Mildred Pierce

  • 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 — 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.


  • Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Producers: Uncredited, Alfred Hitchcock, Harry Edington
  • Writers: Novel, Anthony Berkeley, Screenplay, Samson Raphaelson, Joan Harrison, Alma Reville
  • Genres: Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller
  • Actors: Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant, Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty

Handsome, irresponsible cad Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant) sweeps dowdy Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine) off her feet and charms her into running away and marrying him, despite the strong disapproval of her wealthy father, General McLaidlaw (Cedrick Hardwicke). After their honeymoon, they set up housekeeping in extravagant fashion, though she soon learns that Johnnie is broke and was hoping to live off her father’s generosity. She persuades him to get a job; he goes to work for his cousin, Captain Melbeck (Leo G. Carroll).

Gradually, she learns that he has continued to gamble on the horses, despite his promise to quit, and that he has sold family heirloom chairs given to them as a wedding present to help pay for things. She repeatedly catches him in lies and discovers that he has been caught embezzling and fired, though Melbeck assures her he will not prosecute if the money is repaid. Johnnie’s good-natured, if scatterbrained, friend Beaky (Nigel Bruce) tries to reassure her that her husband is a good sort, but without much success.

When the general dies, Johnnie is severely disappointed to find that he left only his portrait to Lina. He convinces Beaky to finance his next venture, a land development, even though neither he nor Beaky know much about the business. Lina tries to talk Beaky out of it, but he trusts his friend completely. Johnnie overhears and warns his wife to stay out of his affairs; nevertheless, he calls the whole thing off. When Beaky leaves for Paris, Johnnie accompanies him partway. Later, news reaches her of Beaky’s death in Paris. Johnnie lies to her and an investigating police inspector about remaining in London. This and other details lead Lina to suspect he caused it.

Needing to get away for a while, she makes up a story to stay with her mother for a few days. Johnnie insists on driving her there. He speeds recklessly on a dangerous road beside a cliff; her door pops open and she is in danger of being thrown out to her death. Johnnie reaches for her, his intent unclear to the terrified woman. When she shrinks from him, he stops the car. She comes to the conclusion that the poison was meant for his suicide to get him out of his difficulties. Her suspicions allayed, they turn around and drive home.


  • Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Producers: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Writers: Ben Hecht
  • Genres: Drama, Film-Noir, Romance, Thriller
  • Actors: Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Claude Rains

Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the American daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, is recruited by government agent T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) to infiltrate a group of Germans who have relocated to Brazil after World War II.

While awaiting the details of her assignment in Rio de Janeiro, Alicia falls in love with Devlin. His feelings for her are complicated by his knowledge of her wild past. When Devlin is ordered to convince her to seduce Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), one of her father’s friends and a member of the group, Devlin tries to convince his superiors that Alicia is not fit for the job. But upon seeing Alicia again, he puts up a stoic front, choosing duty over love. Alicia concludes that he does not love her, and she soon marries Alex to better spy on him and his associates.

Alicia and Devlin discover the key element of the plot by accident, but in the process leave a clue that her husband traces back to her. Now Alex has a problem: he must silence Alicia, but cannot expose her without being discredited by his fellow Nazis. Alex discusses the situation with his mother (Leopoldine Konstantin), who suggests that Alicia “die slowly” by poisoning. The poison is initially mixed into Alicia’s coffee, and she quickly falls ill. Devlin becomes alarmed when she fails to appear at their next rendezvous. After driving to Sebastian’s house, he sneaks into Alicia’s quarters, where she tells him that Alex and his mother are poisoning her. After confessing his love for her, Devlin carries her out of the mansion in full view of the conspirators. Alex privately begs to go with them, but they abandon him to the non-existent mercy of the Nazis, who had previously disposed of another co-conspirator for a far lesser indiscretion.

A Kiss Before Dying

  • Directors:
  • Producers:
  • Writers:
  • Genres: Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery, Romance, Thriller
  • Actors:

Bud Corliss is born into a working-class family and raised by his mother after his father walked out. As an adult, he uses an uncanny ability to adapt his personality to any given situation to chase his dreams of wealth and success — to be achieved by any means necessary.

An overachiever, he is a stellar student in high school and is drafted into the service, returning as a decorated hero. The most pivotal moment in his life occurs during the war, when he corners, shoots and kills a Japanese soldier, who is so terrified of an American soldier with a gun that he wets his pants. Corliss is both elated by the total power he held over the soldier and disgusted by a display of terror he considers weak and unmanly. He makes up his mind then and there to never show any sign of vulnerability.

Upon returning to the U.S., he enrolls in college and meets Dorothy Kingship, the daughter of a wealthy copper tycoon. Seeing an opportunity to attain the riches he has always craved, he becomes Dorothy’s lover, but panics when she announces she is pregnant. He is sure that her stern, conservative father will disown her. Resolving to get rid of Dorothy, he tricks her into writing a letter that, to an unknowing observer, would look like a suicide note and then murders her. He runs no risk of getting caught, having urged Dorothy to keep their relationship a secret from her family and friends. He continues to live with his mother, who dotes on him and has no clue as to what he has done.

On a trip to one of the Kingship family’s copper manufacturing plants, Marion, her father and Grant all corner Corliss while he is standing over a vat of molten copper and threaten to expose him. Corliss frantically pleads his innocence, but they are unmoved. Realizing his luck has finally run out and that he is facing the electric chair, Corliss at last loses his composure and wets his pants — just as the Japanese soldier, his symbol of pathetic cowardice, had done. Delirious with panic and shame, Corliss lets go and falls to his death into the vat below.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

  • Directors: Fritz Lang
  • Producers: Bert E Friedlob
  • Writers: Douglas Morrow
  • Genres: Crime, Film-Noir, Drama
  • Actors: Dana Andrews, Joan Fontaine

A newspaper publisher, wanting to prove a point about the insufficiency of circumstantial evidence, talks his possible son-in-law Tom Garrett (Dana Andrews) into a hoax in an attempt to expose the alleged ineptitude of the city’s hard-line district attorney. The plan is to have Tom plant clues leading to his arrest for killing a female nightclub dancer. Once Tom is found guilty, he is to reveal the setup and humiliate the DA.

Tom agrees to the plan, not knowing that unforeseen events will put such a snag in the scheme that he ends up in danger of being executed. A friend holding back evidence that will clear Tom at his trial dies in an accident before he can testify.

Lady in the Lake

  • Directors: Robert Montgomery
  • Producers: George Haight
  • Writers: Story, Raymond Chandler, Screenplay, Steve Fisher
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery, Romance
  • Actors: Robert Montgomery, Audrey Totter, Lloyd Nolan, Tom Tully, Leon Ames, Jayne Meadows

The story is set on Christmas Eve. Hard-boiled private detective Philip Marlowe (Montgomery) is asked by a publishing executive, Adrienne Fromsett (Totter), to locate the wife of her boss, publisher Derace Kingsby (Ames). One month earlier she had sent her husband a telegram saying she was heading to Mexico to marry a man named Chris Lavery.

However Kingsby had recently seen Lavery in the neighboring Bay City, and Lavery seemed unaware of the trip to Mexico. Marlowe pursues his investigation at the Kingsby’s lakeside cottage, where Mrs. Kingsby was last seen. There, he finds Lavery shot dead, and he then becomes involved in a complex web of intrigue.


  • Directors: Henry Hathaway
  • Producers: Charles Brackett
  • Writers: Charles Brackett, Richard L Breen, Walter Reisch
  • Genres: Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters, Max Showalter

On a delayed honeymoon (they have, in fact, been married three years), Ray and Polly Cutler (Max Showalter and Jean Peters) arrive at their Niagara Falls cottage for some romance and relaxation. However, when they arrive they find out that their reserved cabin is occupied by another couple, George and Rose Loomis (Joseph Cotten and Marilyn Monroe). They politely offer to take another cabin, but the two couples become unavoidably tangled as time goes on.

The Cutlers quickly catch on to the Loomises’ bizarre relationship. Rose is much younger than George, who appears to have problems with depression, paranoia and anger management. It is even implied that he may have just been released from a mental hospital. Things become further complicated when Polly happens upon Rose kissing a young man named Patrick (Richard Allan). Both Cutlers also witness George’s rage firsthand the following evening after he cuts his hand while breaking a record and then trashes his hotel room.

It turns out that George has correctly assumed that Rose is cheating on him. Even worse is that she is planning his death with the assistance of Patrick, hoping to frame it as an accident. When the murder is completed, Patrick will put in a request at the nearby bell tower. Rose’s and Patrick’s “song” will play and Rose will know George has been killed. When she does hear these bells after her husband’s planned disappearance, she assumes the murder has taken place.

Polly is rescued by helicopter, and is reunited with her husband. They thank the police and leave the scene, arms around one another.

The Big Sleep

  • Directors: Howard Hawks
  • Producers: Howard Hawks
  • Writers: Novel, Raymond Chandler, Screenplay, William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall

Note: As there are two cuts of this movie, this plot description may be inaccurate.

Private detective Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) calls on new client General Sternwood (Charles Waldron) at his Los Angeles mansion. As he waits in the foyer, the General’s younger daughter, Carmen (Martha Vickers), flirts seductively with Marlowe. Marlowe is indifferent towards her flirtatious comments, leaving Carmen intrigued. He is then led by Norris, the butler, into the sun room where he is introduced to the ailing but wealthy general, who wants to resolve gambling debts owed by Carmen to a bookseller named Arthur Gwynn Geiger. As Marlowe begins to leave, he is stopped by General Sternwood’s oldest daughter, Mrs. Vivian Rutledge (Lauren Bacall), who questions Marlowe about what he is doing for her father. Vivian, who was recently divorced, suspects her father’s true reason for calling in a detective is to find Sean Regan, his friend, companion and bodyguard who had mysteriously disappeared a month earlier. The general assumption, established as the film progresses, is that Regan has run off with a local gambler’s wife, Mrs. Eddie Mars.

Marlowe goes to Arthur Geiger’s rare book shop and quickly dons a disguise as he enters the shop under the premise of searching for several rare books. Agnes, the unfriendly shop assistant, claims that they don’t have the book Marlowe is looking for, nor any of the other books he inquires about. Marlowe begins to suspect that the book store is a front. As he is talking with Agnes, a man enters the back room where Marlowe sees stacks of books and paper. His suspicions are correct: Geiger is illegally selling pornographic books. He asks to see Mr. Geiger, but Agnes claims that Geiger is not in. Marlowe leaves the store and takes shelter in a bookstore across the street as it begins to rain. While there, he asks the brunette bookstore clerk whether or not she has ever seen Geiger. She replies that she has. She describes Geiger as being in his early 40s, fat, with a Charlie Chan mustache and a glass eye. Marlowe and the attractive brunette begin to flirt. She removes her glasses and lets down her hair. Marlowe decides to wait for Geiger in the store. The clerk lowers the blinds and pulls out glasses for the bottle of rye Marlowe offers.

Marlowe wounds Mars and he runs out. But his men, waiting to ambush Marlowe, shoot and kill Mars. Marlowe calls Bernie Ohls to wrap up the case but tells him that Mars killed Regan. Marlowe and Vivian decide to commit Carmen and conceal the truth from the dying General Sternwood. They wait in the dark as sirens approach, now committed to each other.[1][2][3]

This Gun for Hire

  • Directors: Frank Tuttle
  • Producers: Richard Blumenthal
  • Writers: Story, Graham Greene, Screenplay, Albert Maltz, W R Burnett
  • Genres: Film-Noir, Crime, Thriller
  • Actors: Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar

A hit man, called Raven (Ladd), is double-crossed by nightclub owner Willard Gates (Cregar) who acts as a middleman for a traitorous industrialist, the president of Nitro Chemical, Alvin Brewster (Tully Marshall).

Traveling to Los Angeles to kill his way to the top of his betrayers, Raven meets up with Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) a nightclub magician and singer.

Graham’s been enlisted by a senator to use Gates to find out who is making deals to manufacture poison gas for the Japanese. Ellen’s fianceé Lt. Michael Crane (Robert Preston) tries as best he can to keep up, tracking Raven while wondering if his girlfriend has been kidnapped or is a willing accomplice. Yvonne De Carlo also has a small role.

Nightmare Alley

  • Directors: Edmund Goulding
  • Producers: George Jessel
  • Writers: Story, William Lindsay Gresham, Screenplay, Jules Furthman
  • Genres: Drama, Film-Noir
  • Actors: Tyrone Power, Coleen Gray, Joan Blondell, Helen Walker, Taylor Holmes, Mike Mazurki

The movie follows the rise and fall of a con man — a story that begins and ends at a seedy traveling carnival. Stanton Carlisle (Tyrone Power) joins the carnival, working with “Mademoiselle Zeena” (Joan Blondell) and her alcoholic husband, Pete (Ian Keith). They were once a top-billed act, using an ingenious code to make it appear that she had extraordinary mental powers, until her (unspecified) misdeeds drove Pete to drink and reduced them to working in a third-rate outfit. Stanton learns that many people want to buy the code from Zeena for a lot of money, but she won’t sell; she is saving it as a nest egg. He tries to romance Zeena into teaching it to him, but she remains faithful to her husband. One night in Texas, Stanton accidentally gives Pete the wrong bottle; he dies from drinking wood alcohol instead of moonshine. To keep her act going, she is forced to train Stanton to be her assistant.

Stanton however, prefers the company of the younger Molly (Coleen Gray). When this is found out, they are forced into a shotgun marriage by the rest of the carnies. No longer welcome, Stanton realizes this is actually a golden opportunity for him. He and his wife leave the carnival. He becomes “The Great Stanton”, performing with great success in expensive nightclubs. However, he has even higher ambitions.

Finally, the fallen carny tries to get a job at another carnival, only to suffer the ultimate degradation: the only job he can get is playing the geek in a sideshow. Unable to stand his life any further, he goes berserk, but fortunately, Molly happens to work in the same carnival. Stan calms down and regains hope when he sees her again.