The Curator of Schlock #88 by Jeff Shuster
Mildred Pierce, or All’s Well That Ends Well?
I covered a movie about Joan Crawford last week, so I thought it would fitting to cover a movie actually starring Joan Crawford this week. So I’ll review the one she won Best Actress for, Mildred Pierce. I have to admit, these black and white features from Hollywood’s Golden Age certainly hold up well in the visual department. They do have a timelessness to them that really can’t be matched by modern movies about hobbits, super heroes, vampires, Transformers, or Liam Neeson..
What is Mildred Pierce about? Mildred Pierce is anti-redemption story about a working class mother who wants her daughters to enjoy the finer things in life. Her husband is a working class Joe who resents Mildred for spending money on fancy dresses for their eldest daughter, Veda (Ann Blyth). They have another daughter named Kay who is content enough to play football with the neighborhood boys, mucking it up in the muck. Veda doesn’t like the fancy dress her mother bought for her, saying it’s cheap and smelly.
Mildred and her husband separate, leaving poor Mildred to go on a job hunt that eventually rewards her with a waitressing position.
She actually gets rather good at waitressing, earning enough from tips and pie-baking to afford a maid along with ballet lessons for Kay and a singing teacher for Veda. Mildred is afraid of Veda learning that her mother is a waitress, but Veda finds out anyway and chides her mother for disgracing their broken family. I’d also be ashamed if my mother was a waitress…no, hash slinger…no, a…a…a chum scrubber! I wouldn’t care how many fancy dresses or manservants or singing teachers she bought me.
Remember kids, being part of the upper class is a state of mind. If you berate your parents for their position in life, they might just decide to start their own chain of restaurants named Mildred’s, make bags of money, and buy even fancier houses and fancier dresses and more maids! The reason they call it the high life is because there are no limits. Some would say there’s no satisfaction either, but satisfaction is for people content to be losers.
Eventually, Veda grows tired of being a rich fish in a small pond. She marries Ted Forester, a young gentleman from a wealthy, respected family, but she doesn’t love him.
They get a divorce, but since Veda is pregnant, she insists on $10,000 or there’s going to be trouble. The joke is on the Foresters since it turns out Veda was lying about being pregnant. Ha! She wants to get away from her mother and her “chickens, pies and kitchens. Everything that smells of grease.” She calls her mother a “common frump.”
I remember reading a Mary Worth comic strip a few years back. Mary had a friend who decided she needed to get ahead at the company she worked at so she accused the vice-president of sexual harassment, got him fired, and took his position. The accusation was a lie, but she got what she wanted and couldn’t understand why Mary didn’t approve. It sure blew my mind.
5 Things I Learned from Mildred Pierce
- Police inspectors won’t play along with your frame job.
- Don’t leave your waitressing uniform tucked away in the back of your closet. Your daughter will find it!
- Pneumonia kills real fast!
- Cash the check before you tell your mother of your little pregnancy scam.
- Don’t scorn a woman who is holding a loaded pistol.