I’ve given it some thought and, frankly, I can’t figure out exactly why this movie is considered film noir. So, let’s review the situation. And I must warn you, this review is full of spoilers.
Joan Crawford (as the title character) is held by the cops, when her second husband is shot to death. She spends the whole night telling a detective the plot of the film.
See Mildred thought her (first) husband, Bert Pierce, was seeing a Mrs. Biederhof. So they split up and Mildred had to get a job. As a waitress.
And Mildred has two daughters in her care: one sweet-as-can-be tomboy and the other a spoiled, snot-nosed little brat. And Snot-Nose (named Veda, truly a bratty, snot-nosed name) looks down on her mother for working. Especially as a lowly waitress. Even though that pays for all the nice dresses and piano lessons and stuff that Mildred spoils her with.
So … is it noir because the cute little kid dies and Veda the Horrible keeps on living? Well … no …
In her endless attempts to win Veda’s love (for reasons that I can’t begin to imagine), Mildred builds her own chain of restaurants. In my opinion, regardless of why she’s doing this, Mildred is a strong, hardheaded businesswoman, at a time when film noir featured so many femme fatales.
Then she hooks up with Husband #2 – Monte Beragon. He is (not to put too fine a point on it) something of a bounder. An irresponsible rich boy. It’s Mildred, in short, who does all the work.
Eventually, they get married. Why? Not for love, that’s for sure. It’s a marriage of convenience. And, as always, Mildred’s incentive is winning Veda over.
So … is Mildred Pierce a film noir because it depicts a strong woman of common background taking on a man’s traditional role, thereby posing a threat to both husbands’ masculinity? Is it film noir because she simply can’t see that Veda’s a totally, irretrievably selfish bitch? I don’t know … maybe.
For what it’s worth, some of the best scenes in this movie take place between Eve Arden (as her friend/fellow restauranteur, Ida Corwin) and Joan Collins.
Arden gets some of the best lines:
Jealous? That doesn’t sound like Wally. No profit in it – and there’s a boy who loves a dollar.
[to leering customer Wally] Leave something on me – I might catch cold.
Personally, Veda’s convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young.
The story cleverly starts when Monte gets shot. His final word is “Mildred,” but, of course, that’s misleading.
So … is this movie a film noir because Mildred nearly takes the rap for the real killer? Is it a film noir because that killer is her own horrid daughter? (Yes, Veda!)
All I can say is, for a film noir, this movie has a kind of “happy ever after” ending. And here’s hoping that Veda ended up as someone else’s bitch.
For all the stuff that doesn’t quite make sense, and whether or not it’s a film noir, this is one great classic movie. So I award it two thumbs up!