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Mildred Pierce was an important movie for Joan Crawford, so much so that she offered to test for the part when Director Michael Curtiz didn’t think she’d be the right fit. That was something stars simply didn’t do at the time.
But it didn’t stop there. Crawford also tested with others auditioning for roles, including Ann Blyth, who would play Mildred’s daughter, Veda.
“The Joan Crawford I knew was dedicated and kind. Nobody I ever worked with enjoyed being a movie star more,” Blyth said years later.
“It was a difficult role to cast,” Joan recalled. “The part called for a young girl who could act and sing. She had to age from fourteen to nineteen, to be credible as a child and as an adult.”
At the time, Blyth was sixteen years old, and one of over thirty young women auditioning for the part of Veda. Warner Brothers wasn’t sold on casting Blyth, however, because she was under contract to Universal. In their mind, casting her would only be helping another studio make a star.
Interestingly, Shirley Temple was in the running for the role.
Joan recalled, “The idea caused some laughter at first; but not from me. Shirley was fifteen or sixteen at the time, the right age. She had musical talent, and she certainly could act.”
But Curtiz shot down the idea, and Temple wasn’t even tested.
When Blyth was tested, Joan at first had hesitations that she could play the spoiled child. But after reading with her, she realized she had the talent. In fact, she even coached and ran lines with her in her dressing room.
Blyth said, “Joan and I hit it off right away. It was as if we’d always known each other, and in time, we became good friends.”
In fact, their relationship was such that Joan struggled with slapping Blyth during a scene. Originally, she was supposed to beat her, but the script was toned down to a double slap.
Joan said, “I kept looking at Anne’s sweet face, and I couldn’t bring myself to strike her, let alone give her a beating.”
It was hard for Blyth too, who didn’t like to be mean to her co-star.
For her performance as Veda, Blythe received her first and only Oscar nomination.