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Kate Winslet taking on Joan Crawford's Oscar-winning role in 'Mildred Pierce'

February 12, 2010 |  1:08 pm

A year after finally taking home the Oscar for "The Reader," Kate Winslet is ready to go back to work. The Hollywood Reporter says Winslet will be starring in a five-hour TV remake of the 1945 film "Mildred Pierce," which won Joan Crawford her only Academy Award. We can only imagine what that grande dame of old Hollywood would think of all this.

Mildred Pierce Kate Winslet Joan 



Crawford Oscars

Todd Haynes ("I'm Not There") is adapting James M. Cain's bestselling 1941 novel and will direct the HBO miniseries. Haynes was a 2002 Oscar nominee for his script of "Far From Heaven," a homage to the lush 1950s movie romances of director Douglas Sirk; he lost to Pedro Almodovar for "Talk to Her."

The 1945 "Mildred Pierce" contended for six Oscars, including best picture, which went to "The Lost Weekend." Crawford earned the first of her eventual three Oscar nominations --  "Possessed" (1947) and "Sudden Fear" (1952) were the others. The actress feigned illness on Oscar night and, after skipping the ceremony, she received the press at home, where she accepted the Oscar in bed.

The meaty title role in "Mildred Pierce" is a single mother who struggles to provide for her two daughters during the Depression. Taking on a job as a waitress, she infuriates her older daughter, Veda, who has grandiose social ambitions. After younger daughter Kay dies of pneumonia, Mildred pours all her love into the ungrateful Veda. The mother is even willing to take a murder rap for the daughter, who offs her stepfather in a dramatic shootout.

If Winslet thinks she can score another award, an Emmy, by assuming this role, she may be doubly mistaken. For starters, "Mildred Pierce" looks like high-camp soap opera when viewed from the cynical perspective of the 21st century. How can that mix be adapted for modern audiences? Second, it may not really be award-winning material. It's widely known among Oscarologists that Crawford didn't really win her Golden Boy for the brilliance of her diva strutting in "Mildred Pierce." She won it for the brilliance of her full-throttle strong-arm campaign, one of the first major tub-thumping blitzkriegs in Oscar history.

In 1945, it looked like Crawford's career was all washed up. She had left MGM after 18 years and was desperately hustling up roles at Warner Bros. when she discovered "Mildred Pierce," a role rejected by Bette Davis. Director Michael Curtiz didn't want Crawford on board, dismissing her as a has-been, but he finally bowed to studio pressure after she agreed to take a screen test.

In December, award watchers were stunned when Crawford was voted best actress by the National Board of Review. Variety called it an "eye-opening selection," which certainly opened Crawford's eyes. Promptly, she hired a veteran PR man to manage her Oscar campaign and was off to win her overdue chunk of Academy gold, beating the three previous champs in the race -- Greer Garson, Jennifer Jones and Ingrid Bergman -- as well as Gene Tierney.

Photo: "Mildred Pierce" poster. Credit: Warner Bros.

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Comments

Just because Crawford won an Oscar for her "Pierce" role doens't mean that Kate Winslet expects to win an Emmy.Why are we pushing the cart before the horse? The writer is presumptious to state that Winslet is expecting awards for this. Perhaps she just saw this as a good project. Indeed, "Mildred Pierce" is a classic, and I'm sure they will adapt this HBO version to appease today's audience. Also, James M. Cain was a very provocative novelist for his day, and this book was considered controversial for its time. I'm sure the original 1945 film version wasn't allowed to touch certain aspects of the book due to the then-in-place Hays code that severely controlled a movie's content. In fact, the Crawford film was undoubtedly deemed as risque for that period, particularly since it dealt with a daughter sleeping with her mother's husband. Perhaps the cable vehicle would supply information that the original film couldn't provide in 1945. As for Crawford, she gave a great performance as Mildred - one of her best. I believe the Academy members that voted for her that year fully agreed that her comeback was worth all the hype due to this plum role. I'm equally certain that Winslet will do her usual stellar job as Mildred.

Mildred Pierce is a classic! I can watch over and over again...Joan Crawford gave an outstanding performance and rightfully deserved the Oscar...campaigning or not...I was always wondering when a remake would be creeping about soon and now it's coming fruition with Kate Winslet...I really hate remakes because the original film should not be messed with. With Todd Haynes at the helm, I hope he does it justice.

You make it sound as if Joan Crawford did not earn her Oscar!!!! You are a fool if you think that! Crawford's ONLY competition in the race that year was Tierney. Joan Crawford gives a outstanding subtle performance in the 1945 film. Curtiz loved Joan's performance and he should have!!!

Given Winslet's predilection for performing naked, her 'Mildred' will update by lots of topless baking and chicken frying.


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