Mildred Pierce (1945)

109 or 113 mins | Melodrama | 20 October 1945

Director:

Michael Curtiz

Producer:

Jerry Wald

Cinematographer:

Ernest Haller

Editor:

David Weisbart

Production Designer:

Anton Grot

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film's working title was House on the Sand . Files on the film included in the Warner Bros. Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library add the following information about the production: When studio executive Jack L. Warner proposed filming the James M. Cain novel, Joseph I. Breen of the MPPA wrote in a letter dated 2 Feb 1944, "...the story contains so many sordid and repellent elements that we feel the finished picture would not only be highly questionable from the standpoint of the Code, but would, likewise, meet with a great deal of difficulty in its release...." Breen went on to suggest that the story be dismissed from further consideration. The major changes made by the writers to conform to the Code involved the elimination of overt references to extra-marital sex and the blackening of Veda's character. "Monte's" murder was added by the screenwriters for dramatic purposes.
       Producer Jerry Wald wanted Ralph Bellamy for the role of "Bert;" Donald Woods was also considered for the part and George Coulouris tested for it. Bonita Granville, Virginia Weidler and Martha Vickers tested for the part of "Veda." Modern sources add that Jack Carson was also considered for the part of "Monte." Some scenes were filmed on location in Glendale and Malibu, CA. The U.S. Navy granted permission to film in Malibu despite wartime restrictions, but asked to be allowed to view all footage shot there. In 1983, the Malibu house used in the film collapsed into the sea after a week of storms. Other than a brief appearance in Warner Bros.' Hollywood Canteen (see above), this film was the ... More Less

The film's working title was House on the Sand . Files on the film included in the Warner Bros. Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library add the following information about the production: When studio executive Jack L. Warner proposed filming the James M. Cain novel, Joseph I. Breen of the MPPA wrote in a letter dated 2 Feb 1944, "...the story contains so many sordid and repellent elements that we feel the finished picture would not only be highly questionable from the standpoint of the Code, but would, likewise, meet with a great deal of difficulty in its release...." Breen went on to suggest that the story be dismissed from further consideration. The major changes made by the writers to conform to the Code involved the elimination of overt references to extra-marital sex and the blackening of Veda's character. "Monte's" murder was added by the screenwriters for dramatic purposes.
       Producer Jerry Wald wanted Ralph Bellamy for the role of "Bert;" Donald Woods was also considered for the part and George Coulouris tested for it. Bonita Granville, Virginia Weidler and Martha Vickers tested for the part of "Veda." Modern sources add that Jack Carson was also considered for the part of "Monte." Some scenes were filmed on location in Glendale and Malibu, CA. The U.S. Navy granted permission to film in Malibu despite wartime restrictions, but asked to be allowed to view all footage shot there. In 1983, the Malibu house used in the film collapsed into the sea after a week of storms. Other than a brief appearance in Warner Bros.' Hollywood Canteen (see above), this film was the first that Joan Crawford made for Warner Bros. According to information included in the file on the film in the Warner Bros. Collection, Cain sent a first edition of the novel to Crawford on 7 Mar 1946, which was inscribed, "To Joan Crawford, who brought Mildred to life just as I had always hoped she would be and who has my lifelong gratitude." In the 2 Nov 1946 issue of SEP , Crawford named "Mildred Pierce" as the role she liked best.
       Crawford's performance in this film earned her her only Academy Award. The film helped redefine Crawford's image, and modern critics have noted that she was subsequently thought of as an actress as well as a star. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture; Eve Arden and Ann Blyth were both nominated for Oscars for Best Supporting Actress; Ernest Haller was nominated for his cinematography and Randall MacDougall received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay. According to modern sources, writer Catherine Turney was credited on some release prints, but chose to have her name removed. Among the many versions of the screenplay, William Faulkner's rewrite differed significantly from the others, according to modern sources. He wrote an elaborate voice-over narration and concentrated on Mildred's restaurant business, describing sleazy, underhanded business dealings. Veda is even more calculating and cold than she appears in the final film. Modern sources add that because of script problems some of the film was improvised by the actors together with director Michael Curtiz. Zachary Scott reprised his role in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 6 Jun 1949, co-starring Rosalind Russell, and in a second Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 14 Jun 1954, co-starring Claire Trevor. He also reprised the role in a Lux Video Theatre program on 20 Sep 1956, co-starring Virginia Bruce, and in a second Lux radio broadcast on 14 Jun 1954, co-starring Claire Trevor. Scott also reprised the role in a Lux Video Theatre program on 20 Sep 1956, co-starring Virginia Bruce. In 2011, HBO broadcast a five-hour mini-series adaptation of Mildred Pierce , directed by Todd Haynes and starring Kate Winslet. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6 Oct 1945.
---
Daily Variety
28 Sep 45
p. 3.
Film Daily
1 Oct 45
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Nov 44
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 44
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Sep 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 45
p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
2 Mar 1944.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Jan 45
p. 2259.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Oct 45
p. 2670.
New York Times
29 Sep 45
p. 12.
The Saturday Evening Post
2 Nov 1946.
---
Variety
3 Oct 45
p. 20.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
William Alcorn
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Prod
WRITERS
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam op
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Supv art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Asst props
SOUND
Re-rec and eff mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec optical eff
Matte paintings
Matte paintings
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Best boy
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain (New York, 1941).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"The Oceana Roll," words by Roger Lewis, music by Lucien Denni.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
House on the Sand
Release Date:
20 October 1945
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 28 September 1945
Production Date:
7 December 1944--28 February 1945
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
20 December 1945
Copyright Number:
LP73
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
109 or 113
Length(in feet):
9,960
Country:
United States
PCA No:
10660
SYNOPSIS

After her second husband, Monte Beragon, is murdered in her beachfront house, Mildred Pierce lures longtime acquaintance Wally Fay to the house and then runs away, leaving him with the body. A short time later, Mildred returns to her Pasadena house to find the police and her daughter Veda waiting for her. At the police station, Mildred describes the events that led to Monte's murder: Four years earlier, Mildred's first husband Bert is making a good living in real estate with Wally, who is his partner. After Bert loses his job, however, he quarrels frequently with Mildred over her indulgent treatment of their daughters Veda and Kay. An especially bitter quarrel drives Bert to leave Mildred for his mistress, Mrs. Maggie Biederhof. Kay is upset by her father's departure, but the older Veda is only concerned with how the family will manage financially. When Wally makes a pass at Mildred, Veda suggests that Mildred marry him so that they can get a new house and a maid, but Mildred rejects the notion. Because she has been a housewife from age seventeen, Mildred is only able to find a job as a waitress, but she works hard and bakes pies for extra income. When the snobbish Veda ridicules her mother for working as a waitress, even though this work has paid for her expensive singing lessons, Mildred decides to open her own restaurant. With Wally's help, she buys a house in Glendale from the Beragon estate and remodels it. One day, when Bert takes the girls to Lake Arrowhead, Monte Beragon, the building's former owner, invites Mildred for a swim at his ... +


After her second husband, Monte Beragon, is murdered in her beachfront house, Mildred Pierce lures longtime acquaintance Wally Fay to the house and then runs away, leaving him with the body. A short time later, Mildred returns to her Pasadena house to find the police and her daughter Veda waiting for her. At the police station, Mildred describes the events that led to Monte's murder: Four years earlier, Mildred's first husband Bert is making a good living in real estate with Wally, who is his partner. After Bert loses his job, however, he quarrels frequently with Mildred over her indulgent treatment of their daughters Veda and Kay. An especially bitter quarrel drives Bert to leave Mildred for his mistress, Mrs. Maggie Biederhof. Kay is upset by her father's departure, but the older Veda is only concerned with how the family will manage financially. When Wally makes a pass at Mildred, Veda suggests that Mildred marry him so that they can get a new house and a maid, but Mildred rejects the notion. Because she has been a housewife from age seventeen, Mildred is only able to find a job as a waitress, but she works hard and bakes pies for extra income. When the snobbish Veda ridicules her mother for working as a waitress, even though this work has paid for her expensive singing lessons, Mildred decides to open her own restaurant. With Wally's help, she buys a house in Glendale from the Beragon estate and remodels it. One day, when Bert takes the girls to Lake Arrowhead, Monte Beragon, the building's former owner, invites Mildred for a swim at his beach house. Later, Mildred returns home and finds Bert waiting with the news that Kay is seriously ill with pneumonia. After Kay dies, Mildred becomes even more determined to provide Veda with the best of everything. Mildred's restaurant is very successful, and soon she owns a chain of restaurants. In the meantime, after her divorce from Bert, Mildred becomes increasingly involved with Monte, giving him money to support his wealthy, idle way of life, but later breaks off the relationship because she believes that he is a bad influence on Veda. Veda makes a secret marriage with wealthy Ted Forrester, and when his parents insist on an annulment, she falsely claims to be pregnant. Wally negotiates a large financial settlement from the Forresters, but when Mildred learns that Veda lied about her pregnancy, she tears up the check and sends her daughter away. Mildred relents, however, after Veda takes a job as a singer in Wally's nightclub. In order to give Veda the socially prominent life she desires, Mildred then arranges to marry Monte in exchange for a third of her successful business. Monte squanders Mildred's money, causing her to lose her business to Wally. After telling the police her story, Mildred confesses to murdering Monte. The police then question Veda, who admits she shot Monte, with whom she was having an affair, after he refused to marry her. Veda blames Mildred for making her the way she is, but Mildred finally washes her hands of her daughter and rejoins the loyal Bert outside the police station. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.