Mildred Pierce (1945)

mildred pierce poster 1945 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking, classic noir


Movie Info

Movie Name:  Mildred Pierce

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Drama

Release Date(s):  September 28, 1945 (Premiere)/October 20, 145 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

mildred pierce joan crawford academy award

What did you do, Mildred?

Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott) is dead.  With his wife Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford) being questioned by the police and her ex-husband Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett) in custody, Mildred begins to tell the story of how Monty came to be shot to death.  Mildred has always tried to be the best wife and mother to her children Kay (Jo Ann Marlowe) and Veda (Ann Blyth).  The truth about Mildred and her family will be revealed.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, Mildred Pierce is a noir thriller.  The film is an adaptation of the James M. Cain 1941 novel.  The film received Academy Award for Best Actress with nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Ann Blyth, Eve Arden), Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography—Black-and-White and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1996.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #860).

mildred pierce joan crawford daughter veda ann blyth


I read Mildred Pierce in a pack of James M. Cain novels, but I never saw the film adaptation.  With multiple adaptations (including a 2011 miniseries for HBO), Mildred Pierce is a classic noir film…but it takes a different path than the typical killer, detective, or femme fatale.  Due to aspects of the story, a *****spoiler alert***** exists for the rest of the review.

The story is pretty typical set-up for the style of film.  You have the crime being committed and a back-track to the reason for the murder and reveal of the criminal.  If you read or watch these style of films, the truth about the murder is pretty obvious and the reveal isn’t very surprising by today’s standard…but Mildred Pierce helped define the genre.

The cast is good.  Joan Crawford is able to play cool and collected to keep the story and mystery going.  She’s always had a coldness to her (probably due to stories of her real life like Mommie Dearest), but here she’s a “smother” trying to do the best for her children…resulting in the worst outcome.  There are a few decent people in the movie like Mildred’s partner Ida played by Eve Arden and her loyal maid Lottie played by Butterfly McQueen.  For the most part, she’s surrounded by people who are bad men like Bert (Bruce Bennett) who uses her, Monte (Zachary Scott) who leeches off of her, and the topper Ann Blyth as Veda who goes down as one of the most horrible people created for the cinema.

mildred pierce monte beragon veda affair ending zachary scott ann blyth

The truth will be revealed

The movie looks fantastic.  The rich black-and-white look of the movie fits a typical noir, but it isn’t necessarily a regular noir since it is more of a family based story than a traditional crime.  Many scenes really play with light and dark and the set-up for the ending sequence also is visually appealing.

Mildred Pierce is a great watch.  Like other similar films, it earns its place among great thrillers.  The movie is loaded with characters that are multifaceted and visuals that keep you engaged.  I should have seen Mildred Pierce long before I did…now I am happy that I have.  It will be revisited.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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