Female actors have always had a rough ride in Hollywood. Indeed, until relatively recently opportunities for actresses in leading roles have been few and far between. However, if you look at the Oscar nominations this year, we’re now at a stage where you could argue that it’s the men who are now struggling to keep up. In Mildred Pierce, Joan Crawford’s first leading role for Warner Bros, she puts in a powerful performance which scooped her an Academy Award.

After the discovery of the body of her husband, Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott), Mildred (Crawford) is brought in by the police for questioning. Her first husband, Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett), is the prime suspect, but Mildred protests his innocence. Under interrogation, she tells the story of her life, including Her relentless attempts to support her increasingly demanding social-climbing daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) and her friendship with the shady Wally Fay (Jack Carson).

Mildred Pierce signalled Crawford’s comeback after a lean period in Hollywood. Michael Curtiz’s film noir is a perfect showcase for her talents. She’s electrifying in the lead role and there’s a superb supporting cast, especially Blyth and Scott. It’s beautifully conceived and shot, keeping the audience guessing right until the very end. Mildred Pierce is a superior noir featuring a whole host of outstanding performances.

Special Edition Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • New conversation about Mildred Pierce with critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito
  • Excerpt from a 1970 episode of The David Frost Show featuring actor Joan Crawford
  • Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star, a 2002 feature-length documentary on Crawford’s life and career
  • Q&A with actor Ann Blyth from 2002, conducted by film historian Eddie Muller
  • Segment from a 1969 episode of the Today show featuring novelist James M. Cain
  • Trailer
  • Plus: An essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith

Mildred Pierce is released on Blu-ray by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment as part of the Criterion Collection on Monday.