Mildred Pierce (1945)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Available on DVD
Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford) is the perfect wife. She spends her life doing what she can for her two daughters and keeping a tidy house while still finding time to make cakes for the neighborhood. When she confronts her husband about his infidelities, he leaves her and their two daughters to fend for themselves. She begins the difficult task of trying to find work, which for a woman who has spent her whole life as wife and mother proves to be a difficult task. Finally, she is able to find work at a diner and meets Ida Corwin (Eve Arden) who teaches her the ins and outs of the restaurant business and eventually becomes her business partner when Mildred decides to open her own restaurant. From there her life becomes more complicated as she tries to balance family, business and love. However, in true noir fashion, nothing is as simple as it seems.
The film is a perfect example of the Film Noir depiction of how the relationship between men and women changed during WWII. While the men were off to war, the women were put to work building the equipment they needed to fight. Once the war ended, the women were expected to return to the home and continue being nothing more than housewives and forgetting the taste of independence they got during the war, something many women were not happy with. Films of this era were clear about the consequences of going out of the home and returning to work, and Mildred Pierce is no exception.