Oscar: Crawford Win for Mildred Pierce

You’d have to be a ninny to vote against the studio that has your contract and produces your pictures.
Joan Crawford

In 1945, Joan Crawford and her press agent, Henry Rogers, conducted one of the biggest campaigns in Hollywood’s history. According to biographer Bob Thomas, during the filming of Mildred Pierce, producer Jerry Wald sensed that something extraordinary was happening, upon which he called Rogers and suggested:

Why don’t you start a campaign for Joan to win the Oscar
But Jerry, the picture is just starting,” noted Rogers.
So how would I go about it
It’s simple. Call up Hedda Hopper and tell her, ‘Joan Crawford is giving such a strong performance in Mildred Pierce that her fellow-workers are already predicting she’ll win the Oscar for it.’
Jerry, you’re full of shit.
Possibly. But it might work. What have you got to lose

In his daily reports to the famous gossip columnist Rogers delivered some “confidential” reports. A few days later, Hopper wrote: “Insiders say that Joan Crawford is delivering such a terrific performance in Mildred Pierce that she’s a cinch for the Academy Awards.” Other columnists followed Hopper, all predicting an Oscar for Crawford.

One night, Wald called Rogers, triumphantly announcing, “I think we’ve got it made.” Wald had just heard from producer Hal Wallis that “it looks like Joan Crawford has a good chance to win the Oscar.” “I don’t know where I heard it,” Wallis said. “I may have read it somewhere.” That’s exactly what Rogers and Warner wanted–to create a favorable climate for Crawford. It helped, of course, that Mildred Pierce opened to good reviews and good business and that it was nominated for Best Picture.

How crucial was the campaign for Crawford’s win Wouldn’t she have won the Best Actress without it In 1945, Crawford competed against three stars, Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s, Greer Garson in The Valley of Decision, and Jennifer Jones in Love Letters. All three had recently won Oscars: Garson in 1942, Jones in 1943, and Bergman in 1944. The fifth nominee, novice Gene Tierney for Leave Her to Heaven, was unlikely to win.

A veteran of twenty years in Hollywood, Crawford enjoyed the sympathy of the press, which resented the way she was mistreated–and fired–by Louis B. Mayer. Furthermore, Mayer himself said in public that he would vote for Crawford, and not for his favorite star, Greer Garson, because “Crawford deserved it.” Under these circumstances, Crawford might have won the Oscar even without the massive campaign.