9 August 2014

You made me very happy with your performance

Michael Curtiz's film noir "Mildred Pierce" (1945) is based on the novel by crime writer James M. Cain and stars Joan Crawford in the title role. For her portrayal of the overbearing Mildred, Joan won the Oscar for Best Actress (the only Oscar of her career). On 7 March 1946, the day of the Oscar ceremony, James Cain wrote Joan Crawford a letter accompanying a gift he had meant to give her for Christmas. In the letter (sent to Grauman's Chinese Theater where the ceremony took place), Cain told Joan how happy he was with her performance and that he would be rooting for her that night. Cain didn't know then that Joan wasn't going to attend the Oscar ceremony. Convinced that the Oscar would go to Ingrid Bergman for her role in "The Bells of St. Mary's", Joan stayed in bed that night claiming she had pneumonia.

Left photo: James M. Cain; right: Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth in "Mildred Pierce".

Transcript:

7 March 1946

Miss Joan Crawford
c/o Grauman's Chinese Theater
6925 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, California

Dear Miss Crawford:

By one of those idiotic mischances I was driving West during the run of Mildred Pierce, and didn't see it until mid-November. I was so stirred I decided on this little memento for you and expected to send it for Christmas. What with the book seller's delay, though, in finding a first edition and the book binder's in doing his part, that wasn't possible. Here it is, however, and I can only say you made me very happy with your performance.

Naturally I shall be tuned in tonight pulling for you, and I wish you all the luck in the world. Nobody could deserve this award more than you do. 

Sincerely yours,

(signed Jim)

James M. Cain

Joan with her Oscar and director Michael Curtiz at her home. Earlier that night at the Oscar ceremony, Curtiz had accepted the Oscar on Joan's behalf. When Joan heard she'd won, she invited the press to her home to photograph her accepting the award from Curtiz.  

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