Free Book on the Best Movie Mothers!

Posted on May 10, 2024 at 7:44 am

Happy Mother’s Day! My ebook, 50 Must-See Movie Mothers, is free May 10-14 on Amazon.

Copyright Miniver Press 2015

The movies have given us warm, loving, mothers (Marmee in “Little Women,” Sally Field in “Places in the Heart”), evil, abusive mothers (Gladys Cooper in “Now, Voyager,” Jackie Weaver in “Animal Kingdom,” Anjelica Huston in “The Grifters”), even alien mothers (“Alien,” “Enemy Mine”).  Some recent great movie mothers include Carrie Coon in “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” Viola Davis in “Air,” and America Ferrara in “Barbie.”

Here are some of my favorites from classic films:

Claudia Before they went on to co-star in the luminous romance, “The Enchanted Cottage,” Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young played a young married couple in this sweet neglected gem based on the books by Rose Franken.  Claudia and David love each other very much and he finds her innocence very appealing.  But her immaturity leads to many problems.  A neighbor thinks Claudia is flirting with him and without consulting David she impulsively decides to sell their farm.  And she is very dependent on the loving mother she adores but takes for granted.  Claudia’s is about to face two of life’s most demanding challenges – her mother is dying and Claudia and David are going to become parents themselves.  So Claudia’s mother has to find a way to help Claudia grow up.  Watch for: a rare film appearance by the exquisite Broadway star Ina Claire as Claudia’s mother

Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner There are two great mothers in this talky, dated, but still endearing “issue movie” about inter-racial marriage from 1967.  Katharine Hepburn’s real-life niece Katharine Houghton plays her daughter and what Houghton lacks in screen presence and acting experience is less important than the genuine connection and palpable affection between the two of them.  The question may seem quaint now, but as filming was underway, inter-racial marriage was still illegal in 17 states.  The Supreme Court ruled those laws unconstitutional that same year.  Hepburn is electrifying in what she knew would be her final film with her most frequent co-star and real-life great love, Spencer Tracy.  And the distinguished actress Beah Richards is brilliant as the mother of a son who says his father thinks of himself as a “colored man,” while he just thinks of himself as a man.  Watch for: Hepburn’s expression as her daughter describes falling in love

Claudine Diahann Carroll was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as a single mother in this ground-breaking 1974 film, one of the first to portray a domestic employee as a real person with her own home and family, and one of the first to provide an honest look at the perverse incentives of the “Great Society” welfare programs.  Claudine is the mother of six who has to keep her work as a housekeeper and her relationship with a genial garbage worker (James Earl Jones) a secret from the social worker because they put at risk the payments she needs for her children.  Watch for: the very romantic bathtub scene

Dear Frankie Emily Mortimer plays Lizzie, the divorced mother of a young deaf son in this heartwarming story set in Scotland.  She is devoted and very protective.  She does not want him to know the truth about his abusive father (the source of his deafness), so she tells him that his father is a merchant seaman.  The letters he receives from all the ports of call full of details about all the places he has been are really written by Lizzie. When the ship comes to their town, she has to find someone to pretend to be his father.  Watch for: Lizzie’s explanation of the reason she writes to Frankie —  “because it’s the only way I can hear his voice”

Imitation of Life This melodrama about two single mothers, one white and one black, who join forces has been filmed twice and both are worth seeing.  The best remembered is the glossy, glamorous 1959 version with Lana Turner and Juanita Moore.  Lora (Turner) and Annie (Moore) are brought together by their daughters, who meet at Coney Island.  Lora, a struggling actress, needs someone to help look after her daughter and Annie needs a job and a place to live.  Annie moves in to be the housekeeper/nanny.  She and Lora have a strong, supportive friendship, though Lora and both girls take Annie for granted.  As the girls grow up, Lora’s daughter is resentful of the time her mother spends on her career and Annie’s daughter resents the racism she confronts even though her skin is so light she can pass for white.  Watch for: the most elaborate funeral scene ever put on film, with a sobbing apology from Annie’s daughter (Susan Kohner)

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies Doris Day stars in this film loosely based on Jean Kerr’s hilarious essays about life as Kate, the wife of a theater critic (David Niven) and mother of four rambunctious boys.  While most of the film’s focus is on the marital strains caused by her husband’s new job and the family’s new home, the scenes of Kate’s interactions with her children are among the highlights.  It is clear that while she tries to be understated about her affection and sometimes frustration, she adores them.  Watch for: Kate’s affectionate interactions with her own mother, played by Spring Byington

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Nell Minow on the Don Rosen Show: Summer 2024 Movies, The Godfather, DVD Libraries, and More

Posted on May 6, 2024 at 8:52 pm

Many thanks to Don Rosen for inviting me on his radio program for a long talk about the movies we’re expecting this summer, “The Godfather” and its sequels, having Jerry Seinfeld as a kindergarten classmate (Don) and meeting President Kennedy (me).

You can hear the interview as a podcast here.

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Celebrate Irish Actors on St. Patrick’s Day!

Posted on March 17, 2024 at 2:18 pm

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with movies starring some of the greatest stars in movie history.  If you haven’t seen all of these, you deserve a pinch!

Two of the most talented and charismatic up and coming actors, Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, appeared in last year’s tenderest love story (about the love between parent and child as well as romantic love), “All of Us Strangers.”

Maureen O’Hara — her fiery red hair was made for technicolor and she was ideally cast opposite John Wayne in films like “The Quiet Man” and “McLintock.”  I especially loved her as the mom in “Miracle on 34th Street” and “The Parent Trap.”

Colin Farrell — he is electrifying as a bad guy but willing to go all out in a comedy like “Horrible Bosses” or the wonderfully weird “The Lobster.” I especially loved him as a sensitive gay man in “A Home at the End of the World,” and his appearance with Elmo on “Sesame Street.”

Saoirse Ronan — one of the most talented young stars working today, she first gained international stardom in “Atonement” and has shown astonishing range in films like “Hanna” and “Brooklyn.”

Liam Neeson — an Oscar winner for “Schindler’s List,” Neeson is equally at home in serious drama and in action films like “Taken.”

Pierce Brosnan — the most elegant of the James Bonds, Brosnan also played a very different kind of spy in “The Matador” and sang (or tried to) in “Mama Mia.”

Peter O’Toole — best known for “Lawrence of Arabia,” but his most endearing performance is probably the swashbuckling movie star guesting on a live television show in “My Favorite Year.” And don’t miss him as a movie director in “The Stunt Man” and an art expert turned thief in “How to Steal a Million.”

Jonathan Rhys Meyers — he was Henry VIII on HBO’s “The Tudors” and the soccer coach in “Bend it Like Beckham.”

Chris O’Dowd — Kristen Wiig could not resist him in “Bridesmaids,” and he was equally appealing in “Pirate Radio” and the British sitcom “The IT Crowd.”  He plays the manager of a girl group in “The Sapphires” and created the very funny series “Moone Boy.”

Daniel Day-Lewis — he played Abraham Lincoln, but he has also played real-life Irish icons Christy Brown (“My Left Foot”) and Gerry Conlon (“In the Name of the Father”).

Pat O’Brien — this dependable character actor starred as Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne.

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Talking About the 2024 Oscars with Don Rosen

Posted on March 11, 2024 at 9:58 pm

It was a lot of fun to talk about last night’s Oscars with radio star Don Rosen!

HO_03095 (l-r.) Dominic Sessa stars as Angus Tully, Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Mary Lamb and Paul Giamatti as Paul Hunham in director Alexander Payne’s THE HOLDOVERS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Seacia Pavao / © 2023 FOCUS FEATURES LLC
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