Mildred Pierce: ‘remarriage melodrama’ among novel, cinema and television

Simona Busni

Abstract


Purpose

This essay intends to analyze melodrama, in its enigmatic and heterogeneous essence, through a female character: Mildred Pierce, protagonist of the novel by the American writer James M. Cain (1941), of the film by Michael Curtiz (1945) and the miniseries by Todd Haynes (HBO, 2011) – three different works and the same title, which coincides with her name. Mildred’s story reinterprets the rhetorical myth of the melodramatic unknown women, those heroines searching for an existential way to state the right to tell their stories.       

Methodology

Paraphrasing Stanley Cavell, author of a famous philosophical theory on cinematographic genres, that of Mildred Pierce’s could be defined a remarriage melodrama, namely a version of the story where we can find the restoration of the first marriage although in a melodramatic context of avoidance. The first step regards a rhetorical datum, that is the negation as the (re)generative tool in a system within which it’s possible to obtain a particular kind of melodrama from a certain comedy. Then this datum is incorporated in a wider philosophical perspective – concerning language, skepticism and the concept of “unknowness” – and it’s compared with the main theories about melodrama, from literature to cinema (Frye, Brooks, Elsaesser, Doane, Williams, Cook), until the implications connected to TV seriality (Mittel).         

Results/Findings

Through the case “Mildred Pierce” in its different versions, using categories belonging to philosophical reflection, it’s possible to test the theoretical strength of melodrama as crucial and constant mode of modern imagination, as well as to reread its potentialities as intermedial genre.


Keywords


melodrama; mildred pierce; novel; cinema; television

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/2769

NBN: http://nbn.depositolegale.it/urn%3Anbn%3Ait%3Aunica-22651

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