Mildred Pierce is an unusual film noir. It’s a woman’s story, entirely, in an era when women didn’t get to have their stories told. Made in 1945 and set in the early 30s, Mildred Pierce is about Mildred Pierce and nothing else. I can’t think of another film noir like it. Perhaps Gaslight?
The filmmaking styles are squarely noir, with the lighting and the shadows and the amazing camera work. Many of the tropes are present as well, most interesting of all the femme fatale in the form of her daughter, Veda. In most noir stories the femme fatale is met over the course of the story and turns everything upside down, so in that sense I suppose Beragon also fills the role. But Veda is the reason for everything and he is merely the catalyst. Ann Blythe is just wonderful as the least likeable character in a movie full of hateful jerks. (Shout out to Eve Arden, who plays the only likeable character, Ida. She is likeable enough for literally the entire rest of the cast.)
The director, Michael Curtiz, is also responsible for Casablanca, the Errol Flynn Robin Hood, and White Christmas, among many others. He’s practically Robert Wise.
I am rather desperate to watch the HBO version from 2011, which I believe follows the book more closely–this one is an amazing adaptation to film, and I have no objections to the way the story is told, but… Kate Winslet as Mildred? YES PLEASE. Joan Crawford is AMAZING but let’s be real; it’s hard to buy her as working class.