Monday, March 28, 2011
Mildred Pierce Parts One and Two
BLOGGER'S NOTE: This recap contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen Parts One and Two yet, move along.
By Edward Copeland
Todd Haynes' miniseries adaptation of Mildred Pierce doesn't play the way you usually think of miniseries of old with two hour long or more parts airing over several nights on the same week. Haynes' miniseries plays more like a limited series, with five episodes, each about an hour long or 10 or 20 minutes over and playing on consecutive Sundays. It premiered tonight with both Parts One and Two. Both will be recapped in a single post after Part Two has aired.
We meet Mildred Pierce (Kate Winslet) as she's busily making pies and finishing up a cake as well in her Glendale, Calif., kitchen in 1931. Her cheating husband Bert (Brian F. O'Byrne) was forced out of the home-building company that he started and still bears his name by his partner and presumed best friend Wally Bergan (James LeGros) and then Bert lost what money he had left in the crash of '29 and has been unemployed ever since, thanks to the Great Depression. Mildred has been helping make ends meet taking orders selling pies and cakes she makes to neighborhood wives. As she slaves in the kitchen, Bert busies himself in the yard, trimming trees and mowing grass. He finally finishes and comes in for some lemonade saying he's done all that he can for the day and thought he go out for awhile. Mildred knows exactly what this means and it sets her off. One of Haynes' best touches in this scene is the way he explains the backstory about Pierce Homes. Much as Hitchcock did in explaining what caused James Stewart's broken leg in Rear Window through a series of photos and clippings on the wall, Haynes pans across photos and blueprints on the well, avoiding the detailed exposition James M. Cain had to supply in the Mildred Pierce novel. Making the scene even more effective, Haynes chooses to do this with a heightening of Carter Burwell's score so the viewer doesn't see and can barely see the fight between Bert and Mildred as it escalates. Before we get to that point, she asks if he'll be home for dinner and Bert says yes at first, but then qualifies it by saying that if he's not home by 6, don't wait for him. This pushes Mildred to the point where she's ready to have it out. She has been turning a blind eye to Bert's affair with Mrs. Biederhof for a long but tonight, she wants a definite answer. If he's going to be there for certain, she'll spend the cake money on lamb chops, but if he's going to still be off with Maggie Biederhof, she'll get something the girls will like better. It leads to a fight that's been a long time coming and Bert packs his suitcase and drives away.
Soon after Bert's departure, Mildred's neighbor and closest friend Lucy Kessler (Melissa Leo) drops by as Mildred busies herself washing dishes. "He took the car," Mildred mutters, much to Lucy's confusion. She asks what Mildred means and she tells her that Bert has left. "He walked on you?" Lucy queries with surprise, though Mildred admits she gave him a little help. "For that floppy-haired little frump?" Lucy says indignantly, referring to Maggie Biederhof. Mildred says she can have him if she can do things the way he wants. "I've got my own ways and I can't just change them for someone else," Mildred declares. That simple line of dialogue could be a key to the entire story of Mildred Pierce. By the end of this episode, not to mention the series as a whole, we will see that Mildred can change, though it's not necessarily for someone else. The ability, inability or unwillingness of the characters in Mildred Pierce to adapt really drives this tale. "Well, you've joined the biggest army on earth," Lucy tells her. "You're the great American institution that never gets mentioned on Fourth of July — a grass widow with two small children to support. The dirty bastard." Mildred actually defends Bert, saying that he's alright. "He's alright, but he's still a dirty bastard," Lucy responds. "They're all dirty bastards." It's interesting that for an author known for his tough crime novels as James M. Cain was that he produced a book such as Mildred Pierce, because if it had been written by a woman, some reactionaries would accuse the author of being anti-men since there really isn't a positive portrayal of one in the entire story. Of course, all the characters are flawed and the biggest bastard of them all will turn out to be a young woman. To have written this in 1941 makes it even more remarkable, not that Mildred can be viewed as an early feminist heroine either.
After hearing another arrival, Lucy excuses herself after leaving Mildred some chicken she'd prepared but that she feared would spoil because her husband Ike, a truck driver, got a sudden call for a job down to Long Beach and she was going to go with her. Mrs. Gessler exits as 11-year-old Veda (the phenomenal Morgan Turner) returns from her piano lesson. Despite how tight things have been, Mildred always has found a way to keep paying for piano lessons for Veda. Mildred asks her daughter how the lesson was and she gives some vague answer and complains that the teacher will give her palsy before taking a seat at the kitchen table. Mildred asks about her sister's whereabouts and Veda says she's playing outside. Mildred retrieves a cupcake, telling her daughter that she had leftover batter from the cake. Veda inspects the cake on the table and asks, "Who, pray tell, is Bob?" Her mom gives Bob's full name and Veda recognizes it as the paperboy. Mildred frets that he might not get the cake if she can't figure out a way to get it over there. Veda inquires about the car's whereabouts and Mildred tells her father took it. Veda suddenly remembers she still has time to catch a show on the radio and rushes out of the kitchen. Mildred hears Ray's voice and tells her it's time to come inside. The 6-year-old girl (Quinn McColgan) comes bounding in singing "Swanee" before sitting down to her cupcake. As much of an air of sophistication as Veda tries to put on, Ray is just your basic cute-as-a-button kid that you'd find in any time period. Veda returns from the bedrooms and asks her mother why her father's clothes are missing. Mildred didn't really want to get into it, but she tries to tell her daughters as calmly as she can that Bert has left and that he probably won't be be back. He didn't want to leave when they were home because he didn't want to get them upset. Ray seems visibly upset by the news that her father is gone, but it doesn't seem to affect Veda much who just tells her mother, "I just wondered why his clothes were gone." Mildred assures the girls that everything will be OK and Ray climbs into her mother's lap. Mildred motions for Veda, and she comes and hugs her mother as well. "What would I do without my girls?" Mildred smiles as Ray says her trademark phrase, "Cut the mush." The always class-conscious Veda renders her judgment, telling her mother that if her father has left for Mrs. Biederhof that the woman is "distinctly middle-class."
Mildred visits an employment agency run by a Mrs. Turner (a really good performance by Brenda Wehle) who practically laughs Mildred out of her office because all she's put on her card is receptionist, when she has no experience for such a job. She points to the filing cabinet behind her filled with cards bearing names of qualified applicants for all sorts of jobs, some with doctorates. Mrs. Turner apologizes, but there's nothing out there of that sort for someone like Mildred. It get Mildred down a bit and it doesn't help when she stops to get groceries but has to put hot dogs back when she realizes she doesn't have enough cash to afford them. When she gets back home, she's surprised to find Bert's parents getting ready to take Veda and Ray away for the weekend. Mildred asks if Bert put them up to them, but they deny it, though their grandmother does make a subtle jab about the kids being "all alone." Mildred tells them she just went shopping for groceries. Veda comes out and reassures her mother that she made certain that Ray packed all the things she needed. Mildred tells her girls to behave for their grandparents and they drive away. Not too long after that there's a knock on the door, and to her surprise it's Bert's former partner, the man who stole Pierce Homes from him, Wally Bergan. He needs to ask Bert about a title. After trying to avoid the truth for a few moments of Wally's questions about where to find Bert, she invites him in and tells him that they have split. Wally expresses shock and admits that he always found Mildred attractive. She tells him he hid it pretty well, but he says it's because he's "conscientious." When Wally learns that the kids are gone for the weekend, he asks Mildred what's she's doing the next night and, to her surprise, she accepts the date.
"Wally Bergan!" Lucy exclaims with surprise when Mildred tells her of his sudden interest in her and their impending date. Lucy apologizes for forgetting to tell her of that aspect of being a grass widow — men suddenly assume the newly single women are red hot mommas with corresponding loose morals. She warns Mildred not to let him take her out to dinner because then he'll get a drink and figure he's earned it when something happens. Mildred assures Lucy that nothing will happen, though Lucy is skeptical and suggests a better idea is for her to fix him something there and ply him with the still illegal-in-1931 liquor, which Lucy gladly provides, a sideline of her husband's work as a truck driver, producing gin, scotch and wine. That way, Lucy tells her, you don't owe him anything and if something happens, "That's just Mother Nature and you know she's no bum...Within a month, he'll be taking you shopping for a divorce." Mildred still isn't certain that this should be a road that she should be traveling on and asks Lucy if she really wants to be a kept woman. "Yes," Lucy replies. We've seen signs so far, but we will really see as the story develops that Mildred Pierce isn't that type of person who gets kept — she does the keeping.
The weather helps Mildred with her plan to change Wally's date intentions by bringing on a driving rainstorm which helps her convince him to stay in and let her fix something instead of going out in this inclement weather, though for a few moments Wally seems pretty determined that he has to be the one buying her dinner before he caves. Not only does Mildred's great cooking soothe the savage beast, he welcomes the taste of her liquor, saying it's been ages since he's had real gin like that because all the speakeasies offer weaker stuff. With dinner complete, Mildred gathers the dishes to head to the kitchen and then to change into something more comfortable. Wally mentions how he might want to pull on those apron strings. "You do and I might make you put it on and do the dishes," Mildred jokingly scolds Wally. She's not laughing when she's in the privacy of her bedroom and in a state of undress with just a slip showing and she spies Wally watching through a crack in the door. He apologizes, but says he meant it about those apron strings before coming all the way in. Mildred tries to find a modicum of modest by keeping her back to him, but Wally grabs her, fondling her and kissing her neck before Mildred turns around and falls to the bed. Afterward, Mildred fixes herself up at her dressing mirror while Wally smokes in bed, an ashtray resting on his sizable pot belly. She asks what he's thinking about he actually says Bert, which sets Mildred off. "That's rich." Bert tries to make the case that he feels slightly guilty for doing this to his friend, but Mildred gets angry, reminding him that he forced his friend out of the company he started and she's never fond of a doublecross. After lambasting Wally for a few minutes, she apologizes, telling Wally that she hasn't been having the best of times lately, but Bert says he understands and imagines that would be true. The next morning, as she's hauling trash to the curb, she runs into Lucy who asks how things went. "I'm on the town," Mildred tells her. Lucy asks how that feels. "Fast."
Mildred hits the streets, determined to find a job for herself since the employment agency was of no use. In a nicely assembled montage, Mildred walks in to high end store after high end store only to be greeted with a series of heads shaking no. After she's been walking for a long time, dressed in the best outfit she owns, her feet really begin to hurt. She leans down to loosen one of her shoes and you can see that the wear-and-tear has taken its toll and her heel has started to bleed through her hose. She then happens to notice a man placing a notice for a job opening in The Tea Room on the eighth floor of the department store he walks back into. Mildred goes in and takes the elevator straight to eight where she sees what the Tea Room is and what working there would mean. Waitresses in uniform gingerly walk through the narrow aisles between tables carrying teacups and other items. She must have been staring for some time because the man at the restaurant's entry asks her if she's there for the job and Mildred quickly answers no and beats a hasty exit from the place. The following morning, Ray and Veda have returned from their grandparents and Mildred tries to hurry them up so they won't be late for school. Veda offers her mother a rare moment of encouragement, telling her that things can only get better and almost immediately the phone rings and it's Mrs. Turner from the employment agency. Mildred tells her she'll be here as soon as she can. Mrs. Turner tells her the job is for domestic work, which she doesn't usually handle, but she happened to be in Beverly where she met a Mrs. Forrester who's about to marry a Hollywood director and plans to remake his mansion. She remembered Mildred touting her household skills and decided to call her. Mildred thanks her for thinking of her and tells her she recently had a chance for a similar job as a waitress, but Turner interrupts her. "And you turned it down?" Mildred explains that she just couldn't bear facing her girls, having their daughters know their mom wore a uniform and depended on tips. "You'd rather they starve?" "That will never happen, but I will go to the interview as a courtesy to you," Mildred tells her. Mrs. Turner asks what difference it could possibly make for her, but she should know one thing. She has nice work with this agency, but if it were gone and Mrs. Turner had to choose between pride or her belly, her belly would win every time. Mildred is curious though as to why Mrs. Turner thought of her. "You want to know the truth? You've got a nice head on your shoulders and good figure, but you've let half your life slip by with nothing to show for it except for sleeping and cooking." Mrs. Turner closes by teling Mildred she just isn't of any use.
The bus ride to the mansion for the interview with the wealthy bride-to-be is a long way and Winslet perfectly conveys all the thoughts Mildred must be contemplating before she even gets to the meeting. When she finally arrives and rings the doorbell, an African-American servant answers and asks if she's help. When Mildred answers in the affirmative, he tells her that she must enter through the back door and closes the front. Not a good start for someone as obsessed with appearances as Mildred, but she goes to the back door anyway where the same man greets her and shows her to an area where he says that Mrs. Forrester will meet her momentarily. Mildred takes a seat and waits until Mrs. Forrester (Hope Davis) sweeps into the room and Mildred stands and gives her the paper from the employment agency. Mrs. Forrester informs Mildred that it is customary for the servant not to sit until the mistress of the house has invited her to do so, so Mildred stands again, though Mrs. Forrester assures her it's OK since she is new and she may sit since they have a lot to discuss. "This is fine," Mildred says, continuing to stay upright. "I've invited you to sit," Mrs. Forrester repeates forcefully and then Mildred takes her seat again. She tells Mildred that she will be moving in when she marries the director who owns this mansion, but she plans to restore this "mausoleum" and it will require lot of efficient help. She tells Mildred that there are servants' quarters out back and she would be welcome to live there with her daughters. She also mentions that she has two sons of her own from her previous marriage, but of course the children wouldn't be allowed to fraternize. As Mrs. Forrester drones on, Haynes has slowly moved the camera to a profile shot of Winslet and just the slight tilting of her head and the far-away, echoing tone Davis' voice shows that Mildred has drifted somewhere else. She stands up and tells Mrs. Forrester that this job isn't for her. Mrs. Forrester is taken aback, "Mildred, the mistress of the house terminates the interview." "It's Mrs. Pierce and I'm terminating the interview." She tells her that the servant will show her the way out but Mildred informs her she'll find her own way and makes a point of exiting out the front door.
Back on a bus after that incident, Mildred stops at a diner to get a bite to eat when a fight breaks out between two waitresses because one catches the other stealing other waitress's tips. Because of the commotion the Greek owner (Mark Margolis) of the diner comes out and fires them both for turning his restaurant into a boxing ring. All the waitresses end up in the kitchen arguing, feeling it's unfair to fire the one who caught the thief since she didn't do anything wrong. The diners are getting restless with no one serving. Mildred quietly finishes her lunch and pays and meekly makes her way to the kitchen. After some yelling from the waitress canned for reporting the thief about Mildred better not be her replacement, another waitress (Mare Winningham) asks Mildred if she's looking for a job. She tells them it looks as if they needed help. Abandoning her bias toward uniform work, Mildred decides to lower her standards. A job is a job. That waitress gives her the rundown on pay and hours and sets her up with a uniform. Mildred learns her name is Ida and Ida sort of floats behind her as Mildred tries to pick up the trade, making plenty of mistakes of course, such as saying chicken without gravy when you have to tell the cook "hold the gravy" and remembering to always take something back when you bring something out. It's a rough day. At the end of the shift, Ida tells her that she's not certain she's cut out for this work and neither is Mr. Chris (the owner), but Archie (the cook), so they are going to give her a try. Mildred doesn't say much. "What's the matter? Don't you want the job?" Ida asks. "Yes. I'm just tired." "I can imagine the way you trot."
Mildred gets home to find Veda and Ray on the stoop and asks Lucy to come in. She asks if she can borrow $3. Lucy says more if she needs it. Mildred whispers that she got a job as a waitress at a hash house. Lucy says she always wondered when she was looking for jobs as a salesperson why she didn't try that sooner. In these times, Lucy tells her, no one can buy anything, but they still have to eat. Mildred suddenly feels sick and runs to the bathroom to vomit. Lucy helps her. Mildred just isn't sure she can do that and deal with those awful people. One guy pinched her on the butt. She makes Lucy swear not to tell anyone because she can't let Veda know what she's doing. "Veda has some funny ideas, if you ask me," Lucy says. "She has something in her that I thought I had and now I find I don't," Mildred tells Lucy. "Pride or nobility or whatever it is." Lucy tells Mildred she has to take this job and besides, no one has those old ideas about uniforms anymore. Mildred still frets about what Veda would think. Lucy tells her she's right about Veda's attitude. "Veda wouldn't do it herself, but she'll let you do it for her." Lucy helps get Mildred up. Mildred says she doesn't just want her to have bread. "For both my girls, I want them to have all the cake in the world." As Lucy helps hold Mildred up as she walks down the hall, Carter Burwell's score takes an ominous turn as the camera does a 180 and we see a stark outline of Veda's head through the frame of the windowscreen.
As we meet up with Mildred Pierce again in Part Two, the opening seems similar to the way we were introduced to her in Part One, only we're in the bedroom instead of her kitchen and instead of filling her pie tins with usual ingredients, she's spreading rocks around in them and practicing carrying them at once without dropping them so she'll perform better at her new job as a waitress at Cristofor's Cafe in Hollywood. She has to practice in the privacy of her bedroom out of fear that her daughters, especially 11-year-old Veda, will learn she's lowered herself by taking a job that requires the wearing of a uniform and earning the bulk of her wages off tips. Mildred doesn't get to practice long when she hears a commotion in the living room. Bert has paid a surprise visit and both girls are hanging all over him. The daughters compete for their father's attention, since he's no longer a resident of the house. Little Ray shows off the crown she won after winning the Queen of May pageant. "I think it looks perfectly ridiculous to me," Veda declares. Ray says that's because she thinks only she can be queen, which Veda denies and tells her father is an absolute lie. Out of nowhere, Veda asks her father if he is thirsty and then turns to her mother and suggests that she should open the scotch. The glare Mildred gives Veda could burn a hole through her. Bert, surprised that they'd have any scotch, says he could go for some. Mildred goes to her bedroom and removes the scotch from her closet and starts preparing it as Veda slinks in behind her. Mildred asks Veda what right she had to go through her closet. Veda sluffs off the privacy question, saying she didn't realize they had secrets, but Mildred said she could tell she knew what she was doing was wrong by the cheeky look on her face. "Very well mother. It shall be as you say," Veda responds. "And stop that silly way of talking," her mother adds. Veda suggests that a certain stinginess has descended on the household since Bert's departure. "One might think peasants have taken over the house." Mildred asks Veda if she even know what a peasant is. "A very ill-bred person." Mildred gives Veda the cart of scotch to carry out and while she does that she lifts the car keys from Bert's coat pocket. After some drinking and playtime, Mildred decides for the girls to go to bed. As Bert is leaving, Mildred asks him if he got what he needed from his desk. He says yes, but he can't find his car keys. Mildred admits it's because she took them and he's not getting them back. "I'm working and I need it. If you think you think I'm gonna pound around on my feet and ride buses and lose all that time and be a sap while you lay up with another woman enjoying the high life..." Bert doesn't really object, he's just surprised she's working. Mildred asks if he wants her to drive him back. He agrees. "To Maggie Biederhof's?" "I'd prefer not to say where I'm staying," Bert replies, "but if you want to drop me at Maggie's, that'll be fine."
Mildred's finding her groove at the diner, but she's starting to notice the customers complaining about the qualities of the pies and Ida bringing up the issue with Mr. Chris. As they are finishing work for the day, Mildred asks Ida how much Chris pays for the pies, but she's not positive. Mildred tells Ida about her piemaking and that she could bring in samples. Ida realizes she's serious. Mildred asks her if she'd like a ride home. "You've got a car?" "It runs," Mildred replies. Ida tells her that she should bring in three: an apple, a pumpkin and something else, but no cherry or strawberry because they fall apart too easily. She'll make certain they get served and bring it up with Mr. Chris. Mildred won't have to do a thing. "Ida, you're a real pal," Mildred tells her. The next day, Mr. Chris happily laughs as he sees how well Mildred's pies go over. After work, Mildred, Ida and two of the other waitresses go out for drinks to celebrate. Mildred worries that since Mr. Chris has hired her for 35 pies a week, she may have to hire help. "At 35 cents a pie, you can almost afford it," Ida tells her as Mildred thanks Ida again and the woman clasp glasses. Setting up her operation at home, Mildred hires a woman named Letty (Marin Ireland), who also doubles as baby sitter when Mildred can't be there.
That turns into a shock when Mildred returns from shopping and calls for Letty, but she doesn't answer. She makes a call with the news that another restaurant pie contract has come her way when Letty appears — wearing her uniform from the diner. Mildred quickly gets off the phone. "I told her you wouldn't like it," Letty says," but she hollered and carried on until I put it on." Mildred asks who she's referring to — as if she didn't already know the answer — "Miss Veda, ma'am." "Miss Veda?" "That's what she says I should call her," Letty tells Mildred. Mildred goes on the warpath. In another room, cute and innocent little Ray is playing shoot-'em-up, saying she's the public enemy, while Veda sit calmly on the couch. Mildred says that once again she was snooping in her closet since those uniforms were on a top shelf underneath sheets. Veda claims she was merely looking for a handkerchief and she "resents the accusation." Mildred then demands to know how the uniform ended up on Letty. Veda says she assumed she bought them for her to wear when she took them to the pool because who else could they possibly be for? She removes Ray from the room and gives her a bath. Later that evening, she confronts Veda again about the uniform. An exasperated Veda says they've already gone over it and she's going to bed. Mildred grabs her and accuses Veda of knowing it was Mildred's uniform when she made Letty put it on and admits to working at the diner in Hollywood. Veda immediately starts mocking her mom for being a waitress. Mildred says she doesn't know how she found out about it. "Do you think I'm stupid? Do you think I'm dumb?" Veda asks and Mildred gives the brat a long overdue slap that knocks the glass of milk out of her hand. "You may not realize it young lady, but everything you have costs money. From the maid you ordered to the traipsing with you to the pool to the food and the clothing and everything else and I don't see anyone else doing anything about it," Mildred tells Veda, not that the spoiled brat gives a shit. "Weren't the pies bad enough? Did you have to go and degrade us by being a waitress?" Veda screams, prompting Mildred to take her over her knees and give her a well-deserved spanking. Then Mildred, feeling guilty and wanting to win Veda back, concocts a spur-of-the-moment lie and tells Veda that the only reason she took the job was to learn the restaurant business because she plans to open a place of her own, a fine restaurant they can be proud of. Some people do well from restaurants, she tells Veda. Veda apologizes and salivates at the notion of getting rich from one. Mildred tells Veda never to forget that Mildred had been wrong and Veda had been right all along. "Never let go of that." It's as if Mildred has become Victor Frankenstein and Veda is the monster he created, except in the case of Frankenstein's monster, you have sympathy for the monster. You won't for Veda.
With the restaurant idea now firmly established in her head, Mildred starts keeping a notebook of ideas both at her diner and elsewhere. After another roll in the hay with Wally, she asks if he'd help her come up with some estimated costs for opening a restaurant that she wants to present to this one regular customer at the diner. Wally asks her to slow down and start over from the beginning and she tells him her idea is to open a chicken restaurant. People would either get chicken and waffles or maybe chicken and vegetables with carryout pies still on the side, eliminating a la carte pricing and need for menus. Wally says he might be able to do it by giving her the model home. It could be used for a restaurant, give the receivers a loss they need for their 1931 taxes and give Mildred a title that would open a line of credit. Then Wally remembers the hitch — Bert was one of the original incorporators of the property and she's married to him. It won't work unless she and Bert get divorced. When Mildred talks to Bert, he thinks it sounds like a bunch of hooey or possibly collusion. Bert says he would give her and the kids the house and then calms down when he decides there's no way Mildred would have an affair with Wally so he agrees to divorce her so she can get the place for the restaurant. Mildred cries and gives Bert a big hug as he leaves.
Mildred packs the girls' luggage to take to school with them as they are spending the weekend with their grandparents again and they are picking them up immediately after school. Mildred makes a quick stop to see how the restaurant is coming and to show off the new range to Wally before heading to the diner for her last day of work. Her first customer is a charming man (Guy Pearce) who asks why anyone looks at a breakfast menu since they know what they are going to get. Mildred suggests to check the prices. "That's it," he replies. He orders and tells her if she steps on it, he might have enough time to go to Santa Barbara for a swim. "I wish I could go to Santa Barbara for a swim," Mildred says. The man suggests she should. The new waitress has a loud and costly accident. Back in the kitchen, Mildred suggests that the new girl's problem may be Mildred — that she makes her nervous — and wonders if Mr. Chris would mind if she slipped out early. Ida says he always likes to save a buck and tells her to go on, she'll cover for her. Ida also promises to come out to her new place as soon as she can. Mildred returns to her handsome customer and surprises him because he asks why she is smiling. Mildred tells him she thought she would be original for a change but first she has to go to Glendale to drop off her car and get a few things before she can join him on his jaunt to Santa Barbara.
He shows up later at Mildred's house in Glendale in a nice convertible. He notes again that she's smiling. "I can't quite believe I'm doing this," Mildred laughs. He asks since her name is Mrs. Pierce if she's any relation to Pierce Homes. "Bravo," she commends him on his guesswork and tells him she was once married to him. He says some of the worst homes ever built. All the roofs leaked. "Not like the treasuries leaked," Mildred says. He finally introduces himself as Monty Beragon. They arrive at the beachhouse and Mildred hurriedy changes to her bathing suit and heads to the ocean where Monty chases her. Later, the return for some steamy lovemaking. Afterwards, they cook steaks over a fire and Mildred tries to learn more about Monty, but he's either hesitant to talk about his life or bored with it, mentioning his connection to independent fruit growers and how the monthly checks have grown smaller since the big names such as Sunkist arrived on the scene. Basically, he admits. he does nothing. "You mean you just loaf?" Mildred asks. She questins if that makes him content and he just returns to have his way with her again. The next night when he drives her back to Glendale, she makes him stop by the restaurant so she can turn on the sign for him. He asks when the opening will be and she tells him two weeks from Thursday, 6 p.m.
A neighbor comes running across the yard as soon as Mildred returns asking where she has been — they've been trying to reach her since last night. Ray got the flu. and since she wasn't home, they had to take her to the hospital. Mildred makes tracks for the hospital and hooks up with Bert while little Ray lies in bed with a bandage over her lip. This portion of the story to me one of the most fascinating in the different ways it is treated here, was treated in Michael Curtiz's 1945 version and in the original James M. Cain novel. We'll get the Curtiz version out of the way first, because it's the loopiest. In it, Kay (remember Ray had a different name) had pneumonia instead and because Mildred wasn't home, they took her over to Mrs. Biederhof's where a doctor and a nurse set things up. It also very unsubtly foreshadowed what was to come by having the little girl hacking for a few scenes prior much like Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge so that you'd know, "Ding dong! Consumption's on its way!" Why all these 1930s doctors were recommending these seriously ill children be treated at home before taking them to the hospital and the grandparents and father all were clueless about what to do because the birth mother wasn't home is beyond me. So in 1945, Kay dies at Mrs. Biederhof's. In the miniseries and the novel, the possible diagnosis is grippe, but the blister on her lip and her fever makes the doctor (Peter McRobbie in the miniseries) and though they are having the blister tested, he fears that results won't be back in time so he recommends, even though it will be more costly, a blood transfusion and we see a tattooed man giving blood to Ray. Apparently the doctor's strategy worked, even though they all beat up on Mildred as if only her home had the magic. She sends everyone home and stays. Then she sees nurses and doctors rushing in again. Ray's fever is suddenly rising again as is her pulse. Poor little Ray dies at the hospital with Mildred holding her hand. Now, the fascinating part of the Cain version is that the extra cost for the blood transfusion goes literally to professional donors, such as the tattooed man, who waits in the novel until he has his money before he lets them take his blood. Surely, there has to be some suspicion of getting blood from that source. Also, when they falsely tell them that Ray is out of the woods, everyone goes home, including Mildred, and it's not until she returns the next morning that Ray has a relapse.
As for the miniseries, after seeing her daughter die, Mildred calls Mrs. Biederhof looking for Bert and leaves a message about Ray. She then goes home, wakes Veda up and crawls in bed next to her and cries.