(1945)5Lucia BozzolaAdapted from James M. Cain's novel, and allegedly noir-ed up after Double Indemnity's 1944 box office success, Mildred Pierce (1945) became a striking hybrid of film noir and maternal melodrama, rejuvenating Joan Crawford's then-faltering stardom. Under the direction of top Warner Bros. helmer Michael Curtiz, Crawford's glamorously fur-clad Mildred initially appears to be a femme fatale as she walks down a dark, rain-slicked pier after a murdered man dies uttering her name. Evenly lit flashbacks, however, reveal Mildred as an upwardly mobile working mother, bonding with wisecracking co-worker Ida and trying to make a good life for her daughters after her weak husband Bert cheats on her. Ace Warner cinematographer Ernest Haller's noir shadows and skewed angles begin to encroach on Mildred's story as her relationship with hellacious daughter Veda and effete second husband Monte approaches its fateful climax. Crawford's first film for Warners after the end of her MGM contract became her first hit in several years, as she garnered accolades, and eventually a Best Actress Oscar, for her forceful performance. The film was also nominated for Oscars for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actress for Eve Arden's scene-stealing Ida and Ann Blyth's sublimely witchy Veda.