Impeccable, bleak gloss, with the supreme Crawford engineering the greatest comeback of them all. MILDRED PIERCE is one of the finest noir soap operas ever, with the queen of pathos shouldering the storm alone; her efforts snagged the golden statuette as 1945's Best Actress. To begin with, MILDRED was leftovers: Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis and Ann Sheridan turned down the role, but producer Wald gambled on MGM-bounced Crawford, and the film swept the box offices, returning $5 million to Warners and putting Crawford back on top as the hottest star in town. Mildred's marriage to Bert (Bennett) has gone sour. While she dotes on their two daughters, chiefly the older Veda (Blyth), Bert finds pleasant company with Mrs. Biederhof (Patrick). Leaving Bert, Mildred finds work as a waitress to misguidedly keep the vicious, snobbish Veda in fancy duds. Ever ambitious, Mildred slaves her way up to a chain of successful restaurants and takes up with classy playboy Monte Beragon (Scott). She mistakenly weds him, and he goes through her fortune like a plague of locusts. The crushing blow comes when Mildred learns that Monte has been having an affair with Veda behind her back. Everything about MILDRED PIERCE is first-rate, from stellar production values to Curtiz's marvelously paced direction, which refuses to allow sentiment to rule the story. The MacDougall script, adapted from Cain's terse novel, is adult and literate, with plenty of sharp dialogue. The Curtiz string-pulling is greatly aided by Grot's imposing sets, Haller's moody photography and Steiner's haunting score. Bravely cresting the waves of disaster is a mature Crawford in a real tour de force, defying the industry to write her off as washed up. She's matched every slap of the way by Blyth, here giving the performance of her career. The support in MILDRED is, without exception, expertly handled. Scott is an exceptionally attractive snake and Arden turned in a definitive job as Crawford's wisecracking pal. Two peak scenes among aficionados of Saint Joan: Veda smacks Mildred; Mildred calls the police. Unforgettable.