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Mildred Pierce review

Joan Crawford had hit the career doldrums before this mink-clad comeback in 1945. And what a return: a family melodrama framed by a film noir scenario, adapted from James M Cain's novel and delivered in super-slick suds and chiaroscuro-lighting style by Casablanca director Michael Curtiz.

It's less Curtiz's gig than Crawford's, though, as she's barely off screen as Mildred. We meet her as she's thinking suicide, before a series of flashbacks unravel how her struggle to juggle three no-good men, a career as a restaurateur and the daughter from hell, Veda (Ann Blyth), lead to a smoking gun in the beach house.

Despite Crawford's reputation for being a nightmarish mother off screen, she played the doting Mildred to a tremulous tee, bagging an Oscar. The result's soapy, sure - but as a snapshot of an actress at her peak, and Hollywood genres milked for every last drop of resonance, it's quite a lather.

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