Happy Mother’s Day! Some of My Favorite Movie Mothers

Posted on May 10, 2020 at 11:11 am

Some of the movies featured in my book, 50 Must-See Movies: Mothers.

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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Free For Mother’s Day! My Book About the Best Movie Mothers

Posted on May 9, 2020 at 12:01 am

In honor of Mother’s Day, my ebook 50 Must-See Movies: Mothers will be free on Amazon May 9-12, 2020.

No relationship is more primal, more fraught, more influential, more worried over, more nurturing when good and more devastating when bad than our connection to our mothers. The first eyes to look at us with love, the first arms to hold us, Mom is the one who first keeps us fed and warm, who applauds our initial steps, kisses our scrapes, and takes our temperature by kissing our forehead. She’s also the one who keeps people in endless years of psychoanalysis. Mothers inspire movies in every category, from comedy to romance to drama to crime to animation to horror, from the lowest-budget indie to the biggest-budget prestige film.

There are innumerable ways of mothering, and all of them show up in the movies. There are cookie-baking, apron-wearing mothers who always know just the right thing to say. There are stylish, sophisticated, wealthy mothers and mothers who do not have enough money to feed their children. There are mothers with PhDs and mothers who cannot read. There are mothers of every race and religion and many species on earth and in outer space (remember Alien).

There are terrifying mothers who abuse or abandon their children. There are mothers who give good advice and endless support and mothers who push their children to take the wrong jobs or marry the wrong people. There are super-strict mothers and super-lax mothers, mothers who want to know every detail of their children’s lives and mothers who barely remember that they have children at all. There are mothers of children with special needs who fight to make sure they have the fullest and most independent lives they can. There are children who love and support their mothers and children who break their mothers’ hearts.

And there are those very special souls who remind us that motherhood doesn’t require a biological connection. Stepmothers and adoptive mothers are as vitally important on screen as they are in the lives of those lucky enough to be raised by them.

“A boy’s best friend is his mother,” says a character whose mother is central to the story even though she never appears in the film. (Spoiler alert: The quote comes from Norman Bates in “Psycho.”) In “Stop or My Mom Will Shoot,” tough guy Sylvester Stallone plays a cop who mother comes along on his investigation whether he wants her to or not. In “Oedipus Wrecks,” one of three short films that make up the compilation New York Stories, Woody Allen plays a lawyer whose mother finds the ultimate way to embarrass him. And don’t get me started on Jason’s mother in the Friday the 13th movies.

I have selected 50 of my favorite movie mothers, from films as varied as The Sound of Music and Little Women along with forgotten or overlooked films like Stella Dallas, Claudia and David, and Dear Frankie. Actresses like Anne Revere and Spring Byington made careers out of wonderful performances as mothers, and I have included some of their best. I have a special affection for films and performances based on real-life mothers, especially those based on the mothers of the writers who told their stories, like Sally Field’s Oscar-winning performance in Places in the Heart. But each of the mothers in these movies is inspired by the unique joys and frustrations of the woman we love first.

A lot of women have been nominated for Oscars for playing mothers and just about every actress over age 20 has appeared as a mother in at least one movie. From beloved Marmee in “Little Women” and Mrs. Brown in “National Velvet” to mean moms in “Now Voyager” and “Mommie Dearest.”  Oscar-winnng classics and neglected gems, based on real-life like Sally Fields in “Places in the Heart” or fantasy like Dumbo’s lullabye-singing elephant mom, biological mothers like Irene Dunne in “I Remember Mama” or step-mothers like Maria in “The Sound of Music,” these are all must-see movies.

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TCM Today: Angels and Devils

Posted on April 28, 2020 at 8:19 am

Turner Classic Movies has a great line-up today of movies about angels — and a few devils, too. If you miss them on the broadcast, you can watch them on the TCM app. Highlights:

Heaven Only Knows: Robert Cummings is an angel sent to save the soul of a saloon owner played by Brian Donlevy by bringing him together with a minister’s daughter. But the devil has other ideas.

A Guy Named Joe: Spencer Tracy is a fighter pilot killed in action. His spirit returns to help the girl he loved find happiness. (Remade by Stephen Spielberg as “Always”)

The Horn Blows at Midnight: A trumpet player (Jack Benny) dreams he is the angel Gabriel, sent to blow his horn to bring on the end of the world. But he finds earthly pleasures a distraction.

Angels in the Outfield: This is the original version with Paul Douglas and Janet Leigh, about a little girl who lives in an orphanage and sees angels when she goes to a baseball game. I know the remake with Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a lot of fans but I prefer this one, which is sweet but not syrupy.

Angel on My Shoulder: The devil (Claude Rains) sends the soul of a murdered  gangster (Paul Muni) to to ruin the reputation of an honest judge.

The Devil and Daniel Webster: This is Stephen Vincent Benet’s classic story about a New Hampshire farmer who sells his soul to the devil (Walter Huston) and then is defended before a jury of villains by the legendary New England orator.

 

 

 

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TCM’s Virtual Film Festival — April 16-19

Posted on April 11, 2020 at 8:00 am

 

I’ve always wanted to go to the TCM Classic Film Festival and now I kind of can — it’s going to be virtual, and everyone is invited.

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the TCM Classic Film Festival: Special Home Edition, an on-air celebration of TCM Classic Film Festival movies and moments from the past decade that fans can enjoy from the comfort of their homes. As a part of the Special Home Edition, TCM is proud to showcase films that have been a part of the TCM Classic Film Festival, both from years past and slated for this year’s event.

To provide additional context and insight, details are below that share when these films were screened at the Festival along with the special guests that attended these screenings. This special edition of the Fest begins April 16 at 8pm continuing until April 19 on TCM and will include TCM hosts, special guests and events to follow on-air and online.

 

All times EST

THURSDAY, APRIL 16
8:00 PM A Star is Born (1954)
Opening Night Film at the inaugural 2010 TCM Classic Film Festival, presented by Robert Osborne and Alec Baldwin.
11:00 PM Metropolis (1927)
Closing Night Film at the 2010 TCM CFF, this was the North American premiere of a restored version of the film with footage found in 2008 in Argentina, with live score by the Alloy Orchestra.
1:45 AM Luise Rainer: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2011)
Recorded at the 1st TCM CFF in 2010 when Ms. Rainer, the first back-to-back Oscar winner for Best Actress, was 100 years old.
2:30 AM The Good Earth (1937)
Presented at the 2010 TCMCFF with Luise Rainer in attendance.
5:00 AM Neptune’s Daughter (1949)
Presented at the 2010 TCM CFF at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel pool on Opening Night, with Esther Williams and Betty Garrett in attendance and featuring a performance by the Aqualilies.
FRIDAY, APRIL 17
6:45 AM The Seventh Seal (1957)
Shown as part of a tribute to Max Von Sydow at the 2013 TCM CFF, with the actor in attendance.
8:30 AM She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
Introduced by Keith Carradine, at the 2016 TCM CFF.
10:30 AM Sounder (1972)
Presented at the 2018 TCM CFF with Cicely Tyson in attendance, who was honored prior to the screening with a hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX.


12:30 PM A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
This world premiere restoration was introduced by Alec Baldwin and Don Was at the 2014 TCM CFF.
2:00 PM Eva Marie Saint: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2014)
Recorded in front of a live audience at the 2013 TCM CFF as part of a tribute to Eva Marie Saint.
3:00 PM North by Northwest (1959)
Presented at the 2010 TCM CFF with Eva Marie Saint and Martin Landau in attendance.
5:45 PM Some Like It Hot (1959)
Presented at the 2010 TCM CFF with Tony Curtis in attendance.
8:00 PM Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2015)
West Coast premiere at the 2016 TCM CFF, with Lillian Michelson and director Daniel Raim in attendance.
10:00 PM Deliverance (1972)
A cast reunion was presented at the 2013 TCM CFF, with Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Jon Voight and director John Boorman in attendance.
12:00 AM Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Presented in 3D at the 2018 TCM CFF, this was introduced by Dennis Miller.
1:30 AM Grey Gardens (1975)
Presented at 2014 TCM CFF as part of a tribute to Albert Maysles, who was in attendance.
3:15 AM Night Flight (1933)
Out of circulation for over 50 years, this was introduced by Drew Barrymore, granddaughter of the film’s star John Barrymore at the 2011 TCM CFF.
5:00 AM Kim Novak: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2013)
Taped in front of a live audience at the 2012 TCM CFF, as part of a tribute to Kim Novak.
SATURDAY, APRIL 18
6:00 AM The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
Presented at the 2011 TCM CFF with Nancy and Tina Sinatra and Vicki Preminger in attendance.
8:00 AM Mad Love (1935)
Introduced at the 2019 TCM CFF by Bill Hader with actress Cora Sue Collins in attendance in the audience.
9:15 AM Double Harness (1933)
Introduced at the 2016 TCM CFF, by James Cromwell, the son of director John Cromwell.
10:30 AM Vitaphone Shorts:
Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder (1929)
Don’t Get Nervous (1929)
Lambchops (1929)
Presented at the 2016 TCM CFF, as part of a program celebrating “90th Anniversary of Vitaphone,” by the founder of the Vitaphone Project, Ron Hutchinson.
11:00 AM Sergeant York (1941)
The first Festival program to screen at the newest venue of the TCM CFF, the Legion Theater at Post 43, this was introduced in 2019 by Andrew Jackson York, the son of Sergeant Alvin C. York and grandson, Gerald York.

Copyright Hal Roach 1924

1:15 PM Safety Last! (1923)
The first of four Harold Lloyd films presented at the TCM CFF, this was accompanied by live orchestra and music composed and conducted by Robert Israel, in 2010, and introduced by Suzanne Lloyd.
2:45 PM They Live by Night (1949)
Presented at the 2013 TCM CFF and introduced by Susan Ray, widow of director Nicholas Ray.
4:30 PM Faye Dunaway: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2017)
Taped in front of a live audience at the 2016 TCM CFF, as part of a tribute to Faye Dunaway.
5:45 PM Network (1976)
Presented as part of a tribute to Faye Dunaway at the 2016 TCM CFF, with the actress in attendance.
8:00 PM Casablanca (1942)
A perennial favorite, this film has been presented three times at the TCM CFF, including a screening introduced by Peter Bogdanovich and Monika Henreid in 2010. Peter Bogdanovich will return to co-host this on-air screening.
10:00 PM The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Presented at the 2010 TCM CFF, it was introduced by Peter Bogdanovich and David Kamp. Peter Bogdanovich with co-host this on-air screening.
11:45 PM Night and the City (1950)
Presented at the 2012 TCM CFF by Eddie Muller.
1:30 AM Norman Lloyd: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2016)
Recorded in front of a live audience as part of a tribute to Norman Lloyd, at the 2015 TCM CFF; Mr. Lloyd was 100 at the time of the taping.
2:30 AM The Lady Vanishes (1938)
Presented at the TCM CFF in 2013 with Norman Lloyd in attendance to talk about his friend, Alfred Hitchcock.
4:15 AM The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
The largest orchestral presentation to date at the TCM CFF was this 2016 screening, with live orchestra and the UC of Berkely Alumni Chorus (under the direction of Dr. Mark Sumner) performing an original score by Richard Einhorn.
SUNDAY, APRIL 19
6:00 AM Jezebel (1938)
Presented at the 2017 TCM CFF.
7:45 AM The Set-Up (1949) )
Introduced at the 2018 TCM CFF introduced by Noir Alley host Eddie Muller and actor/filmmaker Malcom Mays, who did a live reading of the poem the film is based on.
9:00 AM Peter O’Toole, Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2012)
Recorded in front of a live audience, and part of a tribute to Peter O’Toole at the 2011 TCM CFF.
10:00 AM Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Screened as part of a tribute to Anne V. Coates, ACE, at the 2015 TCM CFF, with the Oscar-winning editor in attendance.
2:00 PM Red-Headed Woman (1932)
Presented at the introduced by film historian and author Cari Beauchamp at the 2017 TCM CFF.
3:30 PM Auntie Mame (1958)
Presented at the 2012 TCM CFF, introduced by Todd Oldham.
6:00 PM Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Presented three times to date at the TCM CFF, in 2010, 2012 and 2017 editions, with guests over the years including: Debbie Reynolds, Stanley Donen, and Todd Fisher and Ruta Lee.
8:00 PM Floyd Norman: An Animated Life (2016)
Floyd Norman was slated to be honored with a tribute at the 2020 TCM CFF.
9:45 PM The Hustler (1961)
The 2020 TCM CFF included a tribute to the actress Piper Laurie.
12:15 AM Baby Face (1933)
Longtime festival guest Bruce Goldstein intended to present a special presentation at the 2020 TCM CFF, about the censorship of the film and footage added back in decades later, to this popular pre-Code film.
1:45 AM Bardelys the Magnificent (1926)
Serge Bromberg was scheduled to present this recently restored silent with musical accompaniment at the 2020 TCM CFF.
3:30 AM Victor/Victoria (1982)
Julie Andrews was slated to attend the screening of this film, at the 2020 TCM CFF.

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Steven Spielberg and AFI Announce the AFI Movie Club for At-Home Fans

Posted on March 31, 2020 at 12:55 pm

The American Film Institute (AFI) announced today the launch of AFI Movie Club – a daily virtual gathering to leverage our collective love of film on behalf of optimism in this time of global uncertainty. AFI Trustee Steven Spielberg introduced the inaugural film, THE WIZARD OF OZ, in a video that reminds in a timely manner, “There’s no place like home.”

AFI – the authority on American film – will continue to select an iconic movie each day for the world to watch together, creating a communal viewing experience during these unprecedented times of social distancing. Other special guests will announce select AFI Movies of the Day in short videos posted on AFI.com and social media platforms. Audiences can “gather” at AFI.com/MovieClub to view the featured movie of the day with the use of their preexisting streaming services. The daily film selections will be supported by fun facts, family discussion points and exclusive material from the AFI Archive to enrich the viewing experience. Audiences can continue the conversation online using the hashtag #AFIMovieClub.

“AFI’s goal is to live in a world of art above anxiety,” said Bob Gazzale, President and CEO. “We’re honored to have Steven Spielberg, the greatest storyteller of our day, lead the way.”

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