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SAG Award nominations feature 'Mildred Pierce'

December 14, 2011 |  8:00 am

Mildedpierce_pearcewinslett
The SAG Award nominations, announced Wednesday, feature the stars of the HBO miniseries "Mildred Pierce." Kate Winslet is up for female actor in a television movie or miniseries and Guy Pearce for male actor in a television movie or miniseries. Both have already received Emmy Awards for their performances as Mildred Pierce and Monty Beragon, respectively.

Although the film version starring Joan Crawford has become a classic, director Todd Haynes returned to the novel by James M. Cain as the source, saying, "I always took my cues from the book."

Times book critic David L. Ulin also revisited the book this year. Cain, he writes, "was not a great hard-boiled novelist but a great novelist period, whose vision of 1930s Southern California is as acute and resonant as anything ever written about that time and place." He continues:

To read “Mildred Pierce” now is to experience a double vision, in which we confront both how much and how little things have changed.

When Mildred and her husband Bert fight in the first scene of the novel, it is with an urgency that’s impossible not to recognize.

“They spoke quickly,” Cain writes, “as if they were saying things that scalded their mouths, and had to be cooled with spit. Indeed, the whole scene had an ancient, almost classical ugliness to it, for they uttered the same recriminations that have been uttered since the beginning of marriage, and added little of originality to them, and nothing of beauty.”

Later, after Mildred throws Bert out, her friend and neighbor Mrs. Gessler defines the terms of her new life. “Well,” she says, “you’ve joined the biggest army on earth. You’re the great American institution that never gets mentioned on the Fourth of July — a grass widow with two small children to support.”

With the length of a five-part miniseries, Haynes and co-adapter Jonathan Raymond were able to use much of the dialog that appeared in the book. But deliciously bitter descriptions like "nothing of beauty" can only be found in Cain's novel.

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To the end of the line with James M. Cain

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Guy Pearce (Monty Beragon) and Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce) in a scene from the HBO miniseries "Mildred Pierce." Credit: Andrew Schwartz / HBO

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