Starring: Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott
Director: Michael Curtiz
As the film opens, we witness a murder. Mildred (Crawford) wanders around partly in a daze, and muddies the waters of the investigation, before being picked up by the police. Her first husband is accused of the murder, and she starts to explain that it couldn’t possibly be him… Is she the one who killed the man in the beach house?
The film then travels back as she relays the story of the events leading up to the murder. Mildred is devoted to her daughters, especially the eldest, Veda (played beautifully by Ann Blyth), who has become quite spoiled and demanding. After her first marriage breaks down, Mildred will so anything to give her daughters the life they want, and eventually opens a popular restaurant. But Veda scorns her mother’s working for a living, and Mildred finds herself going further and further to get back the love and respect of her haughty child.
It’s a wonderful film, and Crawford is entrancing as the woman who is a survivor but also a slave to her child’s ambition in a performance that would win her an Oscar and revive her career. Mildred is a much sought after woman, but her weakness is her idea that she has to buy love, and it gets her further and further into trouble. I love the way this film releases the pieces of the puzzle slowly. Her first husband seems like a cad, but then becomes more likable as the story unfolds. Veda seems destined for greatness, and Mildred’s younger daughter seems like she may have more to offer than the elder one. It’s well paced, and has wonderful performances from all the cast, and the little twists and turns should keep you guessing.
A wonderful subversion of the American ideals of perfect motherhood. (And extra poignant to those of you who’ve read or watched Mommie Dearest!)
See It If: If you’ve never seen Joan Crawford chewing up the scenery before, check her out in this film, also one for those of you who love a classic mystery, or for those of you with teenage daughters…