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|Index||78 reviews in total|
Betty Smith's acclaimed 1940s novel is given a memorable and enduring
treatment by director Elia Kazan on his debut. The film works so well
for an audience today, despite being rooted in a very specific time and
place -- pre-war Brooklyn -- because its real concerns are universal.
The contest or contrast between a dreamy, charming, alcoholic husband,
who makes others feel good about life, and a practical mother, who runs
the family and makes herself less attractive to others in her
relentless pursuit of a decent living, could be transposed to any
culture, any time. The cast are faultless. The mother, Dorothy McGuire
(who Kazan apparently thought might be too refined for the part) is
excellent as Mrs Catherine Nolan. She understands the role intimately
and gets the acquired 'hardness' of the woman, determined to lift up
her family's fortunes, just right. James Dunn picked up an Oscar for
his performance as her husband. Who could deny him? He is totally
believable in the part. Both children are excellent: in a sense they
are at the core of the story (almost all the outdoor action
concentrates on them) and the actors carry the story with charm and
humour. There are a handful of films about family life lived at the
fringes of poverty which, by striking a balance between joy and pain,
have retained lasting value. This is one of them.
The Korean-made DVD provides a good image and sound from an unrestored but clean copy of the film. The liner notes are in English and there is a full suite of subtitles, if you need them. A good product.
Yes, this movie is over-sentimental and wears all its earnestness (and its many messages) plainly on its sleeve. But I'm such an ol' softie that it got right to me. I loved watching this family of flawed characters, with a richness and complexity that was just beginning to take shape in Hollywood films. The story sometimes creeps up to the brink of romanticizing poverty, and each time undercuts it with harsh reality or bitterness. These aren't merely simple people finding simple joy in the simple things... they make do, but they ache from want. And it's also a movie about decency, and how it comes easier to some than others. I thought the cast was wonderful, even the little boy never gets horribly obnoxious. They aren't necessarily great actors, but their performances are very endearing even in their darkest moments. A lovely and heartbreaking film that choked me up more than once, a fantastic first effort for Kazan.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on a tremendously detailed novel by Betty Smith in which she recounts her experiences growing up poor in the title borough, this beautifully realized film contains strong performances and direction. Garner plays the imaginative, but fiscally challenged, young girl who strives to make a difference with her life despite various hurdles. Her mother McGuire works on her hands and knees in their apartment building, trying to scrape together a few extra pennies to make ends meet. Her father Dunn is a singing waiter whose jobs are few and far between. He passes part of his time drinking away the family funds, desperately resigned to his fate yet dreaming of something better, if not for himself than for Garner. Donaldson plays Garner's eternally hungry younger brother while Blondell is McGuire's flirty, much-married sister. A person would have to look long and hard to locate a child performance (particularly a dramatic one) that equals or exceeds that of Garner here. Her face reflects all the hardships and the little triumphs with a radiance that is unforgettable. Not only is she not "cute" in the traditional Hollywood way, but she also avoids many of the mannered pitfalls that other kid actors might have slid into. It's a stunning piece of work and she was appropriately rewarded with a special Oscar. It's odd to see the usually erudite and refined McGuire using poor grammar and playing someone rather simple in her ambitions, but she acquits herself well. There's an earthiness and dignity in her performance that makes one sympathize with her plight, even when her character says and does things that are hard to accept. Dunn, a man who had his own set of personal issues away from the camera, emerged briefly from career oblivion to deliver a sensitive and poignant portrayal that won him an Oscar as well. His final moment on screen is memorably haunting. Adding some welcome spice, humor and even glamour to the proceedings is Blondell in a role so endearing and heartfelt it can't help but create new fans of her work out of any viewer. Nolan appears as a kindly local policeman. This had the potential of becoming an oppressive, downbeat story with depressing elements, but thanks to deft direction, wonderful performances and a solid script, it is instead an uplifting and inspiring story. The creators wisely allowed many amusing moments to shine amongst the darker aspects of the material. Among the memorable moments throughout are Garner and Donaldson planning to acquire a Christmas tree, Garner and her teacher Nelson discussing the fate of a small pie, Garner keeping McGuire company as McGuire endures a medical emergency and Blondell instructing Garner to check her school desk before leaving for graduation. One thing that does seem odd is that the family is so insistent upon keeping up with their insurance and yet, once it is needed, they don't seem to have been compensated accordingly (yet they later come off as being better off financially. But how?) Still, any quibble regarding small bits of the story are more than made up for in the end result. It's a special, evocative and compelling motion picture that anyone should see.
"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (1945): Elia Kazan's directorial debut, which garnered two Oscars. I think of this film as in the same category as "It's a Wonderful Life", although "A Tree " has a slight stage play feel to it. Neither stories or the characters are the same, but they ARE "cousins" to one another, and BOTH are worth multiple viewings as a way to get your dose of reminders about what is most important in life. We have our duties and our jobs, no one has the same set, and we signed on for them. We have people and places we love, and it's too easy to take them for granted or focus on their "blemishes". "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is as emotionally powerful, funny, tender, and sad as "It's a Wonderful Life". If you like/love one, you WILL like/love the other, and never fear: one will NOT REPLACE the other. You'll be very glad they BOTH exist.
Elia Kazan is one of my favourite directors and is one of all time
greats in film making in the history of Hollywood. this is his second
film and i'm so glad i saw it. most of us know Kazan's great films,
like "a st. car named desire" or "on the water front", but this film
should also be considered as a great work. the difference is that "a
tree.." was made prior to the Hollywood ten event and at first look
does not seem as a protest. but if you look carefully you can already
see the leftist political background of Kazan. the movie portrays the
hard life of a poor family in Brooklyn and focuses on the eldest
daughter who wants to become a writer. the child is played by Dorothy
McGuire and is one of the best performances i have ever seen made by a
child. she is really moving. the film creates an atmosphere that on one
hand reminds us why classic Hollywood cinema is so wonderful but on the
other hand, Kazan manages to criticize the "american spirit", that of
self confidence and everlasting hope for future success.
all the actors in this film are wonderful and Kazan's direction is strong and delicate. he really loves these characters. the only thing about this film that makes it a little inconsistent to the realism it strives to portray is the ending, but if you did not see it then do it now. get ready for a great emotional experience.
I thought that this movie was done quite well, except there were some VERY important things that were in the book that were not included in the movie. I do not want to give these things away so.... I suggest that you read the book AND see the movie (preferably in that order). You are truly missing out on the whole story of Francie Nolan's life if you only see the movie
My second favorite movie of all time.
Dorothy McGuire is so really good, and the rest of the cast from top to bottom is nearly as perfect. The movie, like the book, revolves around McGuire's incredible performance. James Dunn deservedly won best actor for the best performance of his career. Ovedrall, the direction is marvelous. The feel of Brooklyn in the early 1900's is replicated flawlessly. The amazing thing is that the most ordinary details are captured perfectly but without undue embellishment. Moreover,the difficult and embarrassing situations are portrayed realistically. This is one of the only Hollywood movies that was about honest sentiment without being overly sentimental.
This is a wonderful and touching story. I was struck by the performances of James Dunn and Peggy Ann Garner. Dunn is very good as the father, and reading a brief biographical sketch, it is interesting to see how his life at that time was similar in significant ways to the character. Peggy Ann Garner gives the most incredible performance I have ever seen by a juvenile. It would be worth the price of admission many times over. I highly recommend this film.
"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is a warm and sweet tear-jerker. It's a beautiful
story of a young girl and her family who live in a tenement in the early
20th century. The girl, Francie, adores her dreamer father, Johnny.
Francie's mother, Katie, is always frustrated because they never have any
money, especially since Johnny uses most of what he makes to cater to his
This movie features magnificent performances from Dorothy McGuire, Joan Blondell, Lloyd Nolan, and James Dunn, who won an Oscar for his performance as Johnny. But I think it's child star Peggy Ann Garner who really makes this movie special. Her performance as Francie Nolan is heart-warming and touching, and shows true maturity beyond her years. It's a movie you'll want to see again and again. I definitely recommend it!
This beautiful story has not a nasty or mean-spirited person in it, though there is plenty of conflict, tension, and human drama, arising from the grinding poverty and the human failings of the well-intentioned people involved. Kazan's genius is shown by the way in which he absolutely draws us into this tale and makes us care deeply for everyone in it. There is much here that touches me personally, as the story has many echos of my own father's childhood in South Boston. In the end, the movie is a statement of the triumph of the spirit, and we leave feeling uplifted, a feeling we get all too rarely in movies of this post-modern and ironic age. This movie deserves its place as one of the all-time great movies, and Kazan deserves a place as one of the greatest directors.
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