Critic’s Choice: Criterion brings ‘Mildred Pierce’ out of the noir shadows

Joan Crawford in her Academy Award-winning role in "Mildred Pierce."
(Warner Bros.)

It may not be as faithful or definitive an adaptation of the James M. Cain novel as Todd Haynes’ 2011 HBO miniseries, but Michael Curtiz’s “Mildred Pierce” (1945) remains a rip-roaring entertainment. Joan Crawford won an Academy Award for her performance as a single mother-turned-restaurateur, seeking a better life for her children in the shadows of a starkly monochrome Los Angeles — only to learn, in classic noir tradition, that the road to hell is forever paved with good intentions.

The supplemental materials on the new Criterion Collection edition (available on Blu-ray and DVD) include a conversation with critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito, and the 2002 feature-length documentary “Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star.” There’s also a 2006 Q&A with Ann Blyth, whose Oscar-nominated performance as Veda, the monstrously rotten fruit of Mildred’s loins, remains one of the movie’s signature pleasures.

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