Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945)
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She conveyed a gigantic amount of real and intense desperation with no dialog all while wearing what may have been the largest padded shoulders ever to appear in a Warner Brothers picture and in mink no less. In this contemplating-suicide-scene Joan achieved the ultimate sincerity in a costume that came close to being comical. I have no doubt she knew exactly what she was doing in that costume, what she was capable of delivering and how exactly to best use her “learned the hard way” talents as an actress to give us, HER audience, our magically personal experience.
Bravo Michael Curtiz – a true master of the medium and a rarified thing among top directors at the time – he was able to gain J. Crawford’s complete trust – wherein lies the key to a stellar performance.
Wow. That might have gone too deep – even for me.
Somewhere my point was, before I got sucked into the wild wild world of giant shoulder pads, giant egos and master movie makers, Joan for all her fabled shortcomings as a person was, by her middle career, an undeniably “super-talented” actress and not merely the frightening “superstar” we seem so concerned with post mortem.
Early Joan = unearthly beauty that bloomed in a camera’s lens.
Middle Joan = a highly developed talent to an equal degree of superiority.
Late Joan – well, not really sure what happened there. They spit her out and kicked her to the curb. Its that un-holy dollar worship thing again, but that kick broke something fragile in her, I believe. But then again, we would never have Bezerk! if they treated her rightly.
That was a way too intense Joan ramble and every bit of it is my own barely informed and probably wrongly imagined fantasy. Such is the enduring power of La Crawford’s rep.
Bette wasn ’t the only one who needed only a first name.
( Hollywood Gang Sign and pose )
Cut to life insurance commercial with Alex Trebec.