- Directors: Michael Curtiz
- Producers: Executive Producer, Jack L Warner, Producer, Jerry Wald
- Writers: Novel, James M Cain, Screenplay, Ranald MacDougall, William Faulkner, Catherine Turney
- Genres: Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery, Romance
- Actors: Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden
While the novel is told by a third-person narrator in strict chronological order, the film uses voice-over narration (the voice of Mildred). The story is framed by the questioning of Mildred by police after they discover the body of her second husband, Monte Beragon.
The film in noir fashion opens with Beragon (Scott) being shot. He murmurs the name “Mildred” as he collapses and dies. The police are led to believe that the murderer is restaurant owner Mildred Pierce (Crawford), who under interrogation confesses to the crime. She then relates her life story in flashback.
We see housewife Mildred unhappily married to a newly unemployed Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett). He was originally a real estate partner of Wally Fay (Carson), who propositions Mildred after learning that she and Bert are about to divorce. Mildred keeps custody of her two daughters: Veda (Blyth) and Kay (Jo Anne Marlowe).
Mildred’s principal goal is to provide for eldest daughter Veda, who longs for possessions the family cannot afford. Mildred needs a job and the best she can find is as a waitress â€” a fact she hides from Veda. One day, Veda gives their maid Lottie (Butterfly McQueen) Mildred’s waitress uniform, thinking nothing of it, until Mildred admits that she is a waitress, infuriating Veda, who thinks it a lowly employ.
When Veda takes up with the scheming Monty, a showdown ensues at the beach house where the film began. We discover what really happened: that Veda, furious over Monte’s unwillingness to take her seriously, is the one who shoots him. Mildred can cover for her daughter no more, and Veda is led off to jail.