A showcase for one of Hollywood’s most iconic female stars: Joan Crawford. Crawford was the right personality at the right time. Back then, Hollywood wasn’t afraid to let a woman dominate a movie, and Crawford, with her piercing eyes and authoritative voice, was born to be in charge. (She even manages to corral the all-female cast of 1939’s The Women.) Appropriately, Mildred Pierce is largely about a woman trying to make it on her own in a patriarchal world. Left by a cheating husband, pawed at by a lecherous business partner and wooed by a shiftless playboy, Mildred nonetheless opens her own restaurant in a bid for independence. Directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) from a novel by James M. Cain (Double Indemnity), Mildred Pierce is a somewhat reckless mixture of film noir and soap opera. It opens with a murder and then proceeds to run on revelations and betrayals and wild swings of fortune. Yet the high-wire act works, largely because Mildred Pierce has the right trapeze artist dangling in the air.