Beauty is a bitch. “You think just because you made a little money you can get a new hairdo and some expensive clothes and turn yourself into a lady. But you can't, because you'll never be anything but a common frump whose father lived over a grocery store and whose mother took in washing. ”
…because loving her child just wasn’t enough….
By Ramla Salahuddin
Characters in Focus:
Mildred – A very attractive and hardworking mother, keen to provide the best for her children. After feeling distant from her husband and losing her youngest offspring, she vows to be the best mother possible for her daughter Veda. From dealing with being sexually approached by men and making a living, she keeps going to keep up with her daughter’s demands. Veda – One of the most manipulative femme fatales in film noir history. She uses her beauty to attract rich men and her innocence to convince her mother to keep giving her more. With no respect for her mother, she crosses lines like having an affair with her mother’s love interest, Monte. She is selfish, deceitful and arrogant but she practices all that with class. This girl lives for fame, beauty and money.
Synopsis: Mildred Pierce is a strong woman, one that has been through a lot. She is the mother of two daughters and is in an unhappy relationship with her husband. He thinks that she is spoiling their eldest daughter Veda too much and her demands are getting very costly. Pierce disagrees and they decide to separate. After she loses her younger daughter, Pierce opens a restaurant to keep up with Vedaâ€™s expenses. The realtor Wally, who has flirted with Pierce many times, introduces her to Monte who owns the property where HER YOUR for the restaurant. Mildred has an affair with him while Veda cons a family of a young man named Ted by pretending to be pregnant and gaining $10,000. After Mildred tears up the check and asks her to leave, Veda also ends up having an affair with Monte.
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Characteristics of a Femme Fatale: One who is mysterious and manipulative and takes advantage of those who love her by using the power of her Beauty, the term “femme fatale”, literally in French, means the deadly woman. She is charming and sexually alluring. In this movie we see that Veda has all those characters. Not only is she making use of her innocence to make her mother work harder for her but she is also using her sex appeal to attract her mother’s love interest Monte just for his money. We know that Veda is musically talented and plays the piano. She sings and dances as well, a skill she uses later in life to be a dance performer in a club so she can make money. She is also very open about disliking her mother’s choice of job in the beginning as a waitress.
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The definitions of Outfits: Vedaâ€™s character is always dressed in classy outfits, to showcase her choice of a luxurious lifestyle. Everything she dons is expensive which screams that she will settle for nothing less than what she thinks she deserves.
Mildredâ€™s character has many outfit choices. When she is a housewife, she is dressed conservatively but
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then when she is having an affair with Monte, her clothes become more revealing. When she is a restaurant owner, she is dressed more like an executive person but when she is talking to the police, she is dressed in furs and high ended clothes. We see a progress and change in her personality through her clothes and the different financial and emotional situations her character had to go through.
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Difference in Character’s personalities: While Mildred thinks about nothing but the best for her daughter, Veda hopes for nothing but her mother’s wealth. Pierce is committed mother who do anything for her daughter’s happiness while Veda would want nothing better than to be rich and get away from her mother. When Pierce tears up Ted’s check, Veda slaps her mother because she thinks that Mildred doesn’t care about her. This shows that she has no respect for her mother’s feelings. Then, when Veda has an affair with Monte just to use him for his money, it shows that she has no respect for boundaries when it comes to her mother.
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Incestual relationship: Many film critics believe that there was an incestual factor between Mildred and Veda. The daughter was clearly more sexually alluring and beautiful than her mother and there is a constant feeling that Mildred wanted that. Blogger Jenna Leeya saw it as a refuge for Mildred’s character which may have needed refuge of some sort after the tense nature of the patriarchal society post World War II. She says: “Furthermore, I will comment on the significance of the female body in the 1940’s and address how Mildred’s androgynous body, along with her physical connection to Veda’s body, not only comments on the “new woman” figure, but also the fear of the sexually unknown in female relations at this time.” Homosexuality was not an open topic. A female body was only beginning to question its ability and representation now that women were stepping up for the first time in the work force, bring the bread and butter home.
History: This movie was based on James M. Cainâ€™s 1941 novel Mildred Pierce and was the 1945 film, starring Joan Crawford, one an Oscar for her acting. It is said that the body complexities, with her image and independence that Mildred Pierce was experiencing in the film were very close to Joan Crawfordâ€™s real life, who had issues with body image.
-Director Michael Curtiz presenting Joan Crawford the Oscar in bed. She stayed home that night, pretending to be sick because she thought she would never have a chance to win against Ingrid Bergman. When she her name being announced on the radio during the live broadcast, her pneumonia subsided and she invited photographers in her bedroom to take pictures of her with the award. The most famous quote from Veda that resonates with moviegoers till this day: â€œWith this money I can get away from you. From you and your chickens and your pies and your kitchens and everything that smells of grease. I can get away from this shack with its cheap furniture. And this town and its dollar days, and its women that wear uniforms and its men that wear overalls.â€?