Saturday, January 12, 2008

Me & Cornell Woolrich with the Ladies of Noir Down by the Duck Pond

For whatever reason, although standing before God & everybody as a confirmed film noir-head, I had never watched Mildred Pierce all the way through. That said, I've probably seen the whole movie several times, but all in pieces of Pierce, Frankenstein-like, ya dig. And add to that, I've read almost all of the James M. Cain novel, but never finished it (I've heard it said that the Pierce picture is BETTER than the novel, unlike the other notable Cain-based noir, The Postman Always Rings Twice, of which I like the novel and the film for different reasons, in case you was wondering). It's just one of them, watchamacallit, things.

At this juncture in humanity's secret history of the velvety folds of what we call life, I've done seen about all the film noir I can hold. It's just in my bones, and I revisit things, or every once in while I discover a gem I've inexplicably missed (Fallen Angel, recently). The love for noir remains, but the hot and heavy days of intense passion belong a little bit more to yesterday. I got about three movies I ain't seen yet that I want to see, which are out of print, that I plan on digging up sooner or later. Yule hear about it here first, when I does.

This doesn't have much to do with anything. But in giving this tidbit it perhaps accounts for the fact that in missing giving a more studious study of Mildred Pierce first time around, I'm just now reporting on my scrutinous findings. Pierce is one of those films that in the context of its time, 1945, would have been more considered a "women's picture"(with an added prestige factor due to the source Cain novel). In other words, with Crawford, and the home-life melodrama, the appeal was regarded as leaning towards the feminine side of the spectator.

But if you're gonna have melodrama, it might as well be the uber-noir-melodrama of Mildred Pierce. I have to confess that what brings this picture together more than any other element for me is the cinematography by Ernest Haller (he also shot Rebel Without Cause for Nicholas Ray). Black and white never looked so gawdam good, and the deep shadows of this film make even the exterior shots set during the day appear somehow to be shot at night. Not night-for-day eggsactly, but the dark creeps into everything.

Mildred Pierce is probably my favorite Joan Crawford movie (besides in The Unknown w/Lon Chaney, in her younger days). She is perfectly cast as the anti-seductress frighteningly over-bearing mother who yet is a good person, in that sorta staunch neo-puritanical stoic, unrealistic and misguided fashion. The pre-Bad Seed plot rolls along at a clip. However, this ain't my fave flick by director Curtiz, for that I'd refer the reader to the Elvis Presley vehicle King Creole. This is not the best movie in the world, but like any film noir, it's perfectly capable playing companion to the lost soul in the dim hours twixt twilight and dawn.

William Faulkner apparently worked on the script uncredited. That's okay, he probably didn't remember working on it anyway.


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