The 1945 classic movie Mildred Pierce is clearly a star vehicle for actress Joan Crawford. She shines in the title role as a mother willing to do nearly anything for her children. Her daughters Veda and Kay are the most important parts of her life. They take priority over everything, including her marriage. The acting of Ann Blyth as Veda Pierce, Mildred’s oldest daughter, rightful garnered a great deal of acclaim. Her performance as the spoiled, naive, backstabbing daughter is one for the ages. The story alone is a compelling one. The strong and colorful supporting cast enriches the movie.
Bert Pierce is Mildred’s eternally loyal but unfaithful husband. Even after they divorce he remains a part of Mildred’s life. Bert comes across as a rather bland man, but is his quite likable. At times his indifference towards his own two children is so great that they do not seem to be his. However, his love for Mildred is quite apparent.
Monte Beragon is the man that sweeps Mildred off of her feet. Through the course of the story she falls in and out of love with him. Monte does not take life too seriously. He seems to always have a drink in his hand and a grin on his face.
Of course there is Veda Pierce, the embodiment of a spoiled brat. Veda takes being entitled to levels rarely seen. Mildred’s undying love and constant forgiveness are the very things that make Veda into who she is. Mildred enters into a loveless marriage in an effort to give Veda the lifestyle that she so desperately craves. Conniving, dishonest, contemptible, disrespectful and greedy and just a few words that describe Veda’s character.
Wally Fay is a peer and business associate of Mildred’s. To call Wally a friend of Mildred would be a stretch. Wally is a self absorbed and overly confident man who refers to himself as Uncle Wally several times. The fast talking, low level entrepreneur spends a good portion of the movie trying to get into Mildred’s pants.
Ida Corwin is the funny and likable hostess who hires Mildred when she is at a low point. Eventually the tides turn and Mildred employees Ida. Throughout the movie she remains the same character regardless of her changing circumstances.
And then there is Maggie Biederhof. She is referred to primarily as Mrs. Biederhof throughout the movie. Actress Lee Patrick portrays the mostly unseen Mrs. Beiderhof. She is hands down one of the film’s most intriguing characters. Mrs. Beiderhof appears on the screen for less than five minutes, yet her name and her presence loom large throughout the movie.
It is heavily implied throughout the movie that Bert Pierce is having an affair with Mrs. Biederhof. He never confirms or denies it, yet we are given no evidence of the exact nature of their relationship. Is it a physical affair or an emotional one? Whatever it is Bert is unwilling to end the relationship. Mrs. Biederhof spends the bulk of the movie solely as a spoken name. The one time that we do see her is in an extreme circumstance. Mildred, Bert, Veda and Kay are all present inside of Mrs. Biederhof’s house due to an emergency situation.
She is referred to as Mrs. Biederhof, yet there is never a mention of a Mr Biederhof. The assumption being is that she is perhaps a widow. Even though no one ever actually says that they are having an affair it must be the case. Early in the movie Mildred gets upset when Mrs. Beiderhof calls the Pierce household. Bert and Mildred are already in the midst of an argument, and the phone call just takes things to a new level. The existence of this relationship is not a new revelation to Mildred. Yet with Bert unemployed at the time of the phone call it would seem that the relationship is now unacceptable. It is almost as if to say that when he was working and their bills were paid that the affair was tolerable.
Mildred Pierce is a movie filled with secrets, lies, double crosses and cover ups. The relationship between Bert Pierce and Mrs. Biederhof is one of the film’s biggest secrets. Their relationship is spoken of throughout the bulk of the movie. Only once do we get a fleeting glance of what is going on. That glance really tells us nothing. Based on the scene and the circumstances the two could simply be casual neighbors. Bert does his best to shield Mildred from his relationship. On the flip side Mildred flaunts her relationship with Monte boldly in front of Bert.
Whatever the relationship between Bert and Mrs. Biederhof, he remains loyal to Mildred. As loyal as a man having an affair can be. The outcome of all of their choices is an interesting one. Mildred marries Monte for money and not love. Mrs Beiderhof gets married, but not to Bert. Eventually Mildred loses everything, her loveless marriage, her business, her money and Veda. At the end the one thing that she does have is Bert’s continued love and loyalty. As the movie ends the two exit a police station together united by a great loss. At this point the enigmatic Mrs. Beiderhof is a distant memory.