“…film noir, the literary adaptation, the war film, and the woman’s film.’ The woman’s film, a studio-created genre of the 1930s and40s that was aimed at a female audience, dealt with woman-related issues and focused on the experiences of a female protagonist, stands apart,however, in that it has the largest number of female first person voice-over narrators of any Hollywood genre, a fact that has escaped the notice of many critics.” (34) 

“While feminist critics have pointed to the use of female first person voice-over narration in woman’s films, they do so only to stress the subversion of the female narrator’s voice-over, which they believe is only allowed expression so that it can be undermined by male authority. A Mary Ann Doane sees it:

voices-over are more frequently detached from the female protagonist and mobilized as moments of aggression or attack exercised against her.” (34)

“This subversion can take many forms:the female narrator’s story can be finished, interpreted, or interrupted by a male character, exposed as a lie, or revealed as a misinterpretation of events. In all the above cases, however, female narrational power is shutdown in some way by a final decisive male intervention that implicates the spectator strongly in this masculine point of view” (35)

“narrative battles for control of the story between various competing elements in the text, a dichotomy between word and image, and a proliferation of point of view,” (35) 

“In classical Hollywood cinema the gaze is male,* Women are situated as objects of spectacle to be viewed from a male perspective. This situation causes serious problems when a female character is given the position of voice-over narrator.” (35) 

“Voice-over woman’s films offer not a single socially conservative ideological stance, but instead “a terrain of contesting representations” (483). These representations are structured around a disturbance in the private sphere of marriage and the family. Thetexts set out to realign their female narrator/protagonists with their traditional roles as wives, mothers, and daughters. The films’ use of first person voice-over narration, however, accentuates the problematic nature of these traditional female roles and prevents the texts from achieving full resolution and closure in regard to these issues.” (37)

Within the category of the maternal melodrama, Mildred Pierce(Curtiz, 1945) stands out as its most successful and critically recognized representative. It has also received a significant amount of attention from feminist critics who have seen it largely as an example of the female voice finding temporary expression through the voiceover narration only to be suppressed at the film’s conclusion by a male discourse (38) 

“in film noir style repudiates her version, provides a new “correct” re-assessment of events, forces her to accept his account, and returns her to a”proper” female role by literally handing her over to her waiting husband Bert (Bruce Bennett). While Mildred seems to exhibit a substantial amount of female strength and independence through her voice-over narrative of her career successes, she ends a failure as a businesswoman, wife, and mother. (38)”

“The film’s use of first person voice-over narration as a part of its attempt to deal with the issue of its female protagonist’s role in patriarchal society, however, complicates what appears on the surface to be a simple trajectory toward resolution of conflict and unification of point of view under the male detective’s perspective.” (38) 

“His [the detective’s]  lack of visual and narrative dominance contrasts with Mildred’s prominence both visually and narratively. The spectator cannot completely accept the detective’s spectatorial and authorial surrogation when his final interpretation of events is tacked on to a text dominated so much by Mildred’s point of view. The Point of view structure of the film seems, in fact, inexorably divided between the male and female perspectives with no easy reconciliation between the two positions possible.” (38)

“As a result of this image/word dichotomy, the film’s attempts to exonerate its heroine’s character by using her voice-over to go behind her image and find clues to her inner self are seriously damaged.” (40)

Karen, H. (1992) Listening to the Female Voice in Women’s Film. Film Criticism. 1(3), 34-52,76. Retrieved at: http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.drew.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=6098e2f2-1bbd-414e-a052-4361a9ac8832%40sessionmgr4009

In 1946 French critics, seeing the American films they had missed during the war,noticed the new mood of cynicism, pessimism and darkness which had crept into the American cinema. The darkening stain was most evident in routine crime thrillers, but was also apparent in prestigious melodramas (53) 

Film noir was an immensely creative period- probably the most creative in Hollywood’s history – at least. (61) 

Schrader, P. (1972) Notes on Film Noir. Film Comment. 8(10), 53-62. Retrieved at: http://www.f.waseda.jp/norm/filmnoir/schroder.PDF 

“Mildred Pierce does not fit easily into the self-contained, homogenous world created by those formal strategies now accepted as characteristic of film noir.” (69) 

“Mildred’s discourse is markedly different from the framing discourse of the detective, in that he is simply concerned with establishing the Truth, with resolving the enigma, while Mildred’s story contains complexity and ambiguity, showing a concern for feelings rather than facts. The detective’s discourse is directed towards cleanin up the past, and this involves, the invalidation of Mildred’s version of the story, in terms and form and content.” (71) 

“It seems that a basic split is created in the film between melodrama and the film noir, between ‘Women’s Picture’ and ‘Man’s Film’, a split which indicates the presence of two ‘voices’, female and male, which in itself is a mark of excess since ‘classic’ film is generally characterised by the dominance of metadiscourse, which represents the Truth”. (72)

“It is unusual for film noir to have a female protagonist narrating her own story; in Mildred Pierce Mildred’s story is revealed as duplicitous, thus foregrounding the work of repression involved in narrative resolution” (73) 

Cook P. (1980) Duplicity in Mildred Pierce. Women in Film Noir. 68-82

“….woman as woman …has not been reflected on the movie screens of the world. The feminist theorist working in this tradition most often reads the women characters who appear in dominant cinema as absence, lack or ground to an entire system of of visual representation that negates an unspoken subjectivity of women. A key concept in the analysis of this only apparent representation.” (12)

“For many critics, the fascination of Mildred Pierce has rested in the extreme contrasts and conflict of two gender-inflected forms of discourse that powerfully mark the film text: the day-time women’s filmic discourse of Mildred’s own story and the noir male discourse of a dangerous, nocturnal underworld.” (13) 

“Even the very name of that story is not Mildred’s own name – if a women can be said to have her own name – but the name of her first husband, thee one whom she is not married as the present-tense story begins.” (14) 

“The autumn of 1945 was thus that most contradictory of transitional moments: the end of the war, the beginning of peace, the return of the GIs, and the end of unprecedented employment for American women.” (14) 

“Walsh argues that despite the film’s apparent ideological function, which was to justify the move of women from the workplace back into the home, it actually values female success and bonding as more important…Walsh then reads the film’s middle segment from a feminist perspective as an instance of an emergent group struggle with patriarchal hegemony.” (15) 

(bottom of page 17) 

“…[1945] as the moment men returned from the war and women were put back in their ‘proper’ place in the home. Neither critic doubts that the film’s primary message to female audiences was that the male world of business and work could no longer accommodate women….the film reflects the ideology of the American government regarding the place of women: that they must give up their new-found power and make room for returning men.” (18) 

Williams L. (1998) Mildred Pierce and the Second World War. In E.D. Pribram (Ed.), Female Spectators: Looking at Film and Television . 

“What is truly troubling about the narration in the film is how the female voice-over is undermined and superseded by the “masculine” ideology of the implied filmmaker, not only in the final assertion of Truth, but also, more insidiously, in the the flashback segments themselves.” (43)

“Kaja Silverman contends that classical cinema holds the female voice and body insistently to the interior of the diegesis, while granting the male subject apparent discursive exteriority by identifying him with mastering speech, vision, and hearing… Female lack is projected by excluding the female from symbolic power and privilege .” (43) 

“The opening of Mildred’s voice-over makes clear the “femalness” of her narration: the topic she is allowed to discuss is not the “masculine” noir opic of murder, but the “feminine” stuff of melodrama – her marriage and divorce.” (44) 

(bottom of 45)  

(page 46 on the lack of her own diegetic control)

“Unlike Mildred Pierce, most male film noir narrations maintain a spatial attachment to the character/narrator. We may have privileged access to information in the representation of his discourse, but the representation is not allowed to travel to places where he is no present.” (47) 

(top of 48) 

“In the film’s coda, the implied filmmakers ideology displaces Mildred’s “feminine” discourse with the Truth, revealed by Inspector Peterson. Peterson, most often filmed from behind, represents the faceless voice of patriarchal Law.” (51)

Robertson P. (1990) Structural Irony in Mildred Pierce, Or How Mildred Lost Her Tongue. Cinema Journal. 30(1), 42-54.