On the 26th of November, 2014, watched all five episodes of the TV-miniseries, Mildred Pierce (2011). One of the DVD’s I brought from Australia.
Mildred Pierce - The PosterBack in 2012, whilst visiting Delhi, I got to watch the classic noir flick, Mildred Pierce (1945), based on a 1941 novel by James M. Cain, on TCM. I instantly fell in love with this excellent adaptation, and felt it was one of the best movies ever made. Directed by Michael Curtiz, and starring Joan Crawford, as the titular character, the 1945 adaptation had deviated from the original plot, and the turned the story into a crime drama, yet keeping intact the mother/daughter relationship explored in the book. I haven’t read the novel yet, but since watching the 2011 mini-series, assumingly being more of an accurate adaptation, that’s what I gathered. Last month I located the 2011 mini-series DVD in Sydney, among the many I ended up buying there (see my post related to my  ). And this modern adaptation directed by Todd Haynes, and starring, my favourite actress of the 21st century, so far, Kate Winslet, in the lead role, was totally worth it. Another excellent adaptation, and one of the rare great re-makes of a classic. Love both the classic, and the modern. Both Crawford and Winslet, are perfect in their roles of the ever suffering mother, trying her best to please her ungrateful daughter.

Left: Kate Winslet (2011) Right: Joan Crawford (1945)

Left: Kate Winslet (2011)                       Right: Joan Crawford (1945)

The 1945 Classic Cinematic Venture
In the classic noir flick, the movie starts off with a crime, with the death of Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott), second husband of Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford). The police then question Mildred Pierce, assuming her first husband, Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett), shot Beragon out of jealousy. Mildred Pierce then takes the blame, and recounts her life story in flashback.

The 2011 Television Adaptation
In the newer adaptation, no noirish crime takes place. Nobody gets killed. No flashbacks. Straight forward drama set in the depression era of 1930’s America.

Analysis
Besides the major plot shift, in the classic and the modern, one of the common factors, in both the Mildred Pierce’s, is the psychological character study of Mildred Pierce and her daughter Veda.

The mother, though a woman with her flaws (which is what makes her human), is the perfect mother. Kind, caring, sacrificing her own happiness for the sake of her children, and putting them first. The elder daughter, Veda, is an ungrateful, nasty character, though the degree of their cruelty towards the mother varies between Veda (Ann Blyth) of the 1945 version, and Veda (Morgan Turner & Evan Rachel Wood) of the 2011 version. In the classic version, we don’t see issues such as incest and infidelity, through the daughter and her playboy step-father, Monte/Monty Beragon (Zachary Scott in 1945 and Guy Pearce in 2011), mainly due to the censorship laws that existed in the hey days of Hollywood. While Veda from the classic noir piece kills off her step-father, and lets her mother take the blame; in the newer version, Veda, not only sleeps with her step-father, making that an alliance of incest, as well as infidelity, she antagonises her mother, flaunting her sexual relationship with Beragon. As Veda (Evan Rachel Wood) slithers naked, like a venomous snake, from the lust stained bed, towards the mirror, taunting her horrified mother (Winslet), one feels nothing but disgust towards this animalistic character (not the actress). So the amount of hatred you feel for the ‘Veda’ character in the two versions vary. The new ‘Veda’ makes the 1945 ‘Veda’, look like a saint. But yet that doesn’t mean you can like the ‘Veda’ of the classic film. You’d still dislike her, but feel more disgusted towards the ‘Veda’ of 2011.

Left: Morgan Turner as the younger Veda in the 2011 mini-series.  Top-Right: Evan Rachel Wood as the older Veda in the 2011 mini-series. Bottom-Right: Ann Blyth as Veda in the 1945 film-noir.

Left: Morgan Turner as the younger Veda in the 2011 mini-series.
Top-Right: Evan Rachel Wood as the older Veda in the 2011 mini-series.
Bottom-Right: Ann Blyth as Veda in the 1945 film-noir.

The two ‘Mildred Pierce’ characters too differ, though not in their niceties. They are both kind hearted mothers of near perfection. Both are single mothers bringing up their children on their own, after getting rid of their cheating husbands, Bert Pierce’s (Bruce Bennett in 1945 and Brían F. O’Byrne in 2011). Both are independent strong willed women. Yet both fall for the wrong man, Beragon, adding towards the, already problematic, mother/daughter relationship. But Crawford’s ‘Mildred Pierce’ is a business tycoon and owns a chain of glamorous restaurants, while Winslet’s ‘Mildred Pierce’ is, though a business woman, not a tycoon, with only a few restaurants, most probably as stated in James M. Cain’s novel. And Crawford’s character never harms her daughter, physically or otherwise, while Winslet’s (due to the sequence prior to it), grasps her inconsiderate daughter by the neck, through provocation. As the singer Veda (Evan Rachel Wood) tries to sing, with her damaged vocal chords, besides how much disgust we feel towards her, one can’t help but feel sorry for her character. Only for a moment though. She’s a character that could never change, and finally Winslet’s ‘Mildred Pierce’ gives up on Veda. While Crawford’s still tries to protect her till the end. Mildred Pierce is a really complex feminist character, who stands on her own two feet, in a man’s world, yet finds herself trapped, by falling for the wrong man, and by being psychologically distressed by her own spoilt daughter.

Kate Winslet & Guy Pearce in scene from MILDRED PIERCE (2011)

Kate Winslet & Guy Pearce in scene from MILDRED PIERCE (2011) NSFS

Both Zachary Scott and Guy Pearce, are superb, as the playboy Monte/Monty Beragon, who seduces Mildred Pierce and further ruins her relationship with her daughter, in the film and mini-series, respectively. The way it happens differs in the two versions. Yet, along with the playboy characteristics of Beragon, the fact he uses Mildred Pierce, mainly for her money, and encourages Veda’s hatred for her mother, doesn’t.

Bert Pierce, Mildred Pierce’s first husband, though flawed, is a sympathetic character, that always stands by his ex-wife. Especially against the injustices of their narcissistic, hard hearted, daughter, towards the mother. His character truly shines bright in the final sequence.

The movie was an excellent work of cinematic art. But amazingly, so was the television remake. Love both the movie and the TV miniseries. Both Joan Crawford and Kate Winslet, garnered various accolades, at various award ceremonies, for their portrayal of ‘Mildred Pierce’, including Oscars, Globes and Emmy’s.
Mildred Pierce (1945). Excellent !!!!! 10/10!!!!!
Mildred Pierce (2011). Excellent !!!!! 10/10!!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
Nuwan Sen’s Television (DVD) Sense

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