Guest Author - Amber Grey
Based on the novel of the same name by James M. Cain, "Mildred Pierce" starred Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott and Eve Arden. It is often described as a film noir because as the film opens, Mildred, a highly successful restaurant owner is being interrogated for the murder of her second husband Monte Beragon.
The film then commences into a flashback of how Mildred came to where she is now, with the focus being on her determination as a mother to provide everything for her daughters when Mildred separates from her first husband.
At the center of this film is the theme of of the mother-daughter relationship between Mildred and Veda (played by Ann Blyth). It is one of the classic tension-filled relationships ever shown on screen with one of the most famous face-slaps heard 'round the world.
With all of the negative press surrounding Joan Crawford, thanks to Christina Crawford's memoir "Mommie Dearest", it would be assumed that Ann Blyth would have something just as unfavorable to dent Crawford's legacy with. But if there were any, Blyth hasn't revealed anything.
For Turner Classic Movies, Crawford's onscreen daughter narrated a 5-minute tribute about Crawford. The first day they met, was on the day of Blyth's screentest when Crawford insisted on being a part of it in order to see if they had the right chemistry for the picture. Based on what the studios and Crawford must have seen, Blyth got the part, winning out actresses like Shirley Temple at the time.
Above all else, Blyth remembers Crawford as someone who was dedicated to her craft and remained a good friend of Blyth's until Crawford's passing in 1977.
In a 2007 interview with Eddie Muller, Blyth was asked about how many takes the "slap" took, Blyth couldn't remember. Only she does remember it was real. Real enough to knock Crawford off her feet as shown in the final cut of the film.
In the same interview, Blyth was asked how from being such a sweet person real life, was she able to create such a repulsive character as "Veda" and Blyth responded with, "I think you just dig down into your deeper self and we all have a deeper darker place."
For her incredible performance as "Veda", Blyth was nominated for an Oscar in her supporting role along with Eve Arden, who played Mildred's friend and boss, in the same category. The film was nominated for a total of six Oscars but won only one for Joan Crawford in "Best Actress" category.
In 2011, HBO premiered a 5-part mini-series of "Mildred Pierce." Academy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet and Evan Rachel Wood are in the title roles as the famous mother-daughter duo. However, it will be mighty difficult to outperform Ann Blyth and Joan Crawford in terms of chemistry and tension.