The Beach House from Joan Crawford’s “Mildred Pierce”

The Beach House from the Classic Movie "Mildred Pierce" |

With all the attention that the new HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce” has been getting, I thought it would be fun to revisit the original classic from 1945. I hadn’t seen it since I was a teenager and all I really remembered about it was Joan Crawford, her fur coat, and the murder in the beach house.

Watching it again, I was struck by how amazing all the sets and costumes were.  But before we get to the famous beach house, let’s take a look at the Spanish bungalow the Pierce family lived in. (Warning for those of you who haven’t seen this whodunit–spoilers ahead!)

The Pierce Family Home in Glendale:

Mildred Pierce is a classic example of 1940s film noir. It opens with a murder and then we see what happened in a series of flashbacks until the mystery of who fired the gun is revealed at the end. The famous tagline for the movie was “Please Don’t Tell Anyone What Mildred Pierce Did!”

Mildred’s house on Corvallis Street in Glendale is shown as a one-story Spanish-style bungalow, but the interior set has a staircase leading to a second story with the bedrooms.

Here’s a publicity shot from the movie of Pierce family–Bert, Mildred, and their daughters Veda and Kay. (In the remake, the youngest daughter is named Ray. Since the remake is based more closely on the novel by James M. Cain, I assume she was Ray in the book and it was changed for the first movie. Does anyone know for sure?)

Joan Crawford was 40 and considered a “has-been” after a string of flops at MGM. Michael Curtiz had to be convinced to cast her. He originally wanted Bette Davis, but she turned it down.

Shirley Temple was originally considered for the part of Mildred’s older daughter Veda, but it went to Ann Blyth instead. She was 17 at the time and was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

Mildred says she feels like she was born in the kitchen. When times get tough, she gets cookin’! After husband Bert loses his job as a real estate agent (“Suddenly no one was buying any more”), she makes ends meet by baking cakes.

As it says in the trailer for the miniseries, “She gave her daughter everything.But everything wasn’t enough.” Boy, that’s an understatement. The only time we see a truly good side of Veda is in her interactions with her little sister Kay, who she actually seems to care for. When Kay dies of pneumonia, Veda is heartbroken.

The sisters share a bedroom at the top of the stairs. In this scene, Mildred is peering through the open door and overhears Veda complaining about how cheap and ugly the dress is that her mother worked so hard to buy for her.

Tragically, Mildred refuses to listen to everyone who warns her about Veda and continues to spoil her rotten. When Kay dies, Mildred clutches Veda and says, “Please, God, don’t let anything ever happen to Veda!”

Evan Rachel Wood was cast as Veda for the new miniseries and definitely has the right look for the part. Even when she smiles, she looks like she’s up to no good:

While we’re on the topic of the remake, here’s a shot taken as they filmed in the Gables area of Merrick, New York, which passes for Glendale in 1935 (more info and photos at Awards Daily):

I’ve only seen the first two parts of the miniseries so far, so maybe things will pick up. But when I was watching it last week with my husband, his comment was, “Apparently time moved a lot more slowly back then.”

They went for a more realistic Depression-era look with the sets than the original movie did (photos via HBO).

There was no murder in the novel, by the way. In fact, a lot of things were changed for the original movie to make it more palatable for 1940s audiences. Downplaying Mildred’s affairs, for instance. The new miniseries is sticking much more closely to the book than the movie did.

Here’s Kate Winslet as Mildred in her kitchen, baking one of her popular cakes to sell:

Mildred’s Restaurant:

One of the most memorable images from the original movie was the stylish restaurant that Mildred opened, with her name scrolled across the top in lights:

A test shot taken of the interior of Mildred’s restaurant:

Mildred’s office at the restaurant is so big that you know she’s hit the big-time!

The Beragon Beach House (aka “Scene of the Crime”):

Monte Beragon’s Beach House was actually owned by the film’s director, Michael Curtiz. It was built in 1929 and stood on Latigo Shore Drive in Malibu. Sadly, it collapsed into the ocean after a week of heavy storms in January 1983.

After Wally Fay (played by Jack Carson) finds the corpse in the beach house and runs outside, the cops yell, “Hey, you, stop right there!” and then shoot at him. They don’t know who he is or even that there’s a body inside the house, so it always makes me laugh that they immediately draw their guns.

Monte keeps a closet full of bathing suits for unexpected lady visitors. He explains, “They belong to my sisters.”

Mildred: “There’s nothing like having a large family! All of your sisters seem to be my size.”

Monte: “I like them your size. Here’s to brotherly love.”

If you’re watching the remake on HBO, you probably noticed the beach house isn’t nearly as glam in it as it was in the original. It’s more like a beach shack, which I found kind of disappointing.

The front entry has a big, gorgeous window overlooking the water:

A test shot of the beach house set taken before filming began (via the Joan Crawford Encyclopedia, where you can see more):

Zachary Scott played wealthy playboy Monte Beragon when he was 31. He never really topped the success of “Mildred Pierce” in his career and died of a brain tumor 20 years later.

Mildred’s first “date” with the suave Monte doesn’t end with the swim…

Filming that scene:

The house has its own bar in the lower level. Here Wally makes Mildred a drink, not knowing the real reason why she brought him there:

Jack Carson, who played Fay, would disappear from Hollywood for weeks at a time to secretly perform as a clown in the circus. Audiences never knew it was him, and he enjoyed the anonymity. “They loved me and my routines,” he said.

Here’s a shot of the bar from the other side of the room, the night Mildred walks in and catches her daughter in her husband Monte’s arms:

Veda confronts Monte after he tells her he has no intentions of marrying “a spoiled little brat like you.”

Veda responds by shooting him, repeatedly. With his dying breath, he gasps, “Mildred!”

Are you watching the remake? How do you think it compares to the original?

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  1. says

    I must say I have not seen the original, I will have to watch it though. Seems to be quite the soap opera!!

    The updated version looks quite interesting, with Kate Winslet starring, I will have to make a date with that one for sure.

  2. Nita says

    If Mildred Pierce is on, in this house, it’s watched! So, we are into the new HBO version, which doesn’t include a murder. I have also ordered the book and am anxious to read it. I don’t like all the sex scenes in the TV version. They have made Mildred a slut, to be honest. She sleeps with Beragon the first day she meets him, and in the movie, it’s not the first day.

    I do like the TV version because I love stories that completely play out the character, something a 2-hour movie cannot do. I love the houses in it, particularly Mildred’s. The restaurant is so different, originally a real estate office, but actually a house on a street. The dining room is the living room. It was fun watching her first night opening tonight. Here she is making fried chicken and waffles, and she doesn’t even put the chicken on to fry until the order is made. Lots of mistakes the first night, but her friend, played by Eve Arden in the movie, steps in and makes it all work.

    Another thing about the TV version I don’t like at all is the girl they chose to play the younger Veda. She looks 13 years old the whole time, yet is acting like an 18 year-old. Ann Blyth looked much more like Veda should have. Otherwise, it looks like Monte is a child molester. Maybe HBO wanted us to think that.

    • hookedonhouses says

      Apparently Mildred was a little “loose” in the original novel and they downplayed it for the 1940s audiences when they made the movie. -Julia

    • kim harris says

      I agree. I like how classy the movie is. Mildred is respectable. I was dissapointed when I read the book. I guess I won’t like th minisiries for that reason too. I thought Jack Carson as Wally Fay was sexy

  3. Billy says

    You’ve never been to Latigo Beach have you ? The sun room is meant to let the sun in and some nasty winds, along with the blown sand, out.

    The best part of the film is Eve Arden; she was nominated in Best Supporting Actress for the part of Ida. The Oscar went to Anne Revere in National Velvet.

    Joan did a movie in the 47 called “Female on the Beach” that has a few interesting SoCa beach houses in it. Also a dead body.

    • hookedonhouses says

      Nope, I haven’t been to that beach. So that’s a common thing out there? It looked strange to my Midwestern eyes. :)

      • Jean Crawford says

        Hello Hookendonhouses – –

        I am very much “Hooked On Houses” as well. A real architecture nut. And it is a funny coincidence that my name is VERY close to Joan Crawford. My husband’s dad (Broderick Crawford) and his mother bought a house just a couple of doors down from Joan Crawford on North Tigerail Road, Los Angeles. My husband spent his first few years there. The mail man used to mix up thier mail from time to time.

        Instead of a “Sun Room” this is probably a protected patio. You see them a lot here in California. The patio is of course is open as you would imagine. The windows are just to protect you from the wind and sand. The newer structures now have more “picture window” style panes of glass for a more un-obscured view.

        • says

          Wow, Broderick Crawford was your father-in-law?! That is so cool. You must have some good stories, or at least your husband must. :)

          Hooked on Houses, you are the best! I love your blog and I am so grateful for all the time you invest in it just for our entertainment!

  4. Maria says

    I just this moment finished watching the 2nd HBO episode and then saw this post – couldn’t be more timely! Great post – really enjoyed revisiting the Crawford version!

    Interesting they were shooting in NY with so many period houses in LA. Loving how well they are keeping to the period styling though. I wonder if the stretch of road between “LA and Santa Barbara” was shot in NY as well. Certainly didn’t look like the real coastline.

  5. JRyan says

    Oh, how timely! I also just rewatched the 1940s movie after seeing parts of the HBO version. I hear that HBO’s Mildred Pierce follows the original James M. Cain book much more closely than the old Hollywood movie did. Apparently the whole murder mystery angle wasn’t even in the book…it was supposedly made up so that the movie would still be dramatic after all the sexy parts of the book had been edited/censored out for a 1940s audience. Or so I’ve read anyway. Frankly I’m not enjoying the HBO version much at all. I usually love Kate Winslett and she’s clearly a great actress, but as Mildred Pierce, she just doesn’t work for me somehow. Joan Crawford was just such a compelling presence on the screen and she and evil Ann Blythe were a perfect match IMO. Also, I recently saw a little film on TCM where Ann Blythe talked about how wonderful Joan was to work with and what a kind and generous person she was off screen. In fact I’ve been hearing more and more stories like that lately from peple who actually knew Joan Crawford, so I’m starting to think that maybe the stuff written about her in “Mommie Dearest” wasn’t quite gospel truth.

    It’s sad to hear about the demise of that cool old Malibu beach house, but I bet it wasn’t nearly as isolated when it slid into the ocean as it had been when they filmed Mildred Pierce there. And even if it wasn’t good enough for Veda, I’d absolutely love to live in that Spanish Bungalow myself!

  6. says


    What a FANTASTIC post! Wow, I’m truly inspired and impressed by this post.

    You’ve done an excellent job. Everything is so beautiful, so charming…

    Have a Blessed week!


    Luciane at

  7. says

    I have not seen the miniseries yet. Thanks for posting about it and reminding us because I was unaware it had even started! I can get caught-up on Charter on Demand.

    I am interested in seeing the differences in the two productions. Joan Crawford is amazing in Mildred Pierce.

    Ricki Jill

  8. js says

    Oddly, I just saw the original on tv a few months ago. I couldn’t watch it all the way through because I hated the daughter and was so irritated at Mildred for coddling her.

  9. Nancy D. says

    I read the book last summer and I do remember that Mildred was a slut sleeping around, the daughter Veda was in bed with Monty when Mildred finds them, and the youngest daughter’s name was Ray not Kay.

    It doesn’t start out with a murder either. The orginial movie is vastly different from the book. Glad to see they are staying true to the book in the HBO version.

  10. says

    Nothing beats the original with Joan Crawford, but Carol Burnett’s Mildred Fierce was a good parody. The HBO version is slow, but gives you time to check out the interiors. I liked the green tile and red tub and toilet in the bungalow. What a shame that original beach house is gone.

  11. says

    I love that original movie with Joan Crawford. It is one of her better films in my opinion. I can’t watch the original without craving fried chicken.

    Meanwhile Happy Birthday to Doris Day today. Made me think of you b/c I know you and I are probably the only two people left in the free world that have “please don’t eat the daisies” on our bookshelves. HA!

  12. says

    Great post, Julia! Mildred Pierce is one of my all-time favorite classic movies. This was too fun to read. I haven’t watched the new mini-series at all (don’t have HBO), but have been hearing the same thing – S L O W. Love your husband’s quote. Too funny.
    Happy Monday!

  13. says

    I didn’t even know that the series was a remake. No, haven’t seen it yet…., am not sure if I will. After reading your great article…, I’m more interested in seeing the original classic, haha!!

  14. says

    Oh, don’t you just love old movies? Joan Crawford was a formidable actress (both on and off the screen…yikes!). And I wanted to strangle Veda! Oh, and the house was nice, too 😉

  15. says

    I like the cute little kitchen in the original movie, but I think the new TV version looks more like the Depression era. I adore Kate Winslet…I’m sure she’s brilliant. I haven’t seen many Joan Crawford movies…my only real impression of her is how she was portrayed in “Mommie Dearest.” Not exactly flattering. 😉

  16. Nancy D. says

    The time takes places during the depression. It shows just how fortunate she was to even get a job, even if it was as a waitress. I don’t find the HBO series slow at all and I’m pleased that they are staying true to the book. The beach house was suppose to be a shack not the glamore place Joan Crawford’s movie showed.

  17. says

    Wow! I’ve never seen this old movie but ever since “Mommy Dearest” I’m fascinated by Joan Crawford. I watched the trailer, I love how grandiose and dramatic they were back then “the best movie ever” haha movies don’t proclaim to be anything like that these days! I adore Kate Winslet, so I definitely watch to check out this miniseries. I’m a sucker for a good period piece as well. You’ve given me a lot to Netflix Julia! :)

  18. Nita says

    One thing I noticed is the original movie was supposed to be the 1940s according to the dress styles and furniture and hair.

    The coastline of California would have looked like that back then, Highway 1, not yet developed. Now, the entire Laguna Beach area is house after house and business all the way up to Ventura County.

  19. Nita says

    Oh, and I am SURE it was made in NY instead of California because everyone is making movies outside of California to avoid the very poor business atmosphere. Some group in Hollywood is trying to bring jobs back to California, but with Jerry Brown as governor and a legislature that STILL doesn’t get that thousands upon thousands of businesses are leaving California because they have had it with regulation and taxes.

  20. Nita says

    Oh, Julia, did you find a layout for the Movie house? I would love to know the layout so one day if I ever get to build a house, it would be that one.

    Anyone else just love that beautiful date palm in the first photo?

  21. Kim says

    I haven’t seen the original or remake, but they both sound pretty interesting. I love the house in the original. It’s charming, nice, and I could see myself living there.

    Thankyou for the post!

  22. says

    Great research on your part. I’m watching. The details are great, did you notice the money? and the stop sign? the clothes? Love the houses, very period. And the cars! To die for.

  23. handbright says

    I just love films from the early 40’s, there is something about those homey interiors that just makes me feel good!
    There was a special on HBO not long ago that was one of their “the making of” features. It was interesting to watch and helped me to be more informed in terms of the costumes and sets- its on you tube now for anyone interested!

    • hookedonhouses says

      I really enjoyed watching that video–thanks! :-)

  24. says

    Excelent post..I love to dig into a movie like this as you did..Thank you.
    Lieve groeten
    Godeliva van Ariadone

  25. Laurie says

    Mildred’s mink coat and little hat ring-thing is pretty sweet, too.

  26. says

    I’m going to have to read this book AND watch the original movie now. (Sadly, I don’t have HBO :-( ) I live around the corner from a house that James M. Cain lived in for many years (in Maryland). Although apparently he had a more famous house near the Hollywood sign because that’s what comes up when you google it.

    I love how much time and research you put into your posts!

  27. says

    We have seen parts 1, 2 and 3 and looking forward to the next segment hopefully this Sunday. I did not realize that this miniseries was a remake either. As soon as it is completed, I will be renting Joan Crawford’s Mildred Pierce. I love the series!!!

  28. belledame says

    the director said in the nyt that he was trying to teach the audience “observational patience” with the pacing. i find that funny. hbo’s old series “carnivale,” set in the depression, also moved langorously at times. i suppose he’s trying to convey how much time went into the struggle to live and how little convenience there was compared to nowadays. mildred buys groceries and everything is raw: carrots with long stems on, chickens still live. she cooks to order and that requires frying and baking, and the customers are out front waiting without complaint. there was so much less time for recreation, so much less entertainment. imagine what speed those cars are going. how frequently those buses come. these people finish chores and stare out the window… i think if any one of us was thrust into that time, we’d keel over from either boredom or hardship.

    i started pulling screencaps from the miniseries (you know where, julia). i was very impressed with the costumes, sets and lighting. they’re guaranteed to get better as mildred’s fortunes improve.

  29. Edythe Van Hopper says

    The beach house may be gone, the original Pierce bungalow in Glendale lives on. The address is 1143 N. Jackson St., Glendale, CA 91207 and can be seen on Google Maps:

    Notice how much the palm tree has grown since 1945.

  30. Shannon says

    Love your posts, but please let your readers know if there is a SPOILER. I haven’t seen either adaption and now know the little girl dies!

    • hookedonhouses says

      Sorry, Shannon. I just moved the “spoiler alert” to the top of the page so hopefully no one will miss it! -Julia

  31. Edyn says

    I just watched both the mini series and the Joan Crawford version. Both were amazing. I have to note that if I had just watched the one with Joan Crawford, I would be totally lost and wouldn’t have thought much of it.

    Kate Winslet was amazing as this woman in the HBO series. As far as Mildred being “loose,” hey, a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do…especially during the depression. Her husband left her for another woman. She was playing the cards she was dealt. Not that I condone it mind you.

    I liked the 1945 version after watching the series, because I wanted to know what happened with Monty and Veda being that they were such awful people. It looks like Karma was just. Now I want to read the book ;->

    I enjoyed your post. Thank you.

  32. says

    I’ve heard good things about the remake, I need to see the old one first though or my mother will kill me. Haha.

  33. kathie says

    I saw the original the other night and I loved it…how classy the old movies where. What a different role for Joan Crawford not being ‘in control’ where her daughter is concerned..I hadn’t seen any movie of hers where she wasn’t the master of the situation! We know in the movie she slept her way to where she wanted to go but I love that old Hollywood left it to your imagination.

  34. Summer says

    Why on earth would anyone want to fiddle about trying to remake a classic that was done to perfection, and continues to live and breath in a timeless bubble of yesteryear??? Are we completely devoid of creative writers that we’re forced to attempt to suck the blood out of the work of others??? Jiminy Crickets, already…. This catastrophe was ill-advised and ill-conceived, to say the very least.

  35. Gary says

    Any pics or info on the Pasadena mansion in the HBO special Mildred Pierce? It looks like a Vanderbilt (smaller version) Newport Rhode Island Marble House type of design. Just beautiful turn of the century limestone mansion.

  36. Marc M says

    I heard somewhere that the beachhouse from Mildred Pierce was washed away during a storm. Not sure how long ago that was…too bad if its true.

  37. says

    Re: Mildred Pierce I have to say I liked the original best You just can’t beat the cast in it Although I know the book was set in the thirties I keep wondering where people got the money to go out to eat? I can see it taking place in the forties as it did in the Joan Crawford version as people began to prosper more after the war years maybe somebody can expand on that
    Certainly agree on the Veda[ HBO ] character not my cup of tea
    Kate Winslet is tops in anything she does but every time TCM plays “Mildred
    Pierce” it draws me in and I end up watching it again Love it

  38. Brenda says

    I finished watching the movie that I found to download! Wonderful wonderful movie. Funny cause I didn’t find it slow at all. Took me about 3 nights to watch it as it was my night-time movie in bed on the iPad. I had NO idea that it was a remake and could not wait to come online and research Joan Crawford which is how I found this site. Now I gotta go and find the original to download. I was kind of hoping the story was “true” because I’d like to find out about “Veda”. Wow what a nasty person she was and it makes me wonder-“are there truly people out there like her”? Surely not!! The Acting in my opinion by Veda and Kate Winslet was terrific. Even the supporting roles by her friends who worked in the kitchens were fantastic. I cannot remember one of the names but everyone should recognize her…another fine actress. Thanks for this site!

  39. jeffrey manmiller says

    Mini series dies not compare to the movie. It’s a classic. You could never come close to Joan Crawford. Kate is an excellent actress. But no one compares to joan. At the golden globes Kate could have mentioned miss Crawford in her acceptance speech. After all Crawford won an Oscar for this performance.

  40. says

    To the people loving the “original” classic film. Yes, it was first, but it was not the original story. I know people have said this, but no one seems to pay attention. The miniseries is almost word for word from the novel, so if you want the original story that is what you watch, not the original film. I say this and I love classic film.

  41. Gryphonisle says

    I forgot all about the HBO version until I saw it on the shelf at the store. I rented it and realized I’d been silly, with HBOs track record, taking on an iconic Crawford classic isn’t at all unimaginable (but I have no enthusiasm for a remake of “Casablanca”). I’ve seen both now and I like both. One is a classic Old Hollywood effort, chopped, sanitized, only somewhat based on the book, the other is a more literal, scene by scene adaptation of the book. You see more of what the book has in the HBO version, but the Crawford movie is good for what it is. As I recall, “Dangerous Liasons” came out with another film telling the same story, and “The Artist” is essentially a modern, silent version of “A Star Is Born”, set in Old Hollywood, which is something like Hollywood turning on Hollywood, Turning on Hollywood.

    People who travel the states of course regret how “Californicated” even New England has become, so it’ was rather hilarious (once I got over my disappointment) to find that the HBO Pierce is filmed in New York state, and even then there were places in New York that looked lock stock and barrel like Ca. And most movies took place in NY in those days (a lot like today).

  42. Sherrie says

    Mildred Pierce! the original to me is best…even though it did not follow book as much as HBO. I purchased both, and love Joan Crawford and Kate Winslet. But…I must say…the 1945 version is the one I stick in my DVD player time after time. I love older movies, there is something about them that brings me back into time, even though I was not even born yet! Love Joan Crawford!

  43. Dennis May says

    The beach house in Mildred Pirece was not owned by Michael Curtiz, it a
    was owned by director Anatole Litvak. How did this misinformation get started? I keep seeing it repeated on countless blogs and it is not true.

    • Bill says

      The confusion seems to be from probably the use of both houses. The one that fell into the Pacific was only an exterior in the film given that the interiors don’t at all match the exterior – as they often don’t in movies.

      Litvak’s beach house was in an Architectural Digest “Academy Awards” edition, probably April 1990 (?). The interiors are so close to the interiors of the film that they most likely were filmed in the Litvak house – but there are subtle differences which may be due to changes made to the house between when the shots were taken for AD and the making of Mildred Pierce. There is enough difference with the photos in AD, however, to think it may have been a recreation of Litvak’s interior but it is a toss up. The exterior shots of Litvak’s house are not the same exterior as in the film. Litvak’s house was stucco with a mansard roof on Pacific Coast Highway the around Topanga Beach area. So likely more than one place was used as is often the case. Litvak’s house was designed by Douglas Honnold and decorated by George Grieve according to AD. This is all from memory so if I got anything wrong I apologize.

  44. Barb says

    There is also a movie with Jack Lemon and Judy Holiday. I can’t remember the name. They are a couple divorcing but are they really? Cute, and the house is adorable.

  45. Julie says

    Yes, in the movie the youngest daughter’s name was Kay, but in the book it was -Ray. Her name was Moire (pronounced Moy-ra), but Mildred and Burt mistakenly thought it was pronounced Mwa-Ray and called her Ray for short. In the HBO series this is explained briefly at the cemetary when Ray is burried. Anyway… thank you for this great pictorial of a classic movie and story.

  46. Aaron says

    I happen to like both versions. The 1945 version happens to be one of my top 20 favourites movies. The mini series while slow, I actually enjoyed and I ended up buying it I liked it so much. I find the mini series version of Veda much more evil than the 1945 version. I also love Kate Winslet’s performance! Joan Crawford performance was also fantastic!

    It is hard for me to choose which one. If you want a more classic type film to watch or enjoy than go with the 1945 version. The miniseries is great if you want to great a true picture of the book but also what the 1930s were like.