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Michael Curtiz

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Ann Blyth


Curtiz arrived in the United States in 1926 late June of that year. He took the anglicised name "Michael Curtiz". He had a lengthy and prolific Hollywood career, with directing credits on over 100 films in many film genres. Curtiz directed such films as Mystery of the Wax Museum, Doctor X (both shot in two-strip Technicolor), and The Kennel Murder Case. In the mid-1930s, he began the successful cycle of adventure films starring Errol Flynn that included Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Dodge City, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), The Sea Hawk and Santa Fe Trail (1940). Prime examples of his work in the 1940s are The Sea Wolf (1941), Casablanca (1942) and Mildred Pierce (1945). Mildred Pierce was a critical and financial hit when released in 1945. It resurrected the career of screen legend, Joan Crawford, who many had written off as a has-been. The movie was a showcase for some new talent too, but it was Crawford’s film and she commands the screen in every scene she’s in. The straightforward narrative in the James M. Cain novel was changed for the film version. Mildred’s story is told in flashback, a popular film noir convention that works really well and adds to the movie’s texture. The film itself is put together very nicely with the Warner Brothers A-Team pulling out all the stops. Cinematographer Ernest “Ernie” Haller’s black and white photography is beautifully atmospheric. The angles, the contrasts, are seamless and help advance the story without getting in the way. The score by Max Steiner is lush without being overwhelming; at least not overwhelming as far as Steiner scores go (They’re all kind of overwhelming, actually). Legendary makeup artist Perc Westore makes Crawford’s transition from waitress/working mom into successful/sophisticated businesswomen seem natural and believable. Much of Crawford’s look in this film, and for the rest of the decade, is due in great part to the costuming of Milo Anderson. Last but not least, director Michael Curtiz assembled all the pieces together to form a perfect whole, but Curtiz wasn’t at all set on working with Crawford. According to Crawford, Curtiz wanted Barbara Stanwyck to play Mildred. He didn’t want to work with a “difficult” has-been. In order to change Curtiz’s mind, Crawford submitted to a screen test. This was unheard of for an established star, but so determined was Crawford to snag the role that she consented. Crawford’s screen test impressed Curtiz enough that he agreed to direct her. And for Crawford, a new career was born at Warners. Charlie Marie Gordon. It was Michael Curtiz, that introduce me to Charlie I later learned that she had been offered a leading role in which she starred with Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce this would have been Ann Blyth part as Veda Pierce? Mildred Pierce was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress. Crawford’s Best Actress Award was the only win, but it propelled her back to the top of the heap, giving fellow Warner contract-player, Bette Davis a run for her money. Ironically, Davis’s career was on a downward arch while Crawford was starring in some critical and commercially successful melodramas. After Mildred Pierce, Crawford starred in Humoresque (1946), Possessed (1947), Daisy Kenyon (1947), and Flamingo Road (1949). Possessed brought her a second Best Actress nomination. There was a bright, shining moment during her convalescence when she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Mildred Pierce. Four months after the Oscars, over a month after Ann was finally allowed to remove the back brace for good, only a few weeks after her returning to work on a new movie, Mrs Blyth died of cancer in July 1946. Ann was 17 years old, less than a month shy of her 18th birthday. Ann. Fortunately, her mother’s sister and brother-in-law around this time gave up their home in Connecticut and moved out to California to help during the family crisis, and stayed. As guardians and parent-figures her aunt and uncle thereafter had a huge supportive part in her life.

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