Day 30 of Noirvember: Millie Pickens in Among the Living (1941)

The final post for Noirvember 2021 shines the spotlight on a gal who’s often more femme than fatale: Millie Pickens in Among the Living (1941).

Millie is completely aware of her charms.

WHAT’S AMONG THE LIVING ABOUT?

Nestled in a category I think of as Gothic noir, Among the Living tells the story of a millionaire, John Baden (Albert Dekker) who is accused of a series of murders that were actually committed by his insane identical twin brother, Paul (also Albert Dekker). Spearheading the manhunt for John is local sexpot Millie Pickens (Susan Hayward), who mistakes him for the brother she’s been cozying up to.

INTRODUCING MILLIE PICKENS:

Millie’s mother (Maude Eburne) runs a boarding house; we meet Millie when Paul Raden goes to the house looking for a place to stay and Mrs. Pickens yells for Millie to show him a room. We spot Millie standing at the top of the stairs, and in just a few seconds, we get our first glimpse into her personality. She’s been cleaning house and has a scarf covering her head, but when she sees Paul, she smoothly removes it and fixes her hair, her eyes lit with sudden interest. She meets him halfway down the staircase, and even the way she descends those few steps is flirty, sexy, and crammed with confidence.

Mind you, she just met this dude, and doesn’t even know his name.

WHY DID I PICK MILLIE?

She’s a cute little trick, and she knows it. She’s full of life, full of sex appeal, a little common. When Paul displays a fistful of cash, her eyes literally widen like she’s a kid being offered a bowl of free candy. She has no shame about depositing the rent money in her bra, and when Paul gives her $30 to buy a dress, she pulls up her skirt and tucks the cash – with nary a hint of self-consciousness – into her garter belt. When they visit a local store together, she dabs on some perfume, then offers her neck to Paul to smell. And she’s so wrapped up in the notion of snagging a $5,000 reward for the capture of the killer (“Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I could get a fur coat! I could get out of this town!”) that she’s completely oblivious to the red flags popping up all around Paul. She’s undeniably the most compelling character in the film.

FROM THE MOUTH OF MILLIE:

“Say, if I had a wad of foldin’ dough like that, I’d go right out and buy myself an outfit that would knock this neighborhood cockeyed!”

PLAYED BY SUSAN HAYWARD:

Born Edythe Marrenner on June 30, 1918, the future star grew up in a tenement in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. When she was seven years old, she was struck by a car, fracturing her hip. Despite her doctor’s forecast that she would probably never walk again, Edythe was able to get around on crutches after six months, and she returned to school a year later. She got her first real acting experiences at Girls Commercial High school, where she acted in numerous plays. After high school, she took a course at Manhattan’s Feagan Drama School, and joined the Walter Thornton Agency to pursue modeling. Before long, she was appearing in numerous magazines, advertising everything from Ritz crackers to Noxema skin cream. Shortly after she appeared in an eight-page spread in the Saturday Evening Post, she signed a test contract with Selznick Studios and was asked to audition for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. She headed for California in November 1937; although she was judged too young and inexperienced for the Gone with the Wind part, she secured an agent, signed a six-month contract with Warner Bros. studio, and was transformed into Susan Hayward (a name given to her by Warners talent exec Max Arnow). Her first appearance on screen was an uncredited role in Hollywood Hotel (1937), starring Dick Powell. Among the Living was her first noir.

And that’s it for Noirvember 2021, folks! It’s been a stone gas and I want to sincerely thank every single person who read, liked, or commented on any of the articles I’ve posted this month – you helped make this year’s event the most enjoyable yet, and I couldn’t be more grateful. And I mean that.

See you in the shadows!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 30, 2021.

12 Responses to “Day 30 of Noirvember: Millie Pickens in Among the Living (1941)”

  1. Must watch this again. You really brightened up a dark November. Well done!

  2. Wow! I have a new movie to watch with “Susie Baby.” That was how my dad always referred to Miss Hayward, and I don’t think she would mind.

    Thanks for another gloriously murky Noirvember!

  3. Thank you so much for this month of discoveries and wisecrackin’!

  4. Thank you for a wonderful Noirvember! I learned so much, and really appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

  5. Always love Noirvember. Thank you for a great month.

  6. Congrats on another fab Noirvember series, Karen. Hats off to you!

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