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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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One of my all time favorites

Author: risaacs from California, USA
17 September 2001

This film is one of my all time favorites. Along with "How Green Was My Valley" it's one that always brings a tear no matter how many times I view it. The entire cast was superb. I disagree with comments that James Dunn was too old. He was just 40 at the time 13 years older than Dorothy Mcguire. Lolyd Nolan was 43 and Joan Blondell 39. The part where he sings "Annie Laurie" showing all the mixed emotions of love and hurt in his face and voice is extremely touching and reveals his frustrations. Great acting!

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Hollywood Compromises a Classic

Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
29 October 2012

A maddening movie. So well cast, acted, and mounted, with a theme Hollywood never had much time for—urban poverty. Here we get a good view of chaotic street scenes where urchins like Katie (Garner) and Neeley (Donaldson) scramble for dimes amid a struggle of the quickest. Meanwhile, long-suffering mom (McGuire) tries holding things together with odd jobs while alcoholic dad (Dunn) weaves poetic pipe-dreams to make things bearable. The trouble is Mom's getting hardened by sacrifice, at the same time, happy thoughts can't deliver Dad from the alcoholic world he lives in.

But most compelling is Katie, superbly played by the poignant young Garner, surely an inspirational piece of casting. Unfortunately, Katie's feeling a writing talent, but one that will surely be thwarted by the family's dire circumstances. After all, what chance does she have to grow artistically amid such stunting surroundings. Had actress Garner been the typical cutesy Hollywood teen or shown any show-biz ego, the film would lose this touching center. Instead, Katie's a plain-looking stick of a girl with no outward sign of anything exceptional. Rather, it's what we don't see in such an average looking girl that's so compelling, as she struggles to find herself despite the adversities. All in all, she's like the story's central metaphor—the scrawny tree pushing up against uncaring city cement.

At times, the movie tends to be frenetic in its hurried comings and goings, along with the rapidfire dialogue. It's almost like director Kazan is racing against a clock. Still there are many sensitive scenes, unsurprising for a storied director like Kazan. My overriding gripe, however, is with the huge concessions at the end that undercut what should have been a remarkably memorable movie. Instead of a gritty tale of urban struggle and hope, we get a typical Hollywood series of neat and tidy happy endings that seem to say that despite the excellence of what's gone before, this really is just another Hollywood movie. In a lesser film, such could be shrugged off. Here, however, it's a capitulation of a high order.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The flawless movie

Author: badgersdrift from United States
10 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The novel should be on the very short list of Great American Novels and the movie comes closer to doing justice to a great book than any movie I know of.

The reviewer Leonard Maltin has said it all: "Perfect in every detail".

Peggy Ann Garner defies description. Not one false note, not one hint of "acting". She IS Francie Nolan. I think she must have been an amazingly intelligent child. I must read up on her later life. (Maybe it was her intelligence that made her decide she was not the Hollywood type :o)

No one else has mentioned two of my favorite scenes: the ritual family reading of Shakespeare and the immigrant grandmother's comment about the importance of reading, and the very last scene in the family apartment after Francie's graduation, when Lloyd Nolan comes to call.

I hope the movie will lead everyone who loves it to read the magnificent book for "the rest of the story".

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

My all-time best movie

Author: alli_katz from Bronxville, NY
1 June 2001

I've watched this movie 20 times at least, and keep coming back for more, even though it always makes me cry a lot. The actress who plays the mother is just fantastic, and the one playing the daughter is even better. When I watch it, I really feel like I am in Brooklyn a hundred years ago, and it seems so real. The guy who plays the drunk father is really, really good too. My favorite scene is when the main girl and her younger brother, Neeley, are trying to hold onto the Christmas tree being thrown at them so they can get a tree for free. It is so touching, but then so is the whole movie. I just love it.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

One of the Greatest of All Movies

Author: jacksflicks from Hollywood
27 April 2001

The fatuousness of today's moviegoer is reflected in the bias against black and white films and films made in any generation preceding this one. How else to explain why films like "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" don't find their way into the Top 250 list? How else to explain why this Elia Kazan masterpiece gets only 7.6 rating?

It's easy to see why critics are torn about Elia Kazan. On one hand he "named names" during the McCarthy era; on the other, his body of work is so distinguished that even his detractors must give the devil his due.

How does one make a story about a little girl growing up poor in Brooklyn with her little brother, her lovable, feckless, alcoholic daddy and her desperately conscientious but humorless mother, without resorting to bathos? It's a tightrope I don't think Capra could manage. Imagining Margaret O'Brien as the little girl makes me cringe. Instead, Kazan chose Peggy Ann Garner, who doesn't hit a false note. Same with James Dunn, who won an Oscar for his "daddy." And Dorothy McGuire, as the mother, who succeeds in the difficult job of gaining sympathy for an unsympathetic character.

The ending is bitter-sweet and without melodrama, so that what hits you finally is not the climax but the totality of the story. Whatever we might think about Elia Kazan the "snitch," we can't deny that he is one of the greatest of all directors and that "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is his quiet masterpiece.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Whimsical, tyrannical mother tortures husband and daughter in a high-rise Brooklyn flat

Author: Chris Burin from Bath, England
24 March 2004

Well, that's one take on it. Dorothy McGuire is superb as the hardened mother who wants the best for her children, but doesn't know quite how to achieve it. It is only after her husband's death that she shows how jealous she is that her daughter always got on better with her husband than she did, although her burgeoning relationship with her daughter seems slightly implausible given her inability to reverse the process of "coldness" which has overtaken her, before this. Kazan's direction is excellent, making great use of the pathetic fallacy, in particular with the rain towards the end of the film. The lack of music in the bed scene is compensated for by alternate medium close-ups of the mother and daughter, as the mother turns, for the first time, to her daughter. Peggy Ann Garner is good as Francie, though she falls just the right side of hysteria at some points. Joan Blondell is good too, if a touch too affected.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Garnering Bouquets

Author: writers_reign
27 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For some reason I always thought there'd be something depressing about this movie, it was, after all, I knew from reading about it, mostly about deadbeats and no-hopers and set around 1900 which is far from my favorite period of history. Then I stumbled on the DVD at a giveaway price and largely on the strength of it being Gadg's first movie as a director I bought it. Revelation. It is, as so many have noted here on IMDb, totally charming, nostalgic and laced with wonderful performances not least from Peggy Ann Garner - who receives ridiculously low billing - who is the heart of the movie (hardly surprising as everything is seen through her eyes just as she narrated the novel by Betty Smith) and a real, beating heart that propels it forward. Dorothy McGuire, James Dunn, Joan Blondell all weigh in with magnificent support making it a real ensemble piece. Definitely one to watch again.

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2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Pendling between masterpiece and over-sentimental Hollywood drama

Author: Daniel Karlsson from Sweden
4 December 2003

I first became greatly disappointed by this movie, since I had expected a masterpiece in the same league as On the Waterfront. This is basically a 1930-1950 Hollywood picture, with characteristicly annoying things like over-paced acting, over-sentimental approach (like the audience were children) and obvious studio recording. Besides these flaws, it's a pretty good film, some good dialog, interesting characters. You could say it's possible to spot a great film-maker behind layers of over-sentimentalism and, according to me, bad, or at least unrealistic, acting.

7.0 / 10.0

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4 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Is It Just Me?

Author: lpersons-2 from United States
9 February 2009

I watched this movie for the first time last evening and wanted to see what made this an Oscar winner.... After watching the movie, I am dumbfounded. I saw an average movie, with average acting at best. At points the acting bordered on amateurish. I began thinking that Francie had some real mental issues. And the brothers character was horridly acted, probably miscast, wrong accent, etc.... That being said, I did enjoy the scenes sets, seeing how modestly the people lived, how they dressed, etc. As for it being a good movie for families, I am not so sure. Showing an alcoholic as a good character, someone who lies to get their child into a different school, is not my idea of family values and the coldness of the mother leaves much to be desired. I also thought that the mothers general attitude toward Francie was not healthy and bordered on usury. All in all an average movie, one that should be seen.

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