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With Seán Martinfield

Seán Martinfield
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

MILDRED PIERCE - Ann Blyth, Live at the Castro Theatre

By Seán Martinfield

July 21, 2006

Tuesday, June 29, 1943. The figures are in for MGM's latest Crawford flick, ABOVE SUSPICION. Barely enough for lion litter. It's curtains for Joan Crawford. The bottom has dropped out. Washed up. Chief Executive Louis B. Mayer tells her she's "Box Office Poison", packs up her dressing room and gives her the gate. Next!

A bit later, across town at the Warner Brothers lot, Executive Producer Jack L. Warner is sweeping off his welcome mat. He pencils-in "J. Crawford" above "B. Davis", hands Joan a script, drapes her in a lush fur coat (shoulders measuring 5-heads-across, with hat to match), escorts her to director Michael Curtiz (brandishing his Oscar for CASABLANCA, just in case), and gives the command, "Roll 'em!"

Friday, September 28, 1945. For weeks the banner ads have been screaming, "The kind of Woman most men want - but shouldn't have!" But now the lights are dimming at New York's Strand Theatre, the curtains part, the overture begins. A deep boom from the bass drums, the piercing treble of heralding trumpets, a clash of symbols - the black and white WB shield sparkles in the center of a silvered screen. The score is by Max Steiner - ironically, having won the Oscar the previous year for SINCE YOU WENT AWAY. The Warner's logo disappears under an incoming ocean wave. As the foamy waters retract, Joan Crawford's name sits above those of co-stars Zachary Scott and Jack Carson. Another crash from the orchestra, another retracting breaker. Finally, the title - MILDRED PIERCE. Whether Miss Crawford's second shot at a career will likewise wash-up on shore, remains to be seen. One way or another, what every Critic in town knows for sure: We are in for it tonight!

In an overhead shot, the camera pans across neon signs reading "Cocktails / Entertainment / Seafood". (It looks like old San Francisco!) Joan enters from the right and heads toward the end of the pier, perhaps the end of the line. But in a pair of ankle strap shoes, sable hat and coat, glittering neckline and smart long-strapped evening bag hanging over 2-feet of furried left shoulder - so far, the Brothers Warner have given Joan the Star Treatment. With gloved hands she grips the top rail of the barrier standing between her and … the end. A wary cop approaches. Joan makes her move to jump. He bangs his night stick sharply on the rail. She stops.

"What's on your mind, lady? I think maybe you had an idea you'd take a swim."

"Leave me alone," she pleads.

"If you take a swim, I'd have to take a swim." This cop recognizes quality fur when he sees it. "Just because you feel like bumping yourself off, I gotta get pneumonia. Is that fair? Beat it. Go on home before we both take a swim."

Somewhat embarrassed, tears glistening in the eyes, Mildred heads up the pier towards the Cocktail Lounge where some two-bit blonde is crooning, "You must have been a beautiful baby." After all, back home - with Husband #2 pumped full of bullets and dead on the floor, lip-prints from daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) on his stiffening corpse, a still-smoking pistol registered to Husband #1 cooling in a pool of upper class blood - there's more than a sable coat to save here. Mildred's got to beat the wrap. Inside the Lounge, a man raps on the window. It's Wally Fay (Jack Carson), slick-talking real estate hawker.

"Mildred! What are you doing around this pigeon perch? Slumming?"

Friday, July 21, 2006. Marc Huestis presents a special event screening of MILDRED PIERCE at San Francisco's Castro Theatre. Appearing live is "Veda" herself, Academy Award nominated Ann Blyth. Renowned author and film noir expert Eddie Muller will interview the venerable actress. Also being screened is BLYTH SPIRIT, a fabulous clip reel covering Ms. Blyth's splendid career. Comedian Heklina, creator of San Francisco's drag cabaret Trannyshack, hosts "Mildred's Fierce Pie Eating Contest" (watch for celebrity contestant Anita Cocktail); special appearances by Matthew Martin and Jan Wahl, and Juanita Moore presenting LA "VEDA" LOCA. Sponsors include Twin Peaks Tavern, Castrobear Presents, Joie De Vivre Hospitality and the Maxwell Hotel.

Tickets are $27.50 for the 7 pm Gala, $55.00 for the 10:30 Dessert Reception and Gala

Partial Proceeds benefit the AIDS Emergency Fund.

Tickets are available by calling: 415-863-0611
At: A Different Light Bookstore, 489 Castro Street
E-mail: hostess2@earthlink.net
On-line: www.ticketweb.com




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