A Tale of Two Mildreds

Hollywood just can't resist doing a remake when often the old adage of "some things are better left alone" will do. Perhaps this won't be the case when HBO takes a turn at the remake of the classic Mildred Pierce. From the initial look, the stellar cast and director Todd Haynes, the five part mini-series is a must-see.

The original was pure film noir with Joan Crawford at her best. The shoulder padded screen icon plays a divorcee with a spoiled and selfish daughter who goes back to work as a waitress to make ends meet during the depression days of the thirties. Eventually she opens her own restaurant, remarries an heir to a real estate fortune and soon the film turns into a murder mystery.

Daughter Dearest: Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth

Directed by Casablanca's Michael Curtiz, the film is filled with shades of expressionism -- lots of dark menacing shadows contrasted with the bright California sunlight. Production designer Anton Grot and set decorator George Hopkins designed some memorable interiors such as Mildred's Spanish style bungalow and the Bergaron beach house in Malibu's Latigo Beach (which was owned by Curtiz and eventually fell into the ocean during a storm in 1983).

Ann Blyth  plays the dreadful daughter Veda along with  Zachary Scott as the second husband, Monty Bergaron. Crawford won an Oscar for her performance and was almost replaced by Barbara Stanwyck after shooting began as her off screen antics can best be described as Diva-esque. Imagine that.

Sets for Mildred's Bungalow above and below

The film also delivered one of the best movie lines in years by her bff Ida (played by Eve Arden below) "Personally, Veda's convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young."

The remake stars Academy Award winning actress Kate Winslet with Evan Rachel Wood as her daughter Veda. Guy Pearce as the dashing yet somewhat seedy Bergaron, Mare Winningham and recent Oscar winner Melissa Leo are also in the cast. The mini-series will follow the original novel by James M. Cain instead of the l945 film. Cain also wrote The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity.

Kate Winslett

Evan Rachel Wood

Director Todd Haynes gave us the highly stylized Far From Heaven which was greatly influenced by the films of Douglas Sirk and is a master at recreating this genre of melodrama. The sets were designed by Mark Friedberg (who also worked on Heaven) who had the task of creating a thirties Los Angeles in New York's Westchester County (right down to importing palm and orange trees from Florida). They found an area in Long Island called The Gables which has the perfect Spanish architecture needed for Mildred's world. Award winning costume designer  Ann Roth designed the costumes for up to 2000 plus extras which meant alot of girdles and seamed stockings.

Ann Roth's Costume Design

Winslet and Wood

Guy Pearce

The Gables

Set your Tivo for Sunday, March 27th. And be sure to see the original...better still, read the book!

Photo Credits: Warner Brothers, HBO