'Mildred Pierce': 3 ways (other than nudity) HBO's miniseries differs from the 1945 movie

mildred-pierce-differences.jpgHBO's miniseries "Mildred Pierce" debuts on Sunday (March 27), and it's already generated considerable buzz over Evan Rachel Wood's nude scene.

While that's one rather significant difference from the 1945 version of "Mildred Pierce" that starred Joan Crawford -- which, by the way, is airing on TCM at 8 p.m. ET Saturday -- it's far from the only one. If you're doing a compare-and-contrast viewing of the two works, here are a few things to look out for in the miniseries.

It's not a murder mystery. Author James M. Cain had a reputation as a hard-boiled writer thanks to his crime tales "Double Indemnity" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (which were also made into great films in the mid-'40s), and the screenplay for "Mildred Pierce" was in the same vein. Cain's novel, however, isn't structured that way, and HBO's take is much more faithful to the source material in telling Mildred's ( Kate Winslet) story of how she managed to build a life for herself during the Depression. So if you're waiting for someone to get whacked in the miniseries, you'll be disappointed.

The scope is bigger. Because of the way it was structured, the 1945 movie kept things pretty tight. Several characters from the book were dropped, and the flashback that leads up to the murder covers only a couple years. The miniseries (again, taking its cues from Cain's novel) spans close to a decade in the life of Mildred and her ungrateful daughter Veda (played by Morgan Turner as a young girl and later by Wood), and you'll see a lot of Mildred's friend and neighbor Lucy Gessler ( Melissa Leo), who was absent from the movie.

Veda: Still awful, but better explained. In novel, film and miniseries, there's no two ways about it: Veda is a pretty terrible person -- snobby, petulant and psychologically cruel. The movie doesn't make much of an attempt to explain her behavior -- she's just bad -- but the miniseries at least goes to some lengths to explore the character. It's not overt, and in some ways "she's just bad" kind of covers it, but you'll get a better sense of why she is the way she is over the course of the miniseries.

Parts 1 and 2 "Mildred Pierce" premieres at 9 p.m. ET Sunday on HBO. Part 3 is set for April 3, and the final two installments air April 10.
Photo/Video credit: Warner Bros., HBO
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