle as she turned 50 by crafting an image of a younger, more vulnerable woman. There are things about Mildred Pierce that don't quite work,  particularly the shifts from film noir, shot with expressionist flair by Ernest Haller, to "woman's picture" opulence of setting. But it is still an indispensable film, as essential to defining Crawford's career -- and hence to an understanding of how Hollywood viewed women in the 1940s -- as Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942) was to Bette Davis's.

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