Mildred Pierce

The news that Kate Winslett will play Mildred in an HBO mini-series has me stunned, and not in a good way.  I mean no offense to Ms. Winslett, but this is Joan Crawford’s role.  Nobody else should touch it.  Nobody else is big enough to carry it off.

Big is the operative word here.  Big story, big emotions.  Big trouble.  Crawford’s costumes had really big shoulders that gave her a square silhouette, like a line-backer.  When Mildred made a success of her restaurant chain, she wore tailored suits, mannish-looking but, with those legs of hers, she still looked sexy, her upswept hairstyle crowned with curls, setting off those wonderful dark eyebrows.

Here’s a passionate woman who denies herself everything, and for what?  Her ungrateful daughter Veda takes and takes, betraying Mildred at every turn.  Her ex-husband Bert’s too weak for her; his former business partner Wally is a snake; her second husband Monty’s a degenerate aristocrat.  Thank God for Eve Arden’s street-wise Ida.  Mildred deserves a friend like her, even if she can’t bring herself to follow Ida’s advice and get rid of all those parasites and live a little.

Ah, Joan.  In real life she may have been Mommie Dearest, but in “Mildred Pierce” she was Mommie Tragic.  Toward the end of the picture, Ida proposes a toast:  “To the men we have loved.  Those stinkers!”  I’ll drink to that.

 (7 March 2011)