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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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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Two superb performances

9/10
Author: paur46 from United States
23 May 2001

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.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A family classic

8/10
Author: Elizabeth (endofroad2@aol.com) from NY
24 July 2000

"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 alcoholism.

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!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Kazan's a genius

Author: Robert D. Ruplenas
12 October 1999

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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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A wonderful story of the love of a daughter for her father.

Author: dugfowlr from Statesboro, Georgia
14 March 1999

This is my favorite movie of all time, since I first saw it in 1945 at age 13. I could identify fully with the heartache of having an alcoholic father, and with the poverty of the Nolan family. I think that James Dunn was far too old for his part, but he nevertheless gave a great performance. Peggy Ann Garner as Francie was truly superb. I loved the realism of the scenes of what urban life used to be like. Betty McDonald wrote several other books, but none reaching the level of this one, and Elia Kazan did a wonderful job of directing.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Where's the DVD of this fine film?

10/10
Author: Doug Deuchler (deuchler@sbcglobal.net) from Chicago
13 August 2008

The film "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is one of the finest pictures to come out of the late World War II period. There was a gnawing need for nostalgia at that time. "The boys" were overseas, the war had been dragging on for over four years, and people needed to see strong characters and have a warm-hearted family drama pick up their spirits. The message was "you can make it through this---this too shall pass." At glossy MGM they created a Technicolor "Meet Me In St. Louis." But at Fox they gave newcomer Elia Kazan his chance to make it big with what had been a popular bestseller several years running. Set in 1912, the story portrays the immigrant experience, of which Kazan was personally familiar. The performances are dynamite. Dorothy McGuire is so young but she nails Katie Nolan in what I think is McGuire's best performance. And who else but Peggy Ann Garner could play Francie? Though many are critical that the book gets short-changed, I find it amazing that Kazan was able to slip so much detail into his film. It's brimming with period charm and the glow of actual old memories. Yes, they were deeply, relentlessly poor. But you see how families struggled together---like when the grandma and aunt come to deliver the baby. They couldn't afford a midwife. Joan Blondell is great, too. But why does Sissy in the film call all her men "Bill"? In the book it's John, I think. Is it too close to a whore's "john" or too close to Johnny, Francie's dad?

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Must See, For Everyone! A Cinematic Family Album of the Irish in America!

10/10
Author: John T. Ryan (redryan64@hotmail.com) from United States
9 July 2007

This film must be one classified as serious. It certainly cannot be viewed casually. Get in a good serious, no nonsense, no interruptions mood and situation. Take your telephone off the hook. Make sure that no one knows that you are home. Now, watch, absorb, laugh, cry and totally enjoy this most exceptional drama.

The Brooklyn of the film is one that has long since vanished, or has it? Of course the physical appearance of MOST everywhere do change, slowly, almost imperceptible to the naked eye. The one thing in life that is constant is change.

And yet, I can take you to a few places right here in Chicago, that have houses (frame ones at that)that are still being lived in by members of the same family since ca. 1880. You know what I mean. You know places in your neck of the woods like it. So it must also be in Brooklyn.

The performances elicited by Director, Mr. Elia Kazan, are all right on. Johnny Nolan (James Dunn) is properly disconnected from reality, just enough. He has learned to "roll with the punches" by doing so. His potential is obviously something in life much higher and more complex. He loves his wife and family more than anything, more than life itself. He is a text book case of the incurable romantic. He always strives to see the beauty in the world-even to the point of fantasizing.

Katie Nolan (Dorothy McGuire) is beautiful, proud, strong and loves her husband and family just as strongly as does husband, Johnny. Katie has her feet on the ground. Any aspirations of hers are now strictly for her children.

Sissy Edwards (Joan Blondell) the 'free spirited' sister of Katie, who is so very close to the family as an aunt could be. Forall of her 'freedom', she really wishes to be in a family situation more like Katie's. By the way, Miss Joan Blondell displays a degree of acting ability that may not always be attributed to her. It was the good roll and it obviously gave her the opportunity to 'show her stuff'.

Officer McShane, the Beat Cop (Lloyd Nolan) also seems to be cast somewhat against type. He of course had portrayed cops before, but those were in a far different type of fare, being truly 'crime dramas' or 'detective stories'. In this story, Mr. Nolan gets to hit the other points of being a Policeman. Instead of being hard boiled, hard nosed, hard hearted and heavy handed, he has to use other skills and practical psychology in handling neighborhood problems.

Young Francie Nolan (Miss Peggy Ann Garner) displayed such talent and maturity in her portrayal as to rival those traits in her character. Francie is a young lady who is mature beyond her years. She has witnessed her alcoholic Father is frequently seen coming home "sick", the term that Mother prefers.

Of all the rest of the cast, who did a fine job, both solely and collectively, we must make mention of James Gleason who turns in his usual fine job as Garrity, the Saloon Keeper.

The film throughout has the advantage of a finely planned use of lighting and sets to represent dark, cold winter days in Brooklyn. Construction of the sets and the large numbers of people milling about, making a picture of a claustrophobic, chaotic street scene.

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN "hits for the cycle"(to borrow a Baseball Term*)in touching all the 'bases' of emotion. It is sad, yet joyful. It is gloriously triumphant at times, yet down in the dumps, all at about the same time. Father is a failure in some eyes and yet, he has an answer for the depressing daily developments.

On a personal note, the story acts as a chronicle of one particular Ethnic Group. In this case, it's the Irish, of which this writer is a member, at least partially (Pop was Irish, Ma is still living and a now 90 year old German girl). I personally love the sort of film that gives a portrayal of the hardships endured and conquered by the various groups of Ethnic Immigrants.

Today we have a lot of Political Pundits and Public Officals , who are generally of the Political Left, who feel compelled to preach to members of certain 'minorities' that they can only gain even footing in the USA by voting for Big Government, Big Federal Entitlements and Big Taxes.

If any of our Minorities, or "People of Color" who are now "on the bottom rung of the ladder" think that those Ethnic Groups of peoples that came before them had it any easier, think again.

Just ask your neighbors of Polish, Irish, Italian,Jewish, Lithuanian, Chinese, Russian, Japanese,German,Slovak, Fillipino, Chech, Norweigin, Sweedish,Croation, etc.descent Ask them about the struggles of their people.

Thank God for films like this A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. They remind us of the hardships of the immigrants in the New World. Lord, how bad they must have had it in "the Old Country"!!

* "Hitting for the Cycle" is a Baseball term for referring to a Ballplayer's hitting a Single, a Double, a Triple and a Home Run, all in the same game. The hits may be in any order.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Elia Kazan's directorial debut...heartfelt performances...

8/10
Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
1 December 2006

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN is a tender, faithful translation to the screen of Betty Smith's popular best-seller about the growing pains of a girl (PEGGY ANN GARNER) and her little brother (TED DONALDSON), both of them struggling to rise above their environment in a squalid Brooklyn slum.

Attention to detail is obvious in every scene of this amazingly touching film, so full of splendid performances. DOROTHY McGUIRE is the somewhat embittered mother, Katy Nolan, who has to deal with the practical side of things while her alcoholic, pipe-dreamer husband (JAMES DUNN), charms the children with his impossible dreams and fancies and won an Oscar for his "comeback" performance. JOAN BLONDELL gives one of her best performances as the earthy Aunt Sissy (a role once slated for Alice Faye), and LLOYD NOLAN is touching as the Irish policeman who takes an interest in the Nolan family.

The Brooklyn environment is correct in every detail so that it never looks like a film made entirely on the soundstages at Fox--and the atmosphere is perfect for the scene where Francie takes care of her mother during a pregnancy, waiting on a rainy day for her aunt and grandmother's assistance.

It never becomes too sentimental, although it does come perilously close in those final scenes--but the performance of PEGGY ANN GARNER as "the tree" who grows up amid hardship and deprivation, is so genuine that she manages to overcome any criticisms on that point.

Readers of the book will not be disappointed.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

a truly beautiful movie!

10/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
12 June 2005

This is one of the best movies of the 1940s and is pretty much forgotten today. It is a movie about the life of a young girl in a Brooklyn tenement. Her family is very poor--mostly due to her father being a hopeless alcoholic dreamer. In spite of this, the movie is NOT a downer or hard to watch, though you might shed a tear or two when you watch it. Instead, it centers on characterizations--meaning good writing and good acting! James Dunn as the alcoholic dad did a great job, but the children in the movie also deserve accolades for acting like children--not Hollywood versions of kids! As I have mentioned in some other reviews, I often HATE child actors but I am quick to point it out when they do a credible job.

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Mom to daughter: 'Ask for round steak, chopped, ten cents worth.'

Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
27 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It was the early 1900s in Brooklyn. Many families crowded together in tenement buildings, poor families that barely made ends meet, but always paid the monthly ten cents to the man who sold funeral insurance. Life expectancy wasn't real long. An extra penny here and there meant something.

This movie has special appeal to me, it came out in 1945, the year I was born. Shot in glorious black and white, the cinematography is excellent. The title is a reference to a tree growing in a courtyard, seemingly out of the concrete. The young daughter laments that it is being cut down, but dad says it won't die, it will grow back. It is also a metaphor for life, for getting back up after you have been knocked down.

Beautiful Dorothy McGuire, in her 20s here, is the mom, Katie Nolan. She is a severe mom, hardly ever smiling, because she knows how difficult it is to keep the family in home and fed.

Joan Blondell is her sister, the good, fun-loving aunt, Sissy, who is at one point banned from the family, but later returns to help the healing.

Winning an Academy Award for supporting actor was James Dunn as the father, Johnny Nolan, who calls himself a singing waiter but often drinks too much, and never seems to deliver the goods for the family. He is a "pipe dreamer", always talking about what is going to happen, without a plan to make it happen.

The real star is young (12) Peggy Ann Garner as the daughter, Francie. She is smart, reads a lot, and works hard to help the family. She adores her dad, it is clear that he has the greatest influence on her.

This is a really good movie, about family, how things become trials, and how they are able to overcome them.

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The Seeds of Hope

9/10
Author: wes-connors from Earth
14 July 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the early 1900s, working class Brooklyn streets bustle with poor residents aching to earn a living. Spunky 13-year-old Peggy Ann Garner (as Francie Nolan) and her continuously hungry 12-year-old brother Ted Donaldson (as Neeley) collect enough rags to raise nine cents. The money goes to help the kids' struggling family. Penny-pinching mother Dorothy McGuire (as Katie) is a scrub-woman. Sporadically employed father James Dunn (as Johnny) is a singing waiter. Although he is not abusive or violent, Mr. Dunn is a hopeless alcoholic. Still, he has a charming relationship with Garner, encouraging her to hope and dream...

When Garner notices a favorite tree is being cut down, Dunn assures his daughter the tree will grow back. Early in a series of episodic events, the family learns free-spirited aunt Joan Blondell (as Sissy) has married again. Her sister's multiple-marriages and her husband's drunkenness cause Ms. McGuire concern. Keeping both children in school becomes difficult. Although it involves fibbing about their residence, Dunn enrolls Garner in a finer school. As you might expect, she decides to become a writer. Soon, the family must move into smaller quarters. Their living situation becomes more unmanageable. Then, mother McGuire finds herself expecting...

Based on a Betty Smith's classic novel, and guided superbly by first-time feature film director Elia Kazan, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" transplants itself to the screen in extraordinary style. The Twentieth Century-Fox production team makes the picture artfully squalid. As the young heroine, Garner received much praise; she won "Film Daily" and "Oscar" awards for juvenile acting. Separating performers under 18 years of age is not done much anymore, sadly. Additionally, Dunn won an "Academy Award" for his kindly alcoholic father. In the "New York Film Critics" poll, Garner (#4) and Dunn (#8) did well in the lead categories...

Watching the film today, one is equally struck by the performance of mother McGuire, relatively ignored by those giving out acting awards at the time. The focus is clearly on daughter Garner - but the central relationship and conflict is not between father and daughter; it's between mother and daughter. McGuire and Garner have an unspoken struggle which culminates in an cathartic scene, with mother lying perilously close to death, late in pregnancy. Garner blames McGuire for all the world's ills, including Dunn's alcoholism. It's a war between fantasy and reality, optimism and pessimism, hope and fear...

When mother and daughter come to terms with each other, Garner's "Francie" can grow inside and out.

********* A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (2/28/45) Elia Kazan ~ Peggy Ann Garner, Dorothy McGuire, James Dunn, Joan Blondell

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