Kate Winslet has not been seen on screen since "The Reader" was booked into theaters early last year. After winning the Oscar for that performance, she surprised everyone when she chose as her next project a TV remake of the 1945 film "Mildred Pierce," which won Joan Crawford her only Academy Award.
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.
Todd Haynes ("I'm Not There") adapted James M. Cain's bestselling 1941 novel and directed the HBO miniseries, which will air over five nights next spring. Haynes was a 2002 Oscar nominee for his script of "Far From Heaven," an 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 award in bed, capping off one of the great screen comebacks.
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.
From the looks of the trailer below, Winslet delivers another of her knockout performances. HBO has so dominated the Emmy movie and miniseries races as of late that the broadcast networks want to bounce it from the kudocast. Regardless of where it ends up next year, look for Winslet to be as strong a contender as Crawford.
Photo:"Mildred Pierce" poster. Credit: Warner Bros.Get Gold Derby on Twitter. Join the Gold Derby Group at Facebook. Become friends with Tom O'Neil on Facebook. Get Gold Derby RSS feed via Facebook. RSS Feedburner. RSS Atom.