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Daily Dose of Darkness #8: Seeing You for the First Time (Scene from Mildred Pierce)

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I'm more visually oriented in defining Noir and this one is very dark in sequences, but that said Mildred Pierce has all the other crucial elements, the murder, the obsessed characters, the betrayal, it's just that they are not as heavily emphasized as the conflict between mother and daughter. Another classic Noir The Naked City, is very filled with light comparably to Mildred Pierce but it is filled with a plethora of on location sequences. 

 

This film belongs to that Women's Noir classification (some others are Gaslight (1944), Possessed (1947), A Woman's Secret (1949), The Reckless Moment (1949), No Man of Her Own (1950), Sudden Fear (1952),  .

 

Most color Neo Noirs are comparatively light filled, but some of the best are still darkly lit and still show the noir stylistics, the Dutch angles etc., along with a strong noir storyline, when they get all of these right  they hit on all cylinders.

 

Again being visually oriented, one interesting observation I've made is that a good color equivalent in Neo Noir's to the use of shadows in Classic Noirs is the use of subtly clashing colors, red against green as an example, they give that same uneasy feeling that something is off, another off setting factor is the use of some modern architecture, some of this has odd angles, cantilevered floors, spirals, etc., etc., lol.

Talking about color noir, I find that many black and white films do not transfer to color, even when both films have stellar casts, best example for me is 1957's 12 Angry Men and the remake in 1997.  The lighting and shadows especially on Juror #9 (Joseph Sweeney) is fantastic, and adds to the intensity of the film.  Hume Cronyn in the part in 1997, a better known actor and yet, so much drama and intensity is lost.  As more and more films were made in color noir was dying on the big screen, (though still staying alive on the Small).  Rewatching L.A. Confidential last week, it was a better film than I had remembered, but so much more could have been done cinematicially if it had been in b/w.

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Oooh. What a doozy of a clip.  Veda Pierce is the ultimate spoiled brat and junior femme fatale.

 

For the furnishings, I see elegant furniture, even though Veda calls in cheap. The scene shows a sign of success now that Mildred has made a name for herself in the restaurant biz. 

 

The clothes show a sense of darkness and dominance, as both Mildred and Veda wear black in this scene. That and maybe some sophistication as well.

 

Veda and Mildred move about like cats ready to pounce on each other; a well choreographed scene indeed.  It didn't take me long to HATE Veda with a passion when I first saw this film. She has been manipulative all her life wanting to get her way and when she doesn't she goes into "you don't love me anymore" mode. She was indeed twisted first saying she wasn't getting the finer things in life then berating her mother for having to go to work (even though Mildred's job ended up getting her things she wanted).

 

The scene on the stairs culminates in Mildred getting even with Veda after she drops her bombshell on why she is the way she is. And, according to Ann Blyth, Joan Crawford actually asked her to slap her during the staircase scene.

 

But it won't be the last of Veda......

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I haven't seen this version of Mildred Pierce, but I did see the HBO adaptation with Kate Winslet that is more faithful to the original novel (or so I hear). 

 

I like ThePaintedLady's term femme noir, since this film is centered around and narrated by women unlike many films that have been classified as film noir

 

The characteristics of this scene that strike me as noir are the chiaroscuro lighting, plot elements of blackmail and greed, and an overall sinister tone. 

 

The part where Veda is standing over Mildred on the stairs was very striking to me, and I believed symbolized a feeling of superiority on Veda's part, and how she perceives herself compared to her "common" mother. 

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 How do you feel the noir influence operates in this scene from Mildred Pierce?


-- How does Curtiz arrange these two actresses to heighten the tension of the scene? Pay attention to how they move and how they are framed in the scene, especially the use of close-ups. 


-- In what ways can this scene from Mildred Pierce be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?


 


I would say the film noir influence is alive with its dark dialogue and tension.  


 


I would say the framing of the two woman show the power struggle.  It seems to showcase who has the power and who doesn't.


 


I would say the acting and how the power shifts building the tension is am important contribution.


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The contrast between mother and daughter is established in the very first conversation.  Veda's glib, uncaring and mocking attitude contrasted by Mildred's serious and responsible tone and demeanour.  The music and the darkness of the scene lends itself to the visual impact of film noir.  The obsessive, selfish nature of Veda make her a perfect femme fatale.

 

The music also adds so much to the mood.  It is kind of circular and begins to build adding to the tension of the scene.  The slap is my favourite part of the movie!  You can hear and see the hate in Veda's voice, stance and actions. I do think that Veda is in control of the scene for the most part but the tables turn after the slap. Mildred suddenly sees Veda for who she really is.

 

The mood, the passion, and the cynicism all influence this film in the film noir style. 

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Daily Dose #8: Seeing You for the First Time (Scene from Mildred Pierce)

—How do you feel the noir influence operates in this scene from Mildred Pierce, and in what ways can this scene from Mildred Pierce be considered an important contribution to the film noir style?

The threats that these two women make to one another: Is this the first time we have two strong women in leading roles? Ann Blyth can certainly compete with Joan Crawford, barb for barb. I’ve read that some critics feel a film noir can’t be about domestic squabbles between two women, but what is more “noir” than having your own mother threaten to kill you? Or to live with such tension day in and day out? I very much disagree that such subject matter is off limits in film noir.

 

—How does Curtiz arrange these two actresses to heighten the tension of the scene? Pay attention to how they move and how they are framed in the scene, especially the use of close-ups. 

We see Veda first on the couch, and Mildred crosses behind her and the couch, then Veda crosses in front of her to the table where her purse sits. They cross and cross one another like caged animals. As their discussion gets more and more heated, the actresses retreat a bit into the set, but then they’re up on the staircase and everything boils over. What a performance by Joan Crawford: when she falls to the stairs after Veda slaps her, the pieces of the check go flying and she grabs the railing with both hands and her arms stretched out from side to side. Ann Blyth may have just slapped her, but Joan’s at the center of the scene.

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In reading the post thus far today, I am fascinated with what a polarizing actress Joan Crawford is to everyone. Some love her and this movie and some can't stand her and consequently have avoided it or have only seen it once. I am the latter. I have never liked her and have only seen this once. I do plan to watch it this weekend via TCM.

 

Despite not being able to connect to Crawford in much of anything she has done, I do respect the talent. I find her closed off and cold regardless of the part she is playing which drives any sympathy or empathy for her characters out of me.

 

Many before me have discussed the lighting, camera angles, set, and of course the character motivations that can lead the debate of whether this film fits the Noir classification. As our professor and his referenced colleagues point out, the attempt at classification of what constitutes Film Noir remains in debate among authorities on the subject.

 

That said, I see the influence of Noir in the scene but it had not previously clicked with me that it was a Noir film. Perhaps my perspective will change after viewing it with this idea in mind.

 

I would like to point out that the use of the tight shots did drive the intensity to the audience. The venom in Veda's eyes is impossible to miss and in the last moment of the clip, Mildred's eyes say so much. In a matter of a couple seconds Crawford's ability to change her gaze of distain as she watches her daughter run up the stairs to the slight turn and widening of her eyes which displays the questions to herself of "am I doing the right thing and how on earth did my daughter become this vile creature?" I may not like Joan Crawford but she really could act.

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I haven't seen this film yet, but the clip was certainly an attention getter.  I, too, like the dancelike movements, first one is looming over the other then they stand equal only to reverse as the daughter is higher on the stairs.  It appears from this clip that the mother has the upper hand, but I wouldn't bet on it.  The daughter seems to be a determined sort who will go to any lengths to get what she wants.  I wonder if she knows what she wants or if when she gets what she thinks she wants she will discover it wasn't worth what she traded for it. The music and the way the scene is shot add to the tension and darkness that is so noir.

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  • I feel that in this scene, the noir influence is present in the sense that (instead of detective, client) we have a mother, daughter relationship. Curtiz's arrangement of these two actresses is great, Their movements were accordingly done to perfection while the close=\ups were magnificent. This film is (I feel) a masterpiece of a films  noir contribution

 

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Even if you have never seen this movie, when this clip begins with a person kissing a check, you become aware of the fact that something - maybe good or maybe bad - just happened and money exchanged hands.  As the scene develops, you can see the shock on the mother's face and the daughter acts even more brazen. 

 

The positioning of both actresses is coordinated with their lines.  It begins with the mother standing and the daughter on the couch, then it changes to both being face to face (equal).  This is when the daughter unloads on her mother, feeling she can now tell the truth because she is emboldened with the money.

 

The daughter is then "above" the mother on the stairs and ends up knocking her mother down.  When the mother stands back up, she is very rigid and back to eye to eye contact when she rips up the check.  The close up of the mother with the music as the daughter goes upstairs is showing several emotions at once - disgust, hurt, shock, embarrassment, humiliation.

 

If you did not have any idea of the circumstances, the way the scene looked and the way the actresses were dressed, it reminded me of coming home after a funeral.  Somber, dark, odd.  When it explodes - and something always explodes in film noir - you finally get clued in and want to know more.

 

 

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The plot has apparently nothing to do with film noir, but this is certainly a good example of it. So much tension in this short scene...

I love the fact dialogues reveal who the characters really are, what they strive for. The obsession with money is certainly another link between this movie and film noir and what can I say about Veda Pierce? She's unpredictable, just like a femme fatale should be.

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I am embarrassed to admit this, but I have had several opportunities to watch Mildred Pierce, but I always avoided it because: 1. I have negative feelings about Joan Crawford due to what I have read about her actions off-screen, so I have avoided watching her movies, and 2. The name "Mildred Pierce" sounded to me like a nineteenth century sort of name, which suggested to me that the movie would be as dated and uninteresting as its name.

 

So, imagine my surprise when I watched the clip in which Veda and Mildred have it out with each other. Wow. My ability to determine which movies to watch is on a par with George Raft's ability to determine which movies he should make!  I am really looking forward to seeing Mildred Pierce now. Also, by the way, after watching the "five minutes of noir" clip, the next clip that automatically popped up was an interview of Veda (Ann Blyth) that was conducted by Eddie Muller, I recommend that you watch it. In the interview, Ann mentions that she was only 16 when she made that movie. I thought she was a bit older, didn't you?

 

- Tom Shawcross 

 

 

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The movement and composition of the scene is so beautifully done, but seemingly without effort, as we focus first of all on the strong dialogue. Black-and-white photography here allows for such clear focus, strong verticals and diagonals. Veda is diagonal, askew, immoral, lazy, seductive, self-indulgent, while Mildred Pierce is upright both physically and morally, hard and certain. By this time, Joan Crawford's face has taken on that wonderfully sculpted frozen quality that makes her so noir -- hard-edged and unflappable. When the two argue, seemingly on equal terms, they are both upright and face to face. So it is really quite dramatic when Veda slaps her mother down. She is in the higher position on the stair (and throughout the movie she is always able to hold the upper hand over her mother). It is then the fallen mother who is diagonal, elegantly posed hanging over the wrought iron stair railing, and a most beautiful composition in black and white. She is off-balance, but not for long. These compositional devices are very simple but extremely effective in supporting the meanings of the dialogue between the two women. These are not just talking heads, but two women who are working hard to define their own spaces and positions, literal and metaphorical.

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My mother, who is a big film noir fan, has never liked this movie, mostly because she is really sensitive about relationships between mothers and daughters.  I’ll see how I feel when I watch it this weekend.  I don’t know how anyone cannot hate Veda.  Like her mother says she is “cheap and horrible”.  On its surface, Mildred Pierce doesn’t seem like a noir film, more like an intense drama.  On inspection, though, it’s clear Curtiz incorporated aspects into the cinematography that would become associated with film noir, like the shadows, Veda’s desire to escape from her life (which just illustrates how ungrateful she is), and her greed.  Veda herself is a young femme fatale, but she is a lot more overconfident than she should be.  I get the feeling Veda expects everything to go her way, that after yelling at her mother, Mildred would just roll over and let Veda do whatever she wants.  Mildred fights back, however, tearing the check up and ordering Veda out of the house after that slap.  The look in Veda’s eyes declares that she was not expecting that to happen.  Curtiz incorporated a lot of angles into this clip, especially with Veda on the couch.  It helps illustrate the tension between the two women and show that this is the opposite of what a mother-daughter relationship should be.

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Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth are powerful and amazing in this scene. There's also a stillness in the midst of their crazy. Look how they hold themselves and speak with such intensity. There's not the stuccato break of "natural" acting that we see today. The use of height to establish power is also fun to watch. Vida on the couch and Mildred standing over her, both standing toe to toe, Vida on the stairs standing over her mother, and then Mildred being slapped and the power shifting even more. Brilliant direction in those movements. You can't take your eyes off of these ladies.

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The scene between Veda and Mildred shows everything wrong with their relationship. Veda is such a ****, and Mildred is amazingly blind to that. Motherly love is one thing, but really ... Veda takes the cake, as bad seeds go.

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The dress and the dialogue are the hint of film noir.  The blocking of who is talking down to the other is a fine concept.

This clip alone, despite the black dresses and the vitriolic dialogue does not make this a film noir - maybe when I have

seen the entire film will I understand why it is on this course, but not on this clip alone.

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I've seen "Mildred Pierce" once before, at the TCM Classic Film Festival in April, 2013. It was my first time seeing it, and it was with one of the most lively audiences I can recall. There was a lot of clapping and whooping and booing throughout the film, so there were a lot of details I missed. This is the one scene I always remembered though. I remember right after Mildred Pierce says, "Get out before I kill you", the entire theater erupted into thunderous applause that drowned everything else out for several moments.

 

Seeing this scene again it is no less effective, but of all the things to make it stand out in such a memorable film as this, I'd say it's the performances from Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth. The framing and the background music all add flavor, but this scene, in my opinion, could have been only one shot and still have been effective. Perhaps not as effective, but still effective. Each of the two actresses play off of each other so well and create such a frightening portrait of a mother-daughter relationship that manage to dominate the entire film.

 

I do not mean to ignore the framing, however. It does work terrifically well. The way it begins with the close up of Veda kissing the check, backs out to reveal the beginning of the fight with Mildred, and finally switches to medium shots that zoom into close-ups of the two yelling at each other, before the shot reverse shot close-ups of the heated exchange. One thing I really like about the start of the scene, its beginning on Veda kissing the check and pulling out to reveal the beginning of the argument between her and Mildred, is that it says a lot about the situation. It's originally about Veda's selfishness and deception, but ends up being about something much bigger. It's really about Mildred's and Veda's anger at each other. And that is a very common theme in Film Noir, something not being about what it seemed to originally. Especially with a manipulative, deceptive, morally inept person such as Veda.

 

If you haven't seen "Mildred Pierce", do so, or set your DVR to record it, on Friday. It's a great film, and Veda is one of the most loathsome Noir villains you'll encounter. Joan Crawford is certainly great as the titular character, and the one we ultimately sympathize with, but Ann Blyth as Veda stole the show for me. She's the one you love to hate. To me, waiting for her to get what's coming to her is part of what makes the film so suspenseful.

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What a lovely family! You can feel the intensity between mother and daughter. There is a passion in their conversation but it is a passion bred by a mutual dislike of circumstances. The slap is like a gunshot! It stuns and wakes you, much like the shot in "The Letter" did. Like many have said, I've never been a big Joan Crawford fan but from what I've heard about "Mildred Pierce" and seeing this brief clip, I've decided I might have a lot to learn. The clip is different from what we've seen so far in lighting and camera angles are concerned but the musical background, the tension, and the atmosphere gives promise to some overbearing event waiting. 

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First, James M. Cain, author of Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice wrote Mildred Pierce. I have never, ever, considered Mildred Pierce as "a female melodrama". To call it that is to underrate this movie. It opens with a murder. It has all the elements and style of a noir film. Desperate people, lots of night scenes in shoddy places and flashbacks. Witty repartee (thanks in large part to Jack Carson’s and Eve Arden’s characters).

 

This scene, besides getting to see Joan Crawford get slapped (and she IS one of my Fab Four), shows the depth of Veda's true character at last. It's Mildred who comes off sympathetically here, even though Veda is her creation, her monster. When Veda is telling Mildred what the money can do for her, the camera is on Veda’s face, showing every expression. Her anger, her hatred and her cynicism are now obvious to the audience. After Mildred slaps Veda, they move to the stairs, where Veda is in the higher position, Mildred the lower. She has never cared about all Mildred did for her. And after Mildred tears up the check, Veda slaps Mildred and sends her flying, and Mildred falls even further below Veda and has to look up to see her. We see who is in charge of this relationship (as if we didn't know that by now). I even think Mildred's harsh words ("Get out before I kill you.") reflect the extremes Mildred has to go to just to get through to Veda. This is later reflected in a remark made by Wally (Jack Carson) when Veda is working for him. Wally implies that to get Veda to do anything you have to practically beat her – and daily. Veda’s stubbornness and selfishness is amazing. We know her for what she is: a schemer out for herself. As for the technicalities: Both are dressed similarly in black. The scene is one of mood and attitude, especially Veda’s. When the scene opens, they are more relaxed, almost comfortable -- but they never get very close to one another -- there is always distance between the two women. They move as if they are opposite magnetic poles to each other.

 

Mildred Pierce the movie is different from Mildred Pierce the book. There is about 10 years between the book’s publication and the movie. The plot of the movie was “enhanced” (for lack of a better word) to fit into film noir style. The book is not noir. There is no murder in the book. It’s just a sad little tale about a mother/daughter relationship.

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I would play the purist and state that MP is not "noir" but pure melodrama. The stark lighting merely enhances the "drama". I am finding in this course that the definition of "noir" is being stretched too thin ...everything is being designated as ""noir". I will not be surprised if another Curtiz film, Romance on the High Seas, Doris Day's first film, eventually makes the list as well.

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The noir comes from showing the worst in people. Film noir always has these characters. It's even more effective in that it is Joan Crawford's daughter who is such a horrible person.  It's is different in showing two women going head to head than normally occurred.

 

For most of the scene Joan Crawford is always in a higher position. Perhaps as she has higher standards and morals then her daughter.  The close ups come when they are at the height of their fighting with Ann Blyth saying terrible things.

 

The important thing in Mildred Pierce is to highlight how bad someone can be to someone who is so good to them.  Seeing such a jaded, cynical moneygrabber is an eye opener.

 

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Junior Femme fatale- love it.. the seeds have been planted.

Kinda like asking the question how does a girl like veda get to be a girl like veda????

watch and  find out

Oooh. What a doozy of a clip.  Veda Pierce is the ultimate spoiled brat and junior femme fatale.

 

For the furnishings, I see elegant furniture, even though Veda calls in cheap. The scene shows a sign of success now that Mildred has made a name for herself in the restaurant biz. 

 

The clothes show a sense of darkness and dominance, as both Mildred and Veda wear black in this scene. That and maybe some sophistication as well.

 

Veda and Mildred move about like cats ready to pounce on each other; a well choreographed scene indeed.  It didn't take me long to HATE Veda with a passion when I first saw this film. She has been manipulative all her life wanting to get her way and when she doesn't she goes into "you don't love me anymore" mode. She was indeed twisted first saying she wasn't getting the finer things in life then berating her mother for having to go to work (even though Mildred's job ended up getting her things she wanted).

 

The scene on the stairs culminates in Mildred getting even with Veda after she drops her bombshell on why she is the way she is. And, according to Ann Blyth, Joan Crawford actually asked her to slap her during the staircase scene.

 

But it won't be the last of Veda......

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