***/**** Image A Sound A- Extras B
starring Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden
screenplay by Ranald MacDougall, based on the novel by James M. Cain
directed by Michael Curtiz
by Alex Jackson The difference between Joan Crawford and her inextricably-linked contemporary Bette Davis is the difference between an icon and a mere actress. Davis was always acting and, in her lesser moments, downright hammy; Crawford simply was. A finished product, all she has to do is walk out and exude "Crawfordness." If it's not her best film, Mildred Pierce is certainly Crawford's best-known film, and one of the fascinating things about it is how it illustrates her screen persona blending together with her personal one. I'm fascinated with the idea of transforming from an inferior being into a superior one--the leap from ape to Star Child in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, to put it in its purest form. This is mankind's most pressing drive, is it not--that is, to escape the banality of our mortal existence? Perhaps such philosophical musings are a function of my still living in young adulthood: I'm a year away from beginning a career in which I expect to spend the next forty years, and there is the persistent fear of this being "all there is." That there's nothing left; I'm going to spend the rest of my life attempting to maintain a constant state of security. The iconology of Crawford achieves such escape. She's embraced the cinema in a way Davis never did. She's drunk from the proverbial cup and is now immortal. Prick her she doesn't bleed, tickle her she doesn't laugh. She is beyond the flesh now, a creature of light and celluloid.