James M. Cain is one-fourth of the great quarter of American crime writers of the 1940s that included Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Cornell Woolrich. The novel Mildred Pierce was a bestseller despite the fact that it is more a psychological crime novel in the vein of Woolrich than a tough guy drama like the works of Hammett or Chandler. The film is even less violent than the novel and the psychological aspect shaped it into something much closer to a noir plot than the novel.
Mildred Pierce became the first film that Joan Crawford would make for Warner Brothers after parting ways with M-G-M where she had reined so long as one of their most popular stars. Widely considered to be on her way down and out of the Hollywood limelight, Crawford amazed and ticked off more than a few executives back at the home of the roaring lion by not only contributing to Mildred Pierce being a huge hit, but taking home her on and only Oscar for Best Actress. The win would be instrumental in extending Crawford’s stardom for another quarter century.
In addition to Crawford’s win as Best Actress, Mildred Pierce was nominated for another five Oscars. Interestingly, although nominated for Best Picture, director Michael Curtiz failed to receive a nomination.