(On Cable TV, May 2018) As a family drama that drives steadily toward becoming a crime thriller, Mildred Pierce has something for everyone: family conflict, rags-to-riches development and a plunge into noir as a final act, bringing us back to the opening framing device. Joan Crawford holds the film together as the titular Mildred, a woman who gets over her first marriage by working hard and establishing a chain of restaurants, only to be held back by a spoiled daughter, a loafing second husband and a terrible family tragedy. That Mildred Pierce ends in murder is no spoiler (that’s how it begins), although the killer may surprise you. The black-and-white cinematography is top-notch, and Michael Curtiz’s direction impressively brings together the sunny domesticity of toxic family life with the harder shadows of criminal noir. The intersection between independent-woman drama and murder mystery is unusual, and makes Mildred Pierce stand out even when slotted in the noir tradition.