Based on James M. Cain's novel, a mother divorces, works hard, and succeeds in business so that her spoiled daughter can have what she wants.
A man is shot and says, "Mildred." A policeman tells Mildred (Joan Crawford) not to jump in the ocean. She invites Wally Fay (Jack Carson) to her beach-house but sneaks out. Wally finds the dead body and is arrested. Mildred goes to her mansion and is taken in for questioning about her husband's murder. Inspector Peterson (Moroni Olsen) tells her that Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett) is the murderer. She says he did not do it and tells of her marriage to him.
Bert has no job and quarrels with Mildred; they separate. She tells their daughters Veda (Ann Blyth) and Kay (Jo Ann Marlowe). Wally drinks with Mildred and tries to kiss her. Veda hopes that Mildred will marry Wally so that she will have money, but Mildred does not love Wally. Mildred looks for a job, and Ida (Eve Arden) gives her one in a restaurant. Mildred bakes cakes with the maid Lottie (Butterfly McQueen). Mildred quarrels with Veda about her waitress uniform. Mildred asks Wally to help her buy a property for a restaurant. Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott) agrees to sell his house to her on credit. Wally says that Mildred must divorce Bert so he won't get her money. Bert tells her that he will fight the divorce.
Mildred renovates, and Monte takes her to his beach-house, where they swim and kiss. Bert finds Mildred and says that Kay is ill. At his friend Maggie's house Kay is treated but dies. Mildred opens the restaurant with Ida working there. Wally owns a third and sees success. Monte brings Mildred an orchid; he meets Veda and dances with her. Mildred asks Wally to take Veda home. Monte kisses Mildred as Bert walks in. He tells her she can have the divorce, and he is jealous of Monte.
Peterson says that Bert had a motive, but Mildred says she did it and continues her story. Wally complains about Mildred loaning money to Monte, and Mildred says she is in love with Monte. She gives Veda a new car for her birthday, and Ida says that Veda has been borrowing money. Mildred tells Monte to stay away from Veda, who is 17. Mildred gives Monte a parting check. Mrs. Forrester tells Mildred that she opposes her son Ted marrying Veda, who tells Mildred she is married to Ted but does not love him. In the divorce Wally asks for $10,000 for Veda, who says she is pregnant. Veda gets the check and lets Mildred know she will not have a baby. Veda wants to get away from her mother, who rips up the check and orders her to get out.
Mildred returns from Mexico and drinks with Ida. Bert calls and takes Mildred to dinner, where Veda is singing. Mildred asks Veda to come home, but she wants more. Mildred asks Monte to marry her and gives him a third of her business so that Veda can live in his mansion. Bert confirms that Mildred does not love Monte and brings in Veda. On Veda's birthday Mildred is facing bankruptcy and must sell her share. Wally says Monte is selling his share too.
Peterson has Veda come in and says she killed Monte. Mildred catches Veda with Monte, and Veda says he will marry her. Mildred runs out. After Monte tells Veda he will not marry a tramp like her, she shoots him. Mildred comes back, and Veda asks for her help. Finally Peterson books Veda for murder, and Mildred leaves with Bert.
This melodrama reflects a new trend of women getting
divorced and going into business, and it indicates that some in
a younger generation who are given so much without a struggle
may be spoiled and develop selfish values.