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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn More at IMDbPro »

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Worth seeing more than once

Author: adsqueiroz from São Paulo, Brazil
28 April 2016

In the early 1900s, the Nolans, a poor Brooklyn tenement family, fight not only to survive, but also to improve their lives. The studious Francie worships her father, waiter and aspiring singer Johnny, despite him being an alcoholic and a pipe dreamer. With a strong temper, mother Katie holds the family together, including a flirtatious and impetuous aunt. Dorothy McGuire is a perfect mother who keeps her family together, but loses and regains some humanity in the process. She was an underrated actress in her time, always gave great performances. Peggy Ann Garner in one of the best child performances I have seen as an intelligent and caring daughter. What an incredible and moving film; made me cry many times while watching girl Francie reverencing her father and helping out her mother. A film worth seeing more than once.

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I Didn't Read the Novel

Author: gavin6942 from United States
11 March 2016

Encouraged by her idealistic if luckless father, a bright and imaginative young woman comes of age in a Brooklyn tenement during the early 1900s.

I didn't read the novel, so I guess I can't speak to how well they turned it into a movie. But I did see the movie and it is quite good, and deserved all the praise it got at the time it came out. (If IMDb is to be believed, it would be in the Top 250 right now if it just had more votes.) Is this what Brooklyn was like? If anything, Brooklyn was probably worse, as it was breeding all kinds of Irish, Jewish and Italian gangsters. None of that occurs in this film, which is unfortunate. (But not everyone grew up with the gangsters, I suppose.)

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well made sentimental melodrama

Author: SnoopyStyle
20 July 2015

Francie (Peggy Ann Garner) is a plucky streetwise teen living in the tough Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn with her brother Neeley, her hard working mom Katie Nolan (Dorothy McGuire) and her alcoholic lovable loser father Johnny Nolan (James Dunn). Katie's sister Sissy (Joan Blondell) is a sassy modern woman who is causing scandal with her third marriage and Katie cuts off contact with her. New beat cop Officer McShane is infatuated with Sissy. The landlord is cutting back a tree in the courtyard. Francie wants to go to a better school and her father needs to find a better paying job.

Peggy Ann Garner is a compelling child actress. She's really great in this. And Dorothy McGuire is a terrific lead. It's a touching sentimental melodrama and a good tear jerker. It's the first directorial feature of Elia Kazan. The writers took possibly unwieldy material and adapted it perfectly onto the big screen.

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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

Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
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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Moving, If a Bit Clumsy, Adaptation of Betty Smith Classic

Author: Scott Amundsen from Oneonta NY USA
11 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Possibly only a director with an eye for gritty reality like the great Elia Kazan could come up with a successful adaptation of Betty Smith's classic novel. With the help of screen writers Tess Slesinger and Frank Davis, with some additional dialogue by Anita Loos (uncredited), Kazan manages to capture the atmosphere of the time and the place; he also demonstrates his considerable skill with characterization. The result is a movie that in spite of considerable flaws has the same raw emotional power that has made the book such an essential.

The setting is the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn around the turn of the Twentieth Century. The original novel covered a period of about ten years in the lives of the Nolan family, which is the movie's first major gaffe: in having Peggy Ann Garner and Ted Donaldson play Francie and Neeley Nolan for the duration of the picture, he suspends the story in time and thus makes for a rather confusing adaptation of a book that spanned a decade and was about a young girl's coming of age.

Be that as it may, Peggy Ann Garner is luminous as Francie; Oscar-winner James Dunn turns in solid support as her beloved father Johnny, and Dorothy McGuire, a brilliant actress who never really received her due in Hollywood, is sensational as matriarch Katie Nolan, a woman who marries a man she is madly in love with only to discover he is a no-good drunk. He is not abusive or anything like that, it's just that married to Johnny, the twin burdens of the household duties and earning enough money to live on fall on Katie's shoulders.

This is a beautiful film. As an adaptation of the novel it fails in some key points (read it and you'll see), but overall it is a fine and moving piece of cinematic art, well-deserving of its status as an American classic.

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The best of 1945

Author: philipt1978 from United Kingdom
16 September 2010

Joan Blondell 2 points, Dorothy McGuire 1 point, Peggy Ann Garner 1 point, and thats before the film began! At the end of the film the points add up to 10! After the film began I fell in love with everyone in this film, the best honest emotion of the year and one of the best of the forties. Joan Blondell yet again stole another film as the woman with the heart of gold and proved she was Warner's biggest worker in the 1930s with good reason. No need to say too much as this film speaks for itself! And if you haven't seen it more fool you! The biggest complaint with this amazing film is some films become legends and so far this is far from it but as far as I am concerned this is one of the 40s biggest (legends) with some of the best performances I have ever seen! A tree grows in Brooklyn, a tear grows in my eye!

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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:

A respite movie from 1945 with a solid message

Author: Brian Wright from United States
3 March 2009

All right, so it's not much of a story, but it's told from the little girl Francie Nolan's (Peggy Ann Garner) point of view. To Francie, her father Johnny Nolan (James Dunn) can do no wrong—he clearly dotes on her above her younger brother—; he's always cheerful, always telling her how good she can be, always minimizing the hardships the family faces because he can't hold a steady job... due to the bottle. You can call him a cheerful drunk or a free and happy spirit. The title of the movie comes from his insistence to Francie that the only tree previously visible from the Nolan tenement (which was removed) will again sprout up through the concrete.


For my complete review of this movie and for other movie and book reviews, please visit my site

Brian Wright Copyright 2009

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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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