MILDRED PIERCE (1945) B/W 109m dir: Michael Curtiz
w/Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Ann Blyth, Bruce Bennett, George Tobias, Lee Patrick, Moroni Olsen, Jo Ann Marlowe
This is, quite simply, one of the best films ever made. It's expertly crafted and packs a real wallop.
Variety's review praised the film, saying the story "is told in flashback as Mildred Pierce is being questioned by police about the murder of her second husband. Character goes back to the time she separated from her first husband and how she struggled to fulfill her ambitions for her children.
"The dramatics are heavy but so skillfully handled that they never cloy. Joan Crawford reaches the peak of her acting career in this pic. Ann Blyth, as the daughter, scores dramatically in her first genuine acting assignment. Zachary Scott makes the most of his character as the Pasadena heel, a talented performance."
And from The Movie Guide: "Impeccable, bleak gloss, with the supreme Crawford engineering the greatest comeback of them all. MILDRED PIERCE is one of the finest noir soap operas ever, with the queen of pathos shouldering the storm alone; her efforts snagged the golden statuette as 1945's Best Actress. To begin with MILDRED was leftovers: Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis and Ann Sheridan turned down the role, but producer [Jerry] Wald gambled on MGM-bounced Crawford, and the film swept the box offices, returning $5 million to Warners and putting Crawford back on top as the hottest star in town. ...
"Everything about MILDRED PIERCE is first-rate, from stellar production values to Curtiz's marvelously paced direction, which refuses to allow sentiment to rule the story. The [Ranald] MacDougall script, adapted from [James M.] Cain's terse novel, is adult and literate, with plenty of sharp dialogue. The Curtiz string-pulling is greatly aided by [Anton] Grot's imposing sets, [Ernest] Haller's moody photography and [Max] Steiner's haunting score. Bravely cresting the waves of disaster is a mature Crawford in a real tour de force, defying the industry to write her off as washed up. She's matched every slap of the way by Blyth, here giving the performance of her career.
"The support in MILDRED is, without exception, expertly handled. Scott is an exceptionally attractive snake and Arden turned in a definitive job as Crawford's wisecracking pal. Two peak scenes among aficionados of Saint Joan: Veda [Blyth] smacks Mildred; Mildred calls the police. Unforgettable."
The film was also nominated for Oscars for Best Picture, Supporting Actress (both Arden and Blyth), Screenplay, and B&W Cinematography.