Oscar Roles: Crawford, Joan–Mildred Pierce

Ambitious career women are consistently punished for stepping out of their place, for entering into men’s domain and thus competing with them for desirable jobs and rewards.

In Joan Crawford’s Oscar-winning role as the suffering mother in Mildred Pierce (1945), she plays a determined woman who builds up a chain of restaurants in order to provide her ungrateful daughter with all the luxuries she was deprived of as a girl. Throughout the movie, Mildred is penalized.

Mildred’s younger daughter dies of pneumonia while she is spending her first weekend off from work with her lover. Mildred then throws herself into a second, loveless marriage with a playboy whom she ends up supporting. Her eldest daughter Vida (Oscar-nominated Ann Blyth) despises her mother’s low-class origins and job as a waitress and flirts with her stepfather, whom she later kills out of jealousy. At the end, having lost everything–her business, lover, and daughter–Mildred goes back to her first husband and to a second life as a housewife.