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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
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Reviews & Ratings for
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn More at IMDbPro »

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24 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Genuinely moving, with a cast that could not be bettered.

Author: Greg Couture from Portland, Oregon
1 July 2003

This one breaks my heart every time I have seen it. Dorothy McGuire, Peggy Ann Garner, James Dunn, Joan Blondell and all the rest of the cast, without exception, under Elia Kazan's careful tutelage, render portraits that ring so true one is hard put to think of a film where such ensemble work has been surpassed. It is certainly an example of the Hollywood studio system, then in full flower, providing audiences with an experience that touches the emotions without a hint of sentimentality. Its restraint now seems like an artifact of days long gone, with so much current product catering to audiences who seem to demand nothing but mindless pablum and/or brutal sensation. I've never been able to confine myself to a "Ten Best" list of my own but "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" would definitely have a place on it should someone ask me to name such a small number of my all-time favorites.

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24 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

People will still be enjoying this movie 100 years from now

Author: Tom Hull from Merriam, Kansas
31 August 2000

I was not around in 1945 so I have no idea what was going on in the minds of the people who voted for what would be the five nominees for best picture of that year. Maybe this was just one of those movies that somehow didn't register right at first. Or maybe a movie about people living in poverty was not considered proper Oscar material. Anyway, I am sure there are millions today who agree with me that this is one of the great and beautiful movies of all time. The characters are so down to earth real and believable. Except maybe for the aforementioned poverty, you can identify with them and their situation and, therefore, you care about them. There are several very good and solid performances and then there is, of course, Peggy Ann Garner's performance; maybe the best ever by a juvenile in movie history. The most memorable scene for me is near the end, when the audience has just about forgotten about Papa, the director reminds us of him with the flowers and card found by Francie. I tell people who have not seen this movie that near the end there is a scene that will grab them around the throat. At least the voters saw fit to award Oscars to Peggy Ann and James Dunn.

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23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

The Best Movie Ever Produced

Author: cervantes1547 from United States
27 August 2007

I make it my business to watch a Tree Grows In Brooklyn at least once a month. It is the greatest movie ever produced. Peggy Ann Garner is an angel-until the day she passed away at the tender age of 52.She was perfect for the role of Francie.Her soft spoken voice and her story telling eyes made her an angel.Peggy is gone but her memory will live forever in her immortal movie A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Peggy had a very hard personal life but her proudest moment came when she received the Academy Award for the best child actress of 1945. That night she took her trophy to bed with her. Peggy died on October 16,1984 at the tender age of 52. To this day no one knows the location of her trophy. What a collectors item that is. I shall always keep Peggy's memory alive. She was, is and always will be my angel!

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23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:


Author: aimless-46 from Kentucky
23 April 2006

I was going to get on here and sing the praises of Peggy Ann Garner, but once I began reading the earlier comments further praise seemed unnecessary. I will mention that her earlier portrayal of young Jane Eyre is also quite extraordinary and showcases her skills almost as well as "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". Garner should remind contemporary film watchers a lot of Evan Rachel Wood, especially the way they bring a confident ferocity to their portrayals that is an extreme rarity in talented young actors.

Francie Nolan (Garner) is an imaginative but practical girl who lives with parents and younger brother in a Brooklyn tenement. She worships her father, Johnny (James Dunn), a dreamer with a drinking problem, who works as a singing waiter. She respects but increasingly resents her no nonsense mother, Katie (Dorothy McGuire), who is saddled with managing the family's precarious finances.

Fans of Betty Smith's book may take issue with the adaptation's failure to prominently feature the literal title character (i.e. the tree). The tree is a metaphor like the flowers in "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-moon Marigolds" and the trees in the film adaptation of "Speak".

But such is the nature of adaptations, which much pick and choose a limited number of story elements and communicate them as efficiently as possible. For example, watch early in the film for the two brief appearances of the sick little girl (Flossie Gaddis played by Susan Lester) who lives in a neighboring apartment. Flossie first appears to show off her new silk dress to Katie who is annoyed that Flossie's parents wasted money on such a frivolity, money that should have been saved so the child did not end up in a pauper's grave. But when Flossie shows it to Johnny, he immediately picks up on the parents' wisdom and instinctively makes comments that leave Flossie beaming with joy (while Katie scowls from the top of the stairs). The point being that this little micro story of about 50 seconds screen time communicates about 50 pages worth of narrative regarding the wildly divergent attitudes of the two adult Nolans.

Along these same lines is a later scene that begins and ends with Katie asking Francie for the time, emphasizing the passage of only two minutes. Sandwiched within this short interval are a host of revelations for Francie that dramatically change her world and her view of her mother's actions.

But "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is more than just a retelling of the ant and the grasshopper story, with a sympathetic nod to the grasshopper. It is about finding a balance between enjoying each day and living for the uncertain future. Young Francie is figuratively title character and can be expected to grow up with a nice mix of her mother's discipline/ practicality and her father's zest and imagination. That we buy into this happy ending is a testimonial to Garner's skill in convincing us that Francine has acquired this degree of multi- dimensionality.

"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is more complex than it first appears. The Nolans are an interesting family, with a lot of love for each other but a history of unfulfilled promises and recriminations that make it hard for them to accept tenderness from each other.

A lot of distance has grown up between mother and father and between mother and daughter. Even communication is complicated as Francie is often too round-about for her mother, who wants things more direct after years of marriage to the unreliable Johnny.

All in all this is an extraordinary film, a deserving contender for anyone's all time top ten list. Although most of the praise is for Dunn (Oscar) and Garner (Special Oscar), McGuire handles a difficult role quite well and even succeeds in evoking sympathy for a character who is very hard to like.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

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23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

A Great film superbly acted with a superb cast.

Author: (WishfulDreamer) from California
31 October 2004

I have been watching films on TV since I was a child in the 50's. Whether the film is black and white or in color is irrelevant, as far as I am concerned. Admittedly, color is nice for a ballroom scene, or showing stately grounds and lovely foliage. I have many videos in my collection, and most are black and white as I do prefer 30's and 40's films. I feel that the important thing to note is the content, credibility of the actors and their acting prowess supersedes all else. I would say this is true in this case. When I am interested in a film, I really do not care if there is color.

As a matter of fact, I have just ordered the video from Movies Unlimited. James Dunn, Dorothy McGuire, Peggy Ann Garner, Joan Blondell, etc. did a fine acting job. This is an overlooked gem I saw on TV in the 60's.

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23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Get out your hankies

Author: kinolieber
11 August 2001

I consider this film to be a masterpiece for several reasons: the performances, the direction (Kazan's first film!), the screenplay which depicts with great insight the triangular relationship of a charismatic but dysfunctional alcoholic with his favorite daughter and his increasingly estranged wife. But I go back to the film again and again because of its cathartic effect on me. It never fails to elicit a level of crying that no other film does. Obviously I am touched in some personal way by the situations, but the one time I saw this film in a theatre, it wasn't just me: there was a whole lotta weepin goin on! The last forty minutes of the film contain one emotional blow out after another. By the end, one is literally exhausted from the crying. And as I recall, Kazan does it without the use of music to enhance these scenes' effects.

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22 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Determined to break through the cement -- a Hollywood Gem!

Author: mdm-11 from United States
24 May 2005

"A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" is a rare example of the film-version measuring up to the high standards of the book. I read the book in High School, then got to see the film. The book was definitely a spellbinder, but to see it acted out was simply beautiful! It is the story of a young girl who lives with her alcoholic, perpetually unemployed father (whom she adores), her harsh, realistic mother, and her younger, naive brother in a run-down apartment building in Brooklyn ca. 1900. The family is poor, but the mother sees to it that their funeral insurance payments are always on time.

The father is a dreamer, and his daughter loves to dream. When he dies of alcohol related causes, the girl shows little emotion about the tragic loss. There are further complications, yet the story ends on a high note.

This is a wonderful story, told affectionately through the eyes of a girl who had to learn the rough lessons of life at an early age. This film is my all-time-favorite "sappy movie". Anyone who loves to grab a Kleenex while watching a movie should give this one a try. You won't be disappointed! Look for a young Joan Blondell, who is a sheer delight as the oft-married "black sheep" of the "respectable" family.

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22 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Simply Splendid!

Author: bestactor from USA
24 December 2003

This ranks as one of greatest family film dramas of all time. Meticulous period details to the production, Kazan's outstanding direction and flawless performances by the entire cast make this a sadly neglected masterpiece. It will probably be remade in the next few years into the usual pile of dreck that becomes most remakes. This classic deserves to be seen and embraced, not replaced!

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39 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

Peggy Ann: The Best

Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
27 December 2004

This is one of my top-five all-time favorite films which explains why there is nothing negative I can say about the movie, only the way its star was treated and the absence of a DVD of this (although it was recently released in Europe).

GOOD NEWS: 1 - This one of the greatest acting jobs by a child in the HISTORY of motion pictures. Peggy Ann Garner, as "Francie," was incredible. The adults may get top billing but Garner is the show here, start to finish. She is a real pro, not just with her lines but with her facial expressions. If this young girl doesn't bring a tear or two to your eyes, then get some counseling!! She was so impressive that she was given a special Academy Award for her performance: 2 - It''s a powerful story which is a big reason the book, by Betty Smith, has been a best-seller for almost 60 years. 3 - One of Hollywood's more likable guys, James Dunn, is perfect as Francie's father and who could criticize anything Dorothy McGuire did in this film? 4 - Joan Blondell also was a great choice to play the sassy Aunt Sissy. 5 - Ted Nolan is very funny as Francie's younger brother. Notice the kid is eating in almost every scene. He adds needed humor to the movie. He hardly gets a notice when people discuss this film, and that's unfortunate.

BAD NEWS: 1 - Hollywood ignored Garner's acting talent shortly after this film and ruined what could have been a tremendous acting career. 2 - Fox Studio Classics announced that this was finally going to be out on DVD on Feb. 22, 2005, and then yanked the disc at the last minute with no explanation. So, we are still waiting to see a better print of this in the United States, although the VHS versions are decent.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

one of the nicest movie ever made

Author: arun_singh300-1 from India
15 June 2009

the movie is unavailable in India,its not on either nor on many online stores,somehow found it on ebay ,a seller from Korea.

why its not given special treatment when its such a great classic,is a mystery,the movie screams for a commentary track.i hope its released with special features and commentary depicts in detail life and times during first half of 20 th century America.

the movie is crafted well and script is really good its engaging and depicts beautifully father daughter relationship.the little brother and sister are really good.

this is Elia Kazan's best movie,better than any other.its shameful how its ignored.

its the story of a young girl whose family is poor,her father is a waiter cum singer with a drinking problem.James Dunn is really great playing the father.his song on piano is really nice."Annie Laurie" and "Molly Malone" are two great songs from the movie.

Dorothy MC guire really shines in her starring role,she moves you like no one,you go on with her on here journey through life ups and downs,good moments and sad moments.her struggles and how she overcomes obstacles.

Joan Blondell and Peggy Ann garner are great too.Lloyd Nolan gives a gentleman performance.

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