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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)

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

Director:

Elia Kazan

Writers:

Tess Slesinger (screen play), Frank Davis (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Dorothy McGuire ... Katie Nolan
Joan Blondell ... Aunt Sissy
James Dunn ... Johnny Nolan
Lloyd Nolan ... Officer McShane
James Gleason ... McGarrity
Ted Donaldson ... Neeley Nolan
Peggy Ann Garner ... Francie
Ruth Nelson ... Miss McDonough
John Alexander ... Steve Edwards
B.S. Pully B.S. Pully ... Christmas Tree Vendor
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Storyline

In Brooklyn circa 1900, the Nolans manage to enjoy life on pennies despite great poverty and Papa's alcoholism. We come to know these people well through big and little troubles: Aunt Sissy's scandalous succession of "husbands"; the removal of the one tree visible from their tenement; and young Francie's desire to transfer to a better school...if irresponsible Papa can get his act together. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Each heart-warming character comes alive on the screen! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for mild depiction of mature plot material | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

March 1945 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Lazos humanos See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Fred MacMurray campaigned for the role of Johnny Nolan and Alice Faye was at one time considered for Aunt Sissy. See more »

Goofs

When the girl is ironing, she never gets a hot iron off the stove; back then, said irons had to be heated from some heat source, usually the stove top. One was used while another was being heated, and then the person would switch when the one ironing got too cool to press the wrinkles out. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Katie Nolan: This'll be the last of them now, Francie.
See more »

Connections

Spoofed in A Hare Grows in Manhattan (1947) See more »

Soundtracks

London Bridge Is Falling Down
(uncredited)
Traditional
Performed by a children's chorus
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Brilliant
23 April 2006 | by aimless-46See all my reviews

I was going to get on here and sing the praises of Peggy Ann Garner, but once I began reading the earlier comments further praise seemed unnecessary. I will mention that her earlier portrayal of young Jane Eyre is also quite extraordinary and showcases her skills almost as well as "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". Garner should remind contemporary film watchers a lot of Evan Rachel Wood, especially the way they bring a confident ferocity to their portrayals that is an extreme rarity in talented young actors.

Francie Nolan (Garner) is an imaginative but practical girl who lives with parents and younger brother in a Brooklyn tenement. She worships her father, Johnny (James Dunn), a dreamer with a drinking problem, who works as a singing waiter. She respects but increasingly resents her no nonsense mother, Katie (Dorothy McGuire), who is saddled with managing the family's precarious finances.

Fans of Betty Smith's book may take issue with the adaptation's failure to prominently feature the literal title character (i.e. the tree). The tree is a metaphor like the flowers in "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-moon Marigolds" and the trees in the film adaptation of "Speak".

But such is the nature of adaptations, which much pick and choose a limited number of story elements and communicate them as efficiently as possible. For example, watch early in the film for the two brief appearances of the sick little girl (Flossie Gaddis played by Susan Lester) who lives in a neighboring apartment. Flossie first appears to show off her new silk dress to Katie who is annoyed that Flossie's parents wasted money on such a frivolity, money that should have been saved so the child did not end up in a pauper's grave. But when Flossie shows it to Johnny, he immediately picks up on the parents' wisdom and instinctively makes comments that leave Flossie beaming with joy (while Katie scowls from the top of the stairs). The point being that this little micro story of about 50 seconds screen time communicates about 50 pages worth of narrative regarding the wildly divergent attitudes of the two adult Nolans.

Along these same lines is a later scene that begins and ends with Katie asking Francie for the time, emphasizing the passage of only two minutes. Sandwiched within this short interval are a host of revelations for Francie that dramatically change her world and her view of her mother's actions.

But "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is more than just a retelling of the ant and the grasshopper story, with a sympathetic nod to the grasshopper. It is about finding a balance between enjoying each day and living for the uncertain future. Young Francie is figuratively title character and can be expected to grow up with a nice mix of her mother's discipline/ practicality and her father's zest and imagination. That we buy into this happy ending is a testimonial to Garner's skill in convincing us that Francine has acquired this degree of multi- dimensionality.

"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is more complex than it first appears. The Nolans are an interesting family, with a lot of love for each other but a history of unfulfilled promises and recriminations that make it hard for them to accept tenderness from each other.

A lot of distance has grown up between mother and father and between mother and daughter. Even communication is complicated as Francie is often too round-about for her mother, who wants things more direct after years of marriage to the unreliable Johnny.

All in all this is an extraordinary film, a deserving contender for anyone's all time top ten list. Although most of the praise is for Dunn (Oscar) and Garner (Special Oscar), McGuire handles a difficult role quite well and even succeeds in evoking sympathy for a character who is very hard to like.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.


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