01 November 2010

HBO remade Mildred Pierce; I'm withholding judgment

One of the greatest films ever made was 1945's tour de force Mildred Pierce. Joan Crawford had been let go by Metro Goldwyn Mayer and this was her first film for Warner Brothers. It netted her the only Oscar of her long and distinguished career.

Mildred Pierce is the ultimate film noir murder mystery. Under Michael Curtiz's direction, the movie's stellar cast wallows in 1940s glamor. The set design, the lighting, the wardrobes and yes the story are a compelling and fascinating watch. Joan Crawford could chew on scenery like none other and her larger than life portrayal of Mildred is matched line by line by Ann Blyth's over the top characterization of Mildred's horrific daughter Veda. Throw in Zachary Scott for beefcake and Eve Arden for comic relief and it's a winner all around.

Mildred Pierce was adapted from James M. Cain's 1941 novel of the same name. In order to get the film made, Warner Brothers altered the story pretty significantly. They downplayed the sexual carryings on and played up the violence. Cain's novel is as much about the Depression and Prohibition as it is about they dynamics of a hard working mother and an ungrateful daughter and neither of those topics get touched upon in the Warner Brothers film.

Over the weekend, I learned that HBO has remade Mildred Pierce as a five-part mini-series that will premiere in the spring of 2011. The cast looks interesting and there was enough material left out of Cain's novel to make a brand new Mildred Pierce. Kate Winslett play Mildred and it will take me a while to get used to seeing her as such I have to admit. Guy Pearce plays the penniless playboy Monty and that's some great casting.

What give me hope for this movie is that it's being directed by Todd Haynes.

Todd Haynes made 2002's Far from Heaven, a movie I say is the best film of the 21st century so far.

With Far from Heaven under his belt, he proved that he can handle a period piece. And how. Wow, that movie is as beautiful to look at as it is devastating to watch.

So I'll be curious to see what Kate Winslett does with the character of Mildred Pierce and even more curious to see what Haynes does with Can's novel. What ever happens, get ready for a 1940s revival to counter the current craze for all things Mid Century Mad Men.


  1. Looks like I'll be subscribing to HBO this spring!

  2. Oh dear! Just watching the original trailer makes me realize how fabulous Crawford and Blyth were in this movie. Winslet doesn't seem a good fit to me and I'd have liked to see Christina Aguilera as nasty Veda!

  3. Pam: I have to say I'm intrigued and knowing that this is around the bend will keep me an HBO subscriber.

    Anne: I don't know, Winslett is quite the chameleon and Warner Brothers altered the original story line pretty significantly to turn it into a vehicle for Crawford. It looks like Haynes has gone back to the original novel and made a different movie so remakes probably not the best word for it.

  4. Are we still friends if I confess I've never seen Mildred Pierce?

    Kate Winslet can do no wrong and I haven't seen Guy Pierce in anything in ages, so I have high hopes. But, of course, I need to remedy my lack of reference before then.

  5. If anyone can pull off a Joan-worthy remake, it's Kate, Guy and Todd. Reminds me to finally get around to seeing Haynes' "Superstar" -- Karen Carpenter by way of Barbie.

  6. Raina: Of course! I look past other peoples' having never seen Mildred Pierce all the time but oh! what a movie! You will rethink the plan for your new home's interiors based on the set designs from Mildred Pierce though, so be warned.

    Leah: I have never seen Superstar either. It's been my understanding that Richard Carpenter's lawsuits have kept it out of circulation. Has Superstar been released somehow?

  7. Ooohhh Guy Pearce. I'm so in :) I haven't seen any of this movies since Momento but WOW he's great in that. From your description of the story, I think I might just have to read the book though :)

  8. Read the book! It's a masterpiece and it was decades ahead of its time.

  9. I'll clear my book reading schedule for it as soon as I'm done with Neil Gaiman's American Gods that I picked up last week..

  10. You will not regret it. I think I'll re-read it as soon as I wrap up Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose.

  11. "My mother--a WAITRESS!"
    Hope they do stick closer to the book; otherwise I will be sorely disappointed...

  12. I was thinking about you the entire time I was writing this post last night. Based on the clips HBO's released so far, it's a retelling of the story more than a remake of the 1945 movie. A retelling based more closely on the novel. Whatever happens, I can't wait to see what Todd Haynes does with this material. I just wonder if Kate Winslett can pull off a diva.


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