#CriterionMonth A Letter to Mildred Pierce

Criterion Month is a massive collaboration across 5 websites in honor of Ingmar Bergman’s 100th birthday and of the films of the Criterion Collection. We hope the celebration of this incredible director -and these classic films – inspire others to find new cinema they love and share their discoveries with others

*This introduction first appeared in the Classic Coroners column on Moviejawn.com here

Joan Crawford’s forty-seven year long film career left a lasting mark on Hollywood. Despite being known as one of the most influential actors to ever grace the silver screen, Joan did experience her ups and downs. With her filmography kicking off in 1925, by the end of the 1930s she was deemed “box-office poison” after numerous flops.

Joan didn’t let this stop her though. Instead, she made a fiery come-back in 1945, when she starred in the Academy Award-winning film director Michael Curtiz’s Mildred Pierce.

In one of her most memorable appearances, Joan starred as hard-working, pie making, shoulder pad wearing and determined mother Mildred Pierce. Her illustrious portrayal scored her an Oscar, which she proudly accepted in bed donned in her nightgown.

Mildred’s unforgettable qualities aren’t just her fashion choices and brazen attitude toward life. Probably the most noteworthy of the film is her relationship with her precious, eldest daughter Veda.

Throughout the film, Mildred relentlessly tries to please Veda by attempting to provide her with everything she didn’t have as a child. From singing lessons, French language instruction to fascinating frocks, Mildred gave it all to Veda via her restaurant money. In the end, this even included her snake of a husband Monte Beragon and most importantly her heart. Mildred is so blindly fixated on giving Veda a life better than her own that it inevitably causes her to lose it all.

To know Mildred is to love her. Which is why, I felt so inclined to write her a letter. This idea pleased me so much, I even wrote a song about it!

I’ve written a letter to Mil-Dreddd
Her address is Heaven above
I’ve written “Dear Mil-Dreddd, we miss you
And wish you were with us to love”
*in the tune of
this

Dear Mildred,

I had to write. I just had to tell you that you’re one in a million.

I know this letter may come off as surprising. Especially since I literally just saw you. Heck, I see you all the time at our semi-weekly film watching club, but I just couldn’t resist dropping you a line. Is it OK if I call you mom? I feel we have gotten so close. How many times have I seen you now in the past couple months, 17…20 times?

Unlike Veda, I don’t care that you smell of grease, chicken or pies. Frankly, it doesn’t bother me one bit. I think diners are the best. Gonna, let you in on a little secret: I always get a milkshake when I am at the diner, just like I always get popcorn at the movies…just a little thing I do. Anyways, if my mother owned and operated her own restaurant empire, I would be so incredibly proud. That whole affair with Monte stealing the business right out from under you, ugh, that just gets my blood boiling. Don’t worry though, it will straighten itself out. I know we have chatted about this before…but honestly, well, I am just going to say it, he got exactly what he deserved. You’re better off without that conniving snake. Same goes for Veda. That little hussy. She never appreciated you. Her head was in the clouds. Maybe if she wasn’t so busy banging those keys on her pie-anna she would have noticed everything you sacrificed for her. You gave her your pride, your money, dignity and most importantly your heart. You devoted your life to her happiness, yet nothing was good enough. She was like a leech, just kept coming back for more and more. First it was the fancy dresses, then the extravagant meals, the French lessons, the car and then finally your husband, Monte. There were never truer words spoken than when your friend Ida said that after knowing Veda, she understood why alligators eat their young. I can’t agree more.

I’ve never known someone like you. It’s not to say that I don’t have a wonderful mother, I do. It is rare though for an opportunity to come about to meet other moms and really get to know them. There are a lot of fictional moms out there, like Norma Bates for example or the Serial Mom, Kathleen Turner played. Of course, neither of them compares to you. Maybe this is saying too much, but I kind wish I could have more mom friends. I probably should explain myself better as I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I have no interest in having children…what if I got a VEDA! It is just that moms are really rad. Especially ones like yourself, that makes cakes, pie and wears such lovely hats and shoulder pads.

As much I am enamored with your motherly ways, I must admit your child rearing methods petrify me. You truly embody everything about a parent that scares me most about having my own children. The dedication you gave to ensure that your kids had a better life from the one that you experienced is admirable. To be so tremendously selfless is not something that I am willing to do. I am sure it is more than most would consider doing. You were willing to do anything, which included marrying someone you didn’t love. All to please Veda, a daughter that had the nerve of calling you a common frump. How dare she!

Sigh. It just saddens me that everyone around you just seemed to take, take, take. Maybe except for your business manager, Ida or your late daughter, Kay. They seemed to care for you, as I do. Oh, Kay how I wish I could have known her longer. We met ever so briefly, and she truly seemed like such a delightful, precious, little rascal, the apple of your eye. Then of course, there is Wally Fay. He just never really did get it, did he? What a goon.

Mildred, in closing, there has never been anyone like you. Frankly, I don’t know if there ever will. I keep hoping that I’ll come across more genuinely sincere, hardworking characters like yourself. Instead I find myself just tuning into the same comforting program, the Mildred show.

Sincerely yours,

Rosalie Kicks

 

You can view Mildred Pierce on Criterion here.

 

By Rosalie Kicks

Rosalie Kicks is a filmmaker and writer based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Temple University, where she majored in Film and Journalism. Presently she serves as the Chief Creative Officer and contributor for a quarterly movie zine, Moviejawn. As a lover of classic and silent flicks, Rosalie has accumulated a lot of crushes on dead folks. In her spare time, she enjoys visiting historic cinemas, riding her bike in the city, and going on adventures with her pup, Lil’ Foxie. Some of her favorite films include: Back to The Future, Gone with The Wind, Psycho, Sherlock Jr. and Casablanca. Follow her on twitter @BonjourOldSport and instagram @the.oldsport 

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