Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Mildred Pierce (1945)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Mildred Pierce (1945)

In director Michael Cortiz' classic melodramatic post-war film-noir:

  • in the opening beach house murder scene - two-timing playboy Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott), Mildred's second husband, was shot to death - by an unidentified and unseen assailant, as he uttered the film's first word: "Mildred!"
  • in the following scene, Mildred Pierce (Oscar-winning Joan Crawford) walked on the Santa Monica pier where she was saved from suicide by a patrolling cop: ("You take a swim, I'd have to take a swim. Is that fair? Just because you feel like bumpin' yourself off, I gotta get pneumonia? Never thought about that, did ya? OK. Think about it. Go on, beat it now. Go on home before we both take a swim")
  • there were many flashback scenes from the local police station where Mildred was brought for questioning, and where she took the blame for Monte's murder
  • housewife Mildred was divorced from her decent first husband Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett); the hardworking, dowdy divorced mother obsessively doted on her two daughters, especially spoiled-rotten and selfish elder 16 year-old daughter Veda (Ann Blyth)
  • Veda delivered harsh words to her mother after Mildred admitted she was waiting tables in a downtown restaurant, in addition to baking pies: "My mother, a waitress!"; Mildred defended herself: ("I took the only job I could get so you and your sister could eat and have a place to sleep and some clothes on your backs") although Veda was ungrateful: ("Aren't the pies bad enough? Did you have to degrade us?...l'm really not surprised. You've never spoken of your people, where you came from, so perhaps it's natural. Maybe that's why Father...") - Mildred slapped her daughter, but then apologized: ("l'd never have taken the job if l hadn't wanted to keep us all together. Besides, l wanted to learn the business the best way possible...the restaurant business")
  • Mildred's determination, after baking pies, was to open her own restaurant: ("I didn't know what to do next. Suddenly, it hit me. Why not open a restaurant?....I've found the location I want. It's an old house that hasn't been lived in for years from the look of it. It's right on a busy intersection, which means it's good for drive-in trade. I clocked an average of five hundred cars an hour...And there isn't another restaurant within five miles")
  • Mildred's romance with scuzzy lounge lizard Monte began with a swim at his beach house, who at first admitted he was lazy and overindulgent: ("I do too much of everything. Too spoiled...I'm such a self-controlled and dignified young fellow...I loaf, in a decorative and highly charming manner...With me, loafing is a science") - and then spoke of their love in front of the fireplace before a kiss: (Monte: "You take my breath away." Mildred: "Do I? l like you, Monte. You make me feel, oh, l don't know, warm." Monte: "Wanted? Beautiful?" Mildred: "Yes." Monte: "When I'm close to you like this, there's a sound in the air like the beating of wings. Do you know what it is?...My heart beating like a schoolboy's" Mildred: "ls it? l thought it was mine")
  • but then later, Mildred gave Monte an ultimatum warning to stay away from her pretentious daughter Veda for good: ("Stay away from Veda...And it isn't funny. She's only seventeen years old and spoiled rotten"); Mildred's concern was that she would lose her self-indulgent daughter to him: "Look, Monte, I've worked long and hard trying to give Veda the things I never had. I've done without a lot of things, including happiness sometimes, because I wanted her to have everything. And now I'm losing her. She's drifting away from me. She hardly speaks to me anymore except to ask for money, or poke fun at me in French because I work for a living...I blame it on the way she's been living. I blame it on you...You look down on me because I work for a living, don't you? You always have. All right, I work. I cook food and sell it and make a profit on it - which I might point out you're not too proud to share with me"
  • then, the profligate Monte insulted Mildred for the 'smell of grease' surrounding her: "Yes, I take money from you, Mildred. But not enough to make me like kitchens or cooks. They smell of grease"; she decided to personally dump him - and fire him with an added rebuttal: "I don't notice you shrinking away from a $50 dollar bill because it happens to smell of grease....There's no point in going on like this. You're interfering with my life and my business. And worst of all, you're interfering with my plans for Veda and I won't stand for it" - after Monte summarized their breakup ("l always knew that someday we'd come to this particular moment in the scheme of things. You want Veda and your business and a nice, quiet life. And the price of all that is me. You can go back to making your pies now, Mildred. We're through"), to clear the books, Mildred wrote a substantial check to cover Monte's expenses (marked 'paid in full')
  • the scheming and money-hungry Veda admitted to a fraudulent marriage (she faked having a baby) with a pay-off check of $10,000 after divorcing a young, innocent boy that she didn't love - Ted Forrester (John Compton), the son of a wealthy family in Southern California; with the check in her possession, Veda revealed her true motivation, as expressed by Mildred: "Money - that's what you live for, isn't it? You'd do anything for money, wouldn't you?"
  • in a staircase sequence, Veda delivered a humiliating and insulting tirade against her mother regarding her low-rent, lower-class birth: ("With this money, I can get away from you....From you and your chickens and your pies and your kitchens and everything that smells of grease. I can get away from this shack with its cheap furniture, and this town and its dollar days, and its women that wear uniforms and its men that wear overalls.... You think just because you've made a little money you can get a new hairdo and some expensive clothes and turn yourself into a lady. But you can't, because you'll never be anything but a common frump, whose father lived over a grocery store and whose mother took in washing. With this money, I can get away from every rotten, stinking thing that makes me think of this place or you!")
Staircase Argument Between Mildred and Veda
"Get out, Veda. Get your things out of this house right now before I throw them into the street and you with them. Get out before I kill you"
  • when Mildred ripped up the pay-off check, Veda slapped Mildred across the face and knocked her down onto the stairs; Mildred rose and stood face to face in front of Veda and commanded: ("Get out, Veda. Get your things out of this house right now before I throw them into the street and you with them. Get out before I kill you")
  • the words of warning from wise-cracking friend Ida (Eve Arden) about Mildred's beloved but spoiled and monstrous daughter Veda: ("Personally, Veda's convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young")
Mildred's Discovery of Veda's Affair with Her Husband Monte
  • a final confrontation (told through lengthy flashbacks) revealed a resolution to the murder mystery; the promiscuous Veda, in the midst of an affair with Monte (now known by Mildred), was miffed when she stated to Mildred: "Monte's going to divorce you and marry me, and there's nothing you can do about it"; however, Monte rebuffed and rejected Veda: ("Just where did you get the idea I'm going to marry you?... I'm not joking. If you think I'm going to marry you, you're very much mistaken.... Look. You don't really think I could be in love with a rotten little tramp like you, do you?") - Veda pulled Mildred's gun on Monte and shot him to death; outside in her car, Mildred heard six shots - and when she came back inside, she found her crazed, impassioned daughter standing over the dead body of Monte

Monte to Veda: "You don't really think I could be in love with a rotten little tramp like you"
The Killer - Veda
Monte - Dead on Floor
  • in another flashbacked sequence, Veda desperately begged for her mother not to report Monte's murder to police: ("Think what will happen if they find me. Think what will happen...Give me another chance. It's your fault as much as mine. You've got to help me. Help me, Mother! Just this once. I'll change, I promise I will. I'll be different. Just give me another chance. It's your fault I'm the way I am. Help me")
  • in the final scene, Veda was booked for murder and led away (her last words to her mother: ("Don't worry about me, Mother. I'll get by")), as Inspector Peterson (Moroni Olsen) noted to Mildred, the film's final line: ("You know, Mrs. Beragon, there are times when I regret being a police officer"); Mildred was released to the outside dawn and greeted by her estranged husband Bert Pierce

Opening Murder Scene

Mildred Saved From Suicide on Pier

Veda's Insult to Her Mother: "My mother, a waitress!"

Mildred's Developing Romance with Monte

Mildred's Ultimatum to The Profligate Monte: "Stay away from Veda"

Monte's Response: "We're through"

After the Murder - Veda to Her Mother: "I Told Him I'd Kill Him"

After the Murder, Veda Pleading With Her Mother

Veda Charged With The Crime: "OK, book her!"

Mildred's Reconciliation with Estranged Husband Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett)


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