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

  • Simona Busni Università della Calabria
Keywords: melodrama, mildred pierce, novel, cinema, television



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.       


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).         


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.


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Author Biography

Simona Busni, Università della Calabria

Titolo professionale: Indipendente

Aree di interesse e ricerca: Filosofia del cinema, Melodramma, Cinema italiano, Divismo, Stanley Cavell


Posizioni Accademiche

Assegnista di ricerca, Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, Novembre 2013 – Aprile 2015 [Assegnista ospite, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3 (France), Département “Cinéma et Audiovisuel”];


Attività Professionali

Redattrice, Lessico del cinema italiano. Forme di rappresentazione e forme di vita, Mimesis, Milano-Udine, 2014 – oggi;

Segretaria di Redazione, Fata Morgana, Pellegrini Editore, Cosenza, 2006 – oggi;

Redattrice, L’avventura. International Journal of Italian Film and Media Landscapes, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2015 – oggi;



-          “La creazione della donna” (2016);

-          “Corpi senza voce. Le donne imperfette del melodramma” (2016);

-         “The genre between television and cinema: for an aesthetics of the serialization” (2015);

-         “Silvana e il bajón: memorie di una (ri)nascita cinematografica” (2015);

-         “Donne di genere: il melodramma filosofico secondo Stanley Cavell” (2012).


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Brooks, Peter, The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama and the Mode of Excess (1976), tr. it., L’immaginazione melodrammatica, Parma, Pratiche, 1995.

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How to Cite
Busni, S. (2018). <i>Mildred Pierce</i&gt;: ‘remarriage melodrama’ among novel, cinema and television. Between, 7(14).
Contemporary Melodramas. Cinema, TV, Graphic Novels