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A girl is sent to live with her uncle on his estate when her parents die. There she discovers much intrigue, family history and secrets and personal baggage. In particular, a screaming child and...a secret garden.
Fred M. Wilcox
The life of a Norwegian immigrant family in 1910 San Francisco centers around Mama and her detailed, pennywise household budget. We follow the Hansens' small joys, sorrows, and aspirations, with the boisterous antics of Uncle Chris as counterpoint. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Most Of All..........................................
For her fifth and final Oscar nomination for Best Actress, Irene Dunne aged herself a might, took the Scandinavian accent from Loretta Young who won an Oscar the year before in The Farmer's Daughter and did a wonderful job in the lead role of I Remember Mama.
It'a hard to believe that this is the glamorous manager of Roberta's or Cary Grant's fashionable wife in The Awful Truth. But Ms. Dunne who made herself plain in order to be beautiful is that good an actress.
The film had a built in audience already. I Remember Mama had come off a highly successful two year run on Broadway of 713 performances with Mady Christians playing the lead. With one glorious exception, none of the Broadway original cast made it to the screen. That original cast included a man making his Broadway debut named Marlon Brando as Nels.
The play by John Van Druten is the dramatization of Kathryn Forbes's novel Mama's Bank Account. The film is narrated by Barbara Bel Geddes playing young Katarina and it's through her eyes we see the trials of a Norwegian immigrant family growing up in San Francisco, rebuilding after the earthquake.
Papa as played by Phillip Dorn is a kindly man and a good provider, but it's Irene Dunne's Mama who is the center of the Hansen family. She's a tower of stability in managing both the home and finances of a family just living on the edge.
Dunne's got three sisters who are quite the hoot in their visits and problems. The three are played by Hope Landin, Edith Evanson, and Ellen Corby. Corby as the timid sister who is finally getting married to the equally timid Edgar Bergen is very touching.
The one Broadway cast member who repeats his Broadway role is Oscar Homolka as the free-wheeling, bellowing, Uncle Chris. This may have been Oscar Homolka's career role, he steals the film in every scene that he's in. Dunne's sisters are scandalized by his behavior, he drinks and enjoys it and lives in 'sin' with Barbara O'Neil. Actually there's quite a bit more to Uncle Chris than meets the eye.
I Remember Mama got several Academy Award nominations, but did not come up a winner. Irene Dunne for Best Actress, losing to Jane Wyman for Johnny Belinda, Oscar Homolka for Best Supporting Actor, losing to Walter Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Barbara Bel Geddes and Ellen Corby both being nominated for Best Supporting Actress, but losing to Claire Trevor for Key Largo. I Remember Mama was also nominated for Best Black and White Cinematography.
Like that other long running Broadway play that Irene Dunne had filmed the year before, Life With Father, I Remember Mama found its audience in an America hearkening back to simpler times. This play and film had to have a special poignancy among Scandinavians remembering that in one way or another, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and even Iceland were all occupied countries one way or another.
George Stevens got such great performances from his whole cast. But most of all, you'll remember Irene Dunne as Mama.
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