The Siren is giving up on commenting at Big Hollywood. She likes to pounce occasionally on threads about movies she likes, but as noted by one critic who also quit commenting (because he kept getting deleted, bless him), "aw, nobody wants to play with Campaspe." Not a creature was stirring--nothing, no action. Dullsville.
So anyway, Mildred Pierce. Great movie that prompted a commenter to recall an alleged feminist interpretation wherein Mildred is "punished" for daring to step outside her assigned gender role and pursuing a career. The idea that Mildred is punished doesn't jibe with the Siren's viewing; instead, the "happy" ending where Mildred goes off with the drip she was married to at the beginning of the movie just indicates that in Hollywood at the time, if you wanted a happy ending you had to have the heroine go off with someone. Anyway, the marriage roles are a sidelight in the movie, as the Siren pointed out in the following comment. Maybe one of her patient readers would like to respond.
I don’t think Mildred Pierce has much to do with marriage and wifehood at all. James Agee was one of the critics who pointed out that the movie is much more focused on class, social climbing and attitudes toward money. Mildred’s moral unraveling becomes worse even as she gets richer. The really subversive part isn’t Mildred going to work, which she does out of necessity and abandons when she’s able, after finding a rich partner and a higher station. It’s the movie’s fisheyed look at maternal sacrifice. Instead of being beatific and ennobling, as in Stella Dallas, mother love is perceived as unhealthy, obsessive and narcissistic in the fullest sense of that word. Veda is a sociopath, but it’s Veda whom Mildred really loves, more so than any man in the movie and more even than the angelic Kay. “Don’t tell anyone what Mildred Pierce did!” could mean covering up a murder, but in the end it’s the unanswerable question of whether Mildred’s love “did” something to Veda and created this monster, or whether Veda (with the very name and spelling connoting “venal”) was what she was from birth. Mildred’s independence at the end, such as it is, results from her having taken Eve Arden’s joking advice and “eaten her young”–finally (and reluctantly) leaving Veda to her fate. Although, so tied to her dreadful offspring is Mildred that I’ve always wondered if Veda was able to work more machinations on her mother even from behind prison bars. Veda would fit in well in Caged.
And...Jack Carson is pure joy in this movie, as is Arden, who is the movie’s example of a woman happy and secure in herself–and single.
(The above photo is from Legendary Joan Crawford, a beautifully maintained site which has the most awesome collection of Joan Crawford photographs on the Web, bar none. You could spend hours there--I have.)
P.S. Please run over to The Auteurs, where Glenn Kenny has a weekly column about Foreign-Region DVDs. This week's item was requested by the Siren, and he delivers: a write-up of the Frank Borzage-directed, Ernst Lubitsch-produced Desire, which has been released in the U.K. Go, read and see if the screen-caps alone don't explain why the Siren mentions this every time the subject of "not out on Region 1" comes up.