Mildred Pierce review

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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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The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, New Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Jack Shepherd. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.