Written by Ranald MacDougall and directed by Michael Curtiz. Mildred’s husband runs off to another woman’s arms leaving her to raise her two daughters and make money on her own. Things get sticky as Mildred’s restaurant business takes off, her oldest daughter gets brattier, and her new husband turns up dead. Running time 1 hour 51 minutes.
Told in flashback form, Mildred is at the police station as a person of interest as her husband Monte Beragon has been killed and her ex-husband Bert is being charged with the murder. This is the story in continuity form…
Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett) is an out of work business man who finds comfort in another woman instead of finding a job to support his family. His wife Mildred (Joan Crawford) earns money baking pies to buy clothes for their daughters which makes Bert angry. He leaves Mildred and the girls forcing Mildred to look for a job to pay the bills. Mildred meets restaurant manager Ida Corwin (Eve Arden) who gives Mildred a job waiting tables.
With the help of Bert’s old business partner Wally Fay (Jack Carson), Mildred meets wealthy Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott) who agrees to a business deal allowing Mildred to use the money she’s saved from working at the restaurant and baking pies to open a restaurant of her own. Just before opening the restaurant, the girls are on a weekend trip with their dad Bert when youngest daughter, Kay (Jo Ann Marlowe) gets pneumonia and dies. That same weekend, Mildred’s business relationship with Monte turns personal.
Mildred’s restaurant opens to great acclaim and oldest daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) becomes more and more snobby, spoiled, and rotten and closer friends with Monte…Mildred’s restaurant becomes a chain making Mildred very successful but nothing she does impresses her daughter who is embarrassed by her mother’s business. Mildred marries Monte for the status her daughter wants so badly as well as Monte’s family mansion. Since Monte’s wealth comes from family money which is tied up in real estate and Mildred is doing so well, Mildred gives him an allowance to live the lifestyle he’s accustomed to while she works the restaurant business.
After a big party at the mansion, Mildred learns Monte and Veda have left together. She drives to Monte’s beach house and catches Monte and Veda in an embrace. Veda takes this opportunity to rub it in Mildred’s face that Monte loves her and hates being married to Mildred. Veda claims Monte wants to divorce Mildred and marry her. This hurts Mildred causing her to leave. Monte turns on Veda telling her he has no intention of leaving Mildred for her. Veda goes crazy with jealousy and makes a decision changing her and Monte’s lives forever by shooting him.
Mildred tries to cover for Veda but the police see right through it and Veda is held responsible. Bert is cleared of the charges and Mildred is alone.
What I Liked
This was a come-back, Oscar-winning role for Joan Crawford. She is fierce. She plays well as the devoted yet disappointed wife to Bert and then finds her own as the restaurateur. Mildred wants that bratty daughter of hers to love her so much, she goes above and beyond to make her happy. Speaking of bratty daughters, Ann Blyth received an Oscar nomination for her bratty role as Veda and she deserved it!
I liked how the story unfolded in a flash back kind of way because it kept me in the dark about who was really responsible for Monte’s murder. The reveal was powerful and sad on so many levels. The screenplay received an Oscar nomination for its incredible dialogue, story structure, and juicy roles for Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, and Eve Arden.
The scene on the stairs when Veda slaps Mildred and Mildred unloads on her was a long time coming and worth every moment.
What I Wished Was Better
My only issue was how weak the male characters are; however, they have to be in order for the female characters to shine. I also was a bit annoyed by Mildred’s devotion to Veda which eventually gets resolved at the end. So I guess that means…nothing I want to change!
Mildred Pierce should be renamed Mildred Fierce! A classic tour de force by some amazing actresses. Available on Amazon and Hulu. Watch the trailer below:
Fun Facts: Director Michael Curtiz didn’t want to work with Joan Crawford. She was labeled difficult; however, he changed his mind once he saw how hard she worked on the film. The slap on the stair case was real and Joan Crawford’s idea.