A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) Poster

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10/10
Bleak, tear-stained turn-of-the-century drama focusing on the hard knocks of tenement living offset by brilliant direction and radiant performances; an absolute must.
gbrumburgh-110 November 2001
All one needs to view this 1945 near-masterpiece is an appreciation for brilliant film-making. I assure you, you will lose yourself completely in the story of the Nolan family, a humble, impoverished Irish-American family holding on by mere threads in 1900 New York. Director Elia Kazan's first film experience is often overlooked by his magnificent cinematic efforts in years to come (`A Streetcar Named Desire' and `East of Eden'), which is hardly fair. So much heart has gone into this emotional piece of Americana –- notably its flawless attention to detail and its ultra-sensitive, Oscar-nominated screenplay -- that it deserves equal attention. Superb in every aspect.

`A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,' from Betty Smith's poignant novel, is able to capture the essence of the author's words not only because of its trenchant

writing, but because of three remarkable, beautifully-realized performances. Peggy Ann Garner offers one of the most astonishing child performances ever, finding the very spirit of this 12-year-old child going on 21. Blessed with one of the most expressive faces witnessed on camera, her eyes are sheer poetry and alone speak volumes as Francie, a young girl devoted to her ailing, debilitating father and brutally distant from an unnurturing mother she partially blames. It is such a complete performance. Her steadfast growth in this film is beautiful to observe as she begins to spread her branches and assume her rightful place in life sooner than expected. Garner is simply unforgettable.

James Dunn, as Jimmy Nolan, leaves an indelible impression as the amiably charming ne'er-do-well, a solitary dreamer who has frittered his life away, as well as his family's money. Despite the cruelties of his actions, your heart aches for this man. His touching scenes with daughter Francie reveal his innate goodness and its heart-wrenching to watch him dissolve before your very eyes. Even a treasured bond with his idolizing daughter isn't enough for him to fight hard enough to forego the liquor bottle and regain his place at the head of the table. It is an unbearably sad decline, one that haunts you long after the picture is over. Both Dunn and little Peggy Ann would never find movie roles like these again, and earned well-deserved Oscars (Peggy actually copped a 'special juvenile' award) for their work here.

In an exceptionally careful and astute performance, Dorothy McGuire plays the necessary heavy here, the taciturn, seemingly cold-hearted matriarch Katie Nolan, who is also this family's hope and salvation. Unable to trust her husband or afford him the time and patience he desperately needs, she has ultimately abandoned her love for him out of necessity, what with two children and a third on the way, and no viable means to support them. Ms. McGuire, in a career best performance, serves up a somber, beautifully restrained portrait of a flawed, modest, uneducated, somewhat ignoble woman handling life the only way she knows how, and expecting little in return. McGuire, who was only 27 at the time this was filmed, easily nixes any comments that she is too young for the part by displaying a strong, careworn maturity well beyond her years.

Joan Blondell, as only Joan Blondell can, puts some oomph in the drab and dreary proceedings as Katie's gregarious sister, Sissy, who juggles husbands in her ever search for the right man, and earns the scorn of the town in her reckless, law-breaking pursuit. Blondell manages to give the film a breath of fresh air everytime she appears, though her character's development is choppy in its transition. Her story, unfortunately, gets lost midway and never truly kicks back in. Little Ted Donaldson as younger brother Neeley contributes fine work also, but is another victim of the primary focus the film decides to takes -- Garner's Francie is rightfully the heart and soul of the piece and she is quite up to the task.

Despite being robbed of a best picture that year (I mean, really, "Anchors Aweigh" and "Mildred Pierce" were nominated over it??) and the fact that Ms. McGuire was overlooked completely, it is slowly earning the attention it deserves. It should be in the top "20" of anybody's movie lists. For me, this movie is most effective come the yuletide season. It is that touching and meaningful.

The 1974 TV-remake of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" starring Cliff Robertson and Diane Baker is a mere sapling compared to this giant oak of a film.
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10/10
Brooklyn -- the way it was
the_old_roman3 September 2001
What a magnificent motion picture! Dorothy McGuire and Peggy Ann Garner give the greatest mother-daughter performances of all time. Betty Smith's book is a classic, and this film somehow manages to do it perfect justice in the first movie ever directed by Elia Kazan.

In many ways I feel privileged to be able to comment here because I may be the only "reviewer" in these pages to have been in Brooklyn very close to the time of this film (I was born in 1909). The film recaptures the feel, the mores, the neighborhood so magnificently, it is incredible. Every time I watch this movie, I feel as if I am revisiting my youth, albeit an idealized version.

Everyone who watches this movie should share it with the next generation of moviegoers. It truly is timeless.
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9/10
A Large Dose of Reality and Sentiment
bkoganbing3 May 2005
Films about the post Civil War, pre World War I years in urban America usually are nicely entertaining with a warm nostalgic glow about them, liberally sprinkled with the music of the time. One of the biggest marketeers of that kind of film was 20th Century Fox.

So it's a bit of a surprise that Fox would market a film like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The nostalgia is there, but there's a large slice of reality in this film about life growing up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn pre World War I. Maybe because a new director, named Elia Kazan who would make his mark directing dramas of social significance was in charge here.

It was his feature film debut as a director, so Darryl Zanuck didn't give Kazan a name cast to work with. Some were up and coming, some were coming back, and some were fading out. Yet the mix was great, not a bad note in the cast.

I also have to say that I liked Kazan's use of the hurdy-gurdy as background music. Rings on Her Fingers and Ciri-biri-bin were never played better.

This was Dorothy McGuire's third feature film and the role of Katie Nolan was hardly a glamorous one. But she's perfect as the 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 and was never fodder for the scandal sheets.

Joan Blondell and James Dunn were respectively cast as McGuire's sister and husband. Blondell, who had sparkled in Warner Brothers musical films and films of social significance was a perfect fit for Aunt Cissy. With this role she transitioned nicely into character roles and never lacked for work.

The career of James Dunn is a puzzle. He was an ex-vaudevillian of good talent who had slipped into B Films by the time A Tree Grows In Brooklyn was made. He won a richly deserved Oscar as Johnny Nolan, singing waiter and would be star. Maybe his dreams outraced his talent, but Nolan had every reason to dream. What's not remembered is that folks who would have been Dunn's contemporaries like Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante started out that way. He was a man with the talent, but you need the breaks as well.

Dunn's scenes and relationship with daughter Peggy Ann Garner pivot the film. His character of Johnny Nolan is not unlike Gaylord Ravenal in Showboat if he had stayed around until his daughter was beginning adolescence. That Oscar should have revived Dunn's career, but didn't. He had very much the alcohol problem that his character in the film had. Ironically he's remembered today for supporting Shirley Temple in three of her films in the thirties than this Oscar winning, best supporting actor performance. But maybe those films were good training for this role. Neither Dunn nor Garner upstage the other.

The best acted scene in the film is when McGuire goes into labor and Garner is the only one around. Back in those days before medical insurance, people had their babies at home and infants died, due to lack of good post-natal care. In fact prior to this scene, Joan Blondell cashes in an insurance policy so she can splurge on the cost of a hospital because previous infants of her's had died.

Garner is a bright girl and her father encouraged her to dream big as he did. She was daddy's little girl and her relationship with mom was not all it should have been. As mom goes into labor and they wait for Blondell to arrive, they start confessing to each other. Garner realizes the sacrifices mom has made and McGuire realizes how much she's stifled her daughter's dreams. It's a wonderfully played scene and you're made of stone if it doesn't affect you.

Rounding out the cast is Lloyd Nolan as the neighborhood beat cop, James Gleason as a tavern owner and Ted Donaldson as Garner's younger brother. I should also mention that Peggy Ann Garner got an honorary Oscar as most promising juvenile performer of 1945. She had a decent career, but nothing ever as good as A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.
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9/10
Did not expect to be so moved by this movie
Scarlett O13 March 2002
I watched this movie for the first time on TNT last night and was totally blown away. Peggy Ann Garner who plays Francie is a brilliant actress...and at such an early age. I remember we had to read the book in school in the 1960's (!) but I never saw the movie until now. The characters were so convincing, I was transported to Brooklyn, circa early 1900's and never left for 2 hours and 20 minutes. I went to bed thinking about this movie and woke up this morning with it's after affect still lingering in my mind. A "must see" for everyone of all ages. This one's a gem.
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10/10
The Nolan Family
lugonian26 December 2003
A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (20th Century-Fox, 1945), directed by Elia Kazan, from the book by Betty Smith, is a nostalgic look back to the days when Hollywood used to produce moving family stories and true to life characters, at the same time recapturing the life and times of old New York, in this case, Brooklyn, as seen through the eyes of an adolescent Irish girl named Francie Nolan. While the screenplay doesn't reproduce the entire book from which it is based, it does capture the essence and mood, ranging from hardships and heartaches of a poor Brooklyn family and their struggles blending in with the good times during the early part of the Twentieth Century.

Opening with an eye-view of early Brooklyn with horses pulling the food carts through cobblestone streets, trolleys passing by ringing the bell, clothes hanging out to dry over the back alley of apartment buildings on the line connected from one fire escape to another, the first half hour gives an insight look into the livelihood of the Nolan family: Katie Nolan (Dorothy McGuire), an embittered wife and mother who must scrub floors in order to support her family; Johnny (James Dunn), her happy-go-lucky husband who just can't seem to find time to earn a living but does take the time to cater to his children, particularly his "prima dona" adolescent daughter, Francie (Peggy Ann Garner); Francie finds the world a fabulous place to grow up in, and like President Abraham Lincoln, wants to learn everything about anything by reading books; Neely (Ted Donaldson), the youngest, would just rather enjoy himself playing in the streets with the other kids than going to school. While Francie and Neely are total opposites, they are typical brother and sister, having their differences but showing their devotion for one another. Their dad, Johnny, a singing waiter by profession, is a caring soul with a weakness for drinking and gambling. His wife, who feels him a failure, would discover, at his funeral the abundance of people in attendance, that anyone with as many friends as he had was not a total failure at all. Since Johnny was taken for granted by both his wife and son, Francie is one who looked up to him as someone special. Another member of their family looked upon with great fondness by the children is their beloved and fun- loving Aunt Sissy (Joan Blondell), whose past reputation doesn't go well with sister, Katie.

At 128 minutes, there's bound to be slow spots, but with those slow spots comes some great highlights: The Nolan kids visits to the local meat market telling the butcher their order for what "Momma said"; Francie reading a book on the fire escape and observing everything going on around her; Johnny singing a traditional Irish song, "Annie Laurie"; The Nolan kids obtaining a Christmas tree from a street vendor (B.S. Pully) on Christmas Eve followed by the family togetherness on Christmas Day; Aunt Sissy taking Francie to a secluded place in the school building after the girl receives her graduation gift (flowers), arranged several months ago by her father, now deceased, so she can have herself a good cry; and Officer McShane (Lloyd Nolan - excellent) nervously proposing to Widow Katie Nolan so he can provide for her and her new born baby; and one on the rooftop with Francie and Neely overseeing the city of Brooklyn, looking back with fondness to the times they had together, putting those memories behind them.

With Peggy Ann Garner being the main focus here, she deservedly won a special Academy Award for her natural performance. James Dunn (1904-1967), a veteran actor of Fox Films best known for his roles opposite Shirley Temple in the mid 1930s, makes a temporary comeback in a major motion picture that earned him a much deserved Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor of 1945. Along with Garner, Dunn was not only a natural, but born to play his role, that of Johnny Nolan. Let's not overlook Joan Blondell, another screen veteran, giving one of her best performances of her career that should have been honored an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Along with Dunn, Blondell's chemistry with the children is not only natural, but highly memorable.

In smaller but not entirely unimportant roles are Lloyd Nolan (Officer McShane); James Gleason (Mr. McGarrity, the neighborhood barber); John Alexander (Steve Edwards, Sissy's latest husband); Ruth Nelson (Mrs. McDonough, Francie's teacher who inspires her to become a write); and J. Farrell MacDonald (Carney, the junk man). That distinctive voice of the Christmas tree vendor belongs to B.S. Pully. And who can forget boy actor Ted Donaldson's distinctive Brooklyn accent, adding the flavor to character.

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN might have been filmed at the back-lot of 20th Century- Fox, but it does have that Brooklyn flavor to it (particularly with the organ grinding score to "Rings on Her Fingers" and other popular tunes of the day. Author Betty Smith recaptures everything there is to the old New York and the characters she created, while Elia Kazan, making his directorial debut, successfully brings all this and the characters to life.

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (in reference to a tree in the back lot of the apartment) was distributed on video cassette in 1991. Other than becoming a late show favorite on commercial television from the 1960s to the 1980s, especially on Christmas Eve, it has later enjoyed frequent revivals on American Movie Classics cable channel for many years before turning up on the Fox Movie Channel and Turner Classic Movies where it premiered February 8, 2009. In spite of a 1974 television movie remake, the 1945 original remains an unsurpassed movie gem. Why? Because, "Momma said." (****)
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10/10
On my personal top ten list
Tom White15 June 2005
A long time ago when I was still working in an automotive shop I taped this movie from KTTV at about three o'clock in the morning, bad reception and commercials and all. The whole thing was a revelation to me. Why, in my years of enjoying all sorts of classic movies at revival houses both in New York and here in Southern California, had I never heard of this movie? For the next three weeks I believe I would come home and watch it almost every day. As an adult child of an alcoholic father, this film moved me in a personal way that I don't think I can even fully investigate, it's just too basic for words. But in terms of cinematic quality alone, this film is a masterpiece. No matter what Elia Kazan did since, we have him to thank for this movie. There is not one false note in the whole of this movie; every actor IS the character they play, most especially Francie Nolan, played to absolute perfection by Peggy Ann Garner. The black and white cinematography is used to its best advantage, the sets are perfect, the music -- contemporary tunes playing along in the background by a rickety-sounding little orchestra -- just "there" enough to provide the auditory backdrop that is the soundtrack of the times, and the emotional intensity and pacing is even, never heavy-handed, and consistent from beginning to end. This is probably the most perfect and authentic film of the black and white era. Hopefully the reason 20th Century Fox has delayed the DVD release is that they're enhancing the package with some special features that devotees of this movie like myself will really enjoy. When the movie came out on VHS I ran to buy it. It will be the same with the DVD.
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A Charming Family Story
Snow Leopard27 October 2004
This charming family story has much to offer. The story has a wealth of worthwhile, thoughtful material, plus some good lighter moments, and the production is on-target, not stinting on anything but never drowning out the substance of the story. Several of the cast members give particularly good performances, and most of them are also well-matched with their roles.

Much of the story centers on a couple of interesting relationships. In both cases they are well-acted, and in both cases the relationships suggest a number of themes worth thinking about. Having these two relationships so well-defined and memorably portrayed raises the movie well above the level of a mere sentimental family story.

The relationship between Francie and her father probably makes the movie, and it is wonderfully acted by James Dunn as the somewhat unsteady but thoroughly endearing father, and Peggy Ann Garner (in one of the finest child performances you will see) as the loyal, intelligent daughter.

Dorothy McGuire plays the important but thankless role of Katie, the stern, dour, yet sincere mother, the kind of role that few actresses can handle well. Katie's relationship with her sister (Joan Blondell) is another of the strengths of the movie. Blondell's flamboyant but sensitive portrayal of Sissy wins all the scenes that she is in, yet McGuire is also essential to making them work and to bringing out the themes implied.

The adaptation to the screen is pretty well-conceived. Naturally, much of the depth is going to be lost when you distill a worthwhile novel into a two-hour movie, but the screenplay highlights some very good material, and if it encourages anyone to read the book, so much the better.
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10/10
People will still be enjoying this movie 100 years from now
tomhull31 August 2000
I was not around in 1945 so I have no idea what was going on in the minds of the people who voted for what would be the five nominees for best picture of that year. Maybe this was just one of those movies that somehow didn't register right at first. Or maybe a movie about people living in poverty was not considered proper Oscar material. Anyway, I am sure there are millions today who agree with me that this is one of the great and beautiful movies of all time. The characters are so down to earth real and believable. Except maybe for the aforementioned poverty, you can identify with them and their situation and, therefore, you care about them. There are several very good and solid performances and then there is, of course, Peggy Ann Garner's performance; maybe the best ever by a juvenile in movie history. The most memorable scene for me is near the end, when the audience has just about forgotten about Papa, the director reminds us of him with the flowers and card found by Francie. I tell people who have not seen this movie that near the end there is a scene that will grab them around the throat. At least the voters saw fit to award Oscars to Peggy Ann and James Dunn.
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Go Forth Into the World and Make Thy Dreams Come True.
tfrizzell10 July 2004
A youngster (Peggy Ann Garner) in circa 1900 Brooklyn dreams of a suitable education and ultimately a better life. She and her young brother (Ted Donaldson) experience highs and lows as their lives are followed in a documentary-style format that creates a realistic and compassionate view. Poverty is tough in the area though as mother Dorothy McGuire (in arguably her greatest role) and father James Dunn (in one of the finest performances ever captured on film, he deservedly won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1945) have a hard time making ends meet. McGuire has a difficult time seeing the bright things in their lives, while Dunn (a hopeless alcoholic) treats everyone, including strangers on the street, with love, respect and understanding. Dunn sees greatness in Garner, even when most do not, and does his best to see that her hopes do come true. The title is symbolistic as a large tree in front of the family's low-rent apartment is about to be cut down to their dismay. It also refers to the fact that Garner is growing up and showing maturity way beyond her years; she is literally branching out and letting her leaves flourish. First-time director Elia Kazan arguably does the best work of any film-maker who had never completed a feature previously as he just lets Betty Smith's wonderful novel unfold methodically with a deliberate pace, tone and style. The screenplay yielded Oscar nominations for adapters Frank Davis and Tess Sleringer. Dunn, an actor who had a very pedestrian career, showed just how much of a hidden talent he really was. He is the straw that mixes the entire movie into an American classic. Arguably one of the top 10 films of the 1940s and one of the best features of all time. 5 stars out of 5.
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10/10
Brilliant
aimless-4623 April 2006
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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Genuinely moving, with a cast that could not be bettered.
Greg Couture1 July 2003
This one breaks my heart every time I have seen it. Dorothy McGuire, Peggy Ann Garner, James Dunn, Joan Blondell and all the rest of the cast, without exception, under Elia Kazan's careful tutelage, render portraits that ring so true one is hard put to think of a film where such ensemble work has been surpassed. It is certainly an example of the Hollywood studio system, then in full flower, providing audiences with an experience that touches the emotions without a hint of sentimentality. Its restraint now seems like an artifact of days long gone, with so much current product catering to audiences who seem to demand nothing but mindless pablum and/or brutal sensation. I've never been able to confine myself to a "Ten Best" list of my own but "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" would definitely have a place on it should someone ask me to name such a small number of my all-time favorites.
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10/10
Get out your hankies
kinolieber11 August 2001
I consider this film to be a masterpiece for several reasons: the performances, the direction (Kazan's first film!), the screenplay which depicts with great insight the triangular relationship of a charismatic but dysfunctional alcoholic with his favorite daughter and his increasingly estranged wife. But I go back to the film again and again because of its cathartic effect on me. It never fails to elicit a level of crying that no other film does. Obviously I am touched in some personal way by the situations, but the one time I saw this film in a theatre, it wasn't just me: there was a whole lotta weepin goin on! The last forty minutes of the film contain one emotional blow out after another. By the end, one is literally exhausted from the crying. And as I recall, Kazan does it without the use of music to enhance these scenes' effects.
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10/10
Determined to break through the cement -- a Hollywood Gem!
mdm-1124 May 2005
"A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" is a rare example of the film-version measuring up to the high standards of the book. I read the book in High School, then got to see the film. The book was definitely a spellbinder, but to see it acted out was simply beautiful! It is the story of a young girl who lives with her alcoholic, perpetually unemployed father (whom she adores), her harsh, realistic mother, and her younger, naive brother in a run-down apartment building in Brooklyn ca. 1900. The family is poor, but the mother sees to it that their funeral insurance payments are always on time.

The father is a dreamer, and his daughter loves to dream. When he dies of alcohol related causes, the girl shows little emotion about the tragic loss. There are further complications, yet the story ends on a high note.

This is a wonderful story, told affectionately through the eyes of a girl who had to learn the rough lessons of life at an early age. This film is my all-time-favorite "sappy movie". Anyone who loves to grab a Kleenex while watching a movie should give this one a try. You won't be disappointed! Look for a young Joan Blondell, who is a sheer delight as the oft-married "black sheep" of the "respectable" family.
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10/10
A Great film superbly acted with a superb cast.
WishfulDreamer31 October 2004
I have been watching films on TV since I was a child in the 50's. Whether the film is black and white or in color is irrelevant, as far as I am concerned. Admittedly, color is nice for a ballroom scene, or showing stately grounds and lovely foliage. I have many videos in my collection, and most are black and white as I do prefer 30's and 40's films. I feel that the important thing to note is the content, credibility of the actors and their acting prowess supersedes all else. I would say this is true in this case. When I am interested in a film, I really do not care if there is color.

As a matter of fact, I have just ordered the video from Movies Unlimited. James Dunn, Dorothy McGuire, Peggy Ann Garner, Joan Blondell, etc. did a fine acting job. This is an overlooked gem I saw on TV in the 60's.
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10/10
Simply Splendid!
bestactor24 December 2003
This ranks as one of greatest family film dramas of all time. Meticulous period details to the production, Kazan's outstanding direction and flawless performances by the entire cast make this a sadly neglected masterpiece. It will probably be remade in the next few years into the usual pile of dreck that becomes most remakes. This classic deserves to be seen and embraced, not replaced!
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10/10
One of my personal top ten
Boyo-227 August 1999
If I ever go to that deserted island with a VCR and ten movies, this would be one of them. This is one of those rare cases when the movie is nearly as good as the book. Peggy Ann Garner perfectly embodies the role of Francie Nolan, and her brother Neely is around to provide the comedy, and he's very funny. Of course, McGuire, Dunn and Blondell are great, but I enjoyed the children the most. Look for a very young Ruth Nelson, who plays a sympathetic teacher of Francie - the scene between them is very memorable. Overall I can't say enough great things about this movie - it should be seen by anyone & everyone.
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10/10
The Best Movie Ever Produced
cervantes154727 August 2007
I make it my business to watch a Tree Grows In Brooklyn at least once a month. It is the greatest movie ever produced. Peggy Ann Garner is an angel-until the day she passed away at the tender age of 52.She was perfect for the role of Francie.Her soft spoken voice and her story telling eyes made her an angel.Peggy is gone but her memory will live forever in her immortal movie A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Peggy had a very hard personal life but her proudest moment came when she received the Academy Award for the best child actress of 1945. That night she took her trophy to bed with her. Peggy died on October 16,1984 at the tender age of 52. To this day no one knows the location of her trophy. What a collectors item that is. I shall always keep Peggy's memory alive. She was, is and always will be my angel!
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10/10
The best movie ever adapted from a novel
rollo_tomaso13 May 2001
Dorothy McGuire gives the best performance I have ever seen from a lead actress. Period. And the rest of the cast from top to bottom is just about as perfect. Betty Smith's classic American novel not only comes to life, but adds dimension and poignancy, and it all revolves around McGuire's completely vulnerable yet incredibly strong performance. James Dunn deservedly won best actor for the best performance of his career. Other standouts include Blondell, Garner, Gleason, Nolan, Donaldson, and Alexander. The direction is impeccable and the photography makes you feel like you are living right there in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn with them. Not a single mundane detail is omitted or glorified, and none of the difficulties and embarrassments are whitewashed. This may well be the best purely American movie ever made.
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10/10
Peggy Ann: The Best
ccthemovieman-127 December 2004
This is one of my top-five all-time favorite films which explains why there is nothing negative I can say about the movie, only the way its star was treated and the absence of a DVD of this (although it was recently released in Europe).

GOOD NEWS: 1 - This one of the greatest acting jobs by a child in the HISTORY of motion pictures. Peggy Ann Garner, as "Francie," was incredible. The adults may get top billing but Garner is the show here, start to finish. She is a real pro, not just with her lines but with her facial expressions. If this young girl doesn't bring a tear or two to your eyes, then get some counseling!! She was so impressive that she was given a special Academy Award for her performance: 2 - It''s a powerful story which is a big reason the book, by Betty Smith, has been a best-seller for almost 60 years. 3 - One of Hollywood's more likable guys, James Dunn, is perfect as Francie's father and who could criticize anything Dorothy McGuire did in this film? 4 - Joan Blondell also was a great choice to play the sassy Aunt Sissy. 5 - Ted Nolan is very funny as Francie's younger brother. Notice the kid is eating in almost every scene. He adds needed humor to the movie. He hardly gets a notice when people discuss this film, and that's unfortunate.

BAD NEWS: 1 - Hollywood ignored Garner's acting talent shortly after this film and ruined what could have been a tremendous acting career. 2 - Fox Studio Classics announced that this was finally going to be out on DVD on Feb. 22, 2005, and then yanked the disc at the last minute with no explanation. So, we are still waiting to see a better print of this in the United States, although the VHS versions are decent.
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10/10
one of the nicest movie ever made
arun_singh300-115 June 2009
the movie is unavailable in India,its not on amazon.com either nor on many online stores,somehow found it on ebay ,a seller from Korea.

why its not given special treatment when its such a great classic,is a mystery,the movie screams for a commentary track.i hope its released with special features and commentary track.it depicts in detail life and times during first half of 20 th century America.

the movie is crafted well and script is really good its engaging and interesting.it depicts beautifully father daughter relationship.the little brother and sister are really good.

this is Elia Kazan's best movie,better than any other.its shameful how its ignored.

its the story of a young girl whose family is poor,her father is a waiter cum singer with a drinking problem.James Dunn is really great playing the father.his song on piano is really nice."Annie Laurie" and "Molly Malone" are two great songs from the movie.

Dorothy MC guire really shines in her starring role,she moves you like no one,you go on with her on here journey through life ups and downs,good moments and sad moments.her struggles and how she overcomes obstacles.

Joan Blondell and Peggy Ann garner are great too.Lloyd Nolan gives a gentleman performance.
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10/10
Be prepared to laugh and cry
calgal3325 May 2017
One of my all-time favorites and one of Joan Blondell's best ever. Very "adult" for the time and something that doesn't age badly. As a matter of fact, I just saw it a couple of days ago (bought a gorgeous DVD from Vermont movie store dot com) and STILL LOVE IT. It aged really well. I remember Lloyd Nolan mostly from TV in the 60s (Julia and 77 Sunset Strip, etc., etc.) and was never really impressed, but here he is at his every best. The characters (compliments to Kazan) are wonderfully realized. I may give in a couple of months, but I know I will be watching it again soon. Very soon.
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9/10
Hardship & Heartache in black and white...no sugar coating here
Ed-Shullivan1 March 2017
This was director Elia Kazan's first attempt in the director's chair and you certainly would not have known it. Thank goodness it was the beginning of a very prestigious career for Mr. Kazan, winning twice for Best Director at the Academy Awards in 1948 for Gentleman's Agreement and again in 1955 for On The Waterfront.

This black and white film pulls no punches in the telling of the hardships faced by Katie (Dorothy McGuire) and Johnny Nolan (James Dunn won for best supporting actor) and their two children daughter Francie (Peggy Ann Garner) and son Neeley (Ted Donaldson). The father of the household Johnny, makes a sporadic living as a part time waiter and singer and a full time heavy drinker. To try and make ends meet, the children's mother Katie works washing floors and she makes every penny count in their household.

Francie loves her parents and she has a very special bond with her drunkard father as they both dream big. Mother Katie does not have time for the dreams of her husband as someone in their household needs to face the reality of paying the rent and the life insurance payments for a family of four which come due each month, and that responsibility falls directly on the shoulders of mom Katie.

Katie Nolan has a sister who the children call Aunt Sissy (Joan Blondell) who is pretty and her looks allow for her to have a steady stream of both suitors and husbands which is in direct contrast with sister Katie's hard working and strict rules for her children.

There are fantastic supporting roles such as that of police constable McShane (Lloyd Nolan) who always seems to be around when the Nolan's are having troubles, and troubles they do have. Although the early 1900's were a much simpler time, life's struggles were much more difficult and this film will make us all appreciate how easy we have had it compared to the many families who barely got by each day with the most simplest of requirements like shelter, food and clothing.

I loved this film and the message it extends to us the audience. Appreciate what you do have and more importantly appreciate each other because you can pick your friends, but you cannot pick your family.

I give the film a 9 out of 10 rating
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8/10
Growing up poor in Brooklyn
jotix10024 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Betty Smith's beloved novel "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" has been a favorite book for generations since its publication. The transfer to the screen brought the distinguished theater director Elia Kazan to his first assignment in the medium. The adaptation for the movies was written by Tess Slesinger, Frank Davis, and uncredited Anita Loos.

The Nolan family of Brooklyn is at the center of the story. Johnny, the father was a poor man that took jobs wherever he could find. Having a fine singing voice, he found jobs as a waiter in many functions, but he never had anything substantial. Johnny struggled all his life to get away from the bottle, something that eventually proved to be his worst enemy.

Katie Nolan, on the other hand, was a hard working woman who was always penny pinching to make ends meet for her family; every cent was accounted for. Her two children, Francie and Neely, were her pride and joy, but being a practical woman, she foresaw to have Francie quit school to get a job that would bring extra income. Telling Johnny about her plans for the girl, met with his opposition because he wanted his daughter to have the education he never had.

Francie, like her father, was a dreamer. Unlike him, the girl was well grounded. She hated the poor school where she and Neely attended; she had her eyes set on the nicer, and bigger school, a bit far from where she lived, something that thanks to her not practical father was remedied when he decided to lie about their address in order to qualify. It is at the new school where Francie meets a kind teacher is decisive in making the girl's dreams come true.

The film is an inspiration with its uplifting story about sacrifices the Nolans experience. Being poor was not a badge of honor, but in many ways it gave Francie something to get out of her station in life by aspiring to excel in areas where other children would not. Her love for her family helped her overcome the many obstacles she had to face. At the end, she cannot help but being reminded of a father who was not around to see her school achievements.

Peggy Ann Garner made a tremendous contribution to the success of the film. She was a child actor with an expressive face that drew the audiences to her presence in the films where she appeared as a child actor. James Dunn gave a strong performance as Johnny. Dorothy McGuire appeared as Katie. Joan Blondell, Lloyd Nolan, James Gleason, and the rest of the supporting players contributed to the enjoyment of this classic film.
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9/10
Kazan's Directorial Debut Foreshadows His Later Contributions
CitizenCaine15 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Director Elia Kazan made his directorial debut in features with this film, an account of growing up in abject poverty in turn of the century Brooklyn. Peggy Ann Garner, who died tragically young in real life, plays a young girl soon to graduate from 8th grade who simultaneously deals with her drunken pipe-dreaming father (Oscar winner for supporting actor James Dunn), her hard-working and increasingly embittered mother (Dorothy McGuire), her younger brother (Ted Donaldson), her brassy aunt (Joan Blondell), and the impoverished times in which she lives. With the film, Elia Kazan contributed to a new age in film-making in which a mixture of stark realism, psychological aspects of characters, and social causes combined to enlighten as well as entertain an audience. The film was based on Kazan's Yale classmate Betty Smith's novel with the Oscar-nominated screenplay written by Frank Davis, Tess Slesinger, and Anita Loos.

The film is episodic in some ways, sentimental in other ways, and perhaps a bit unbelievable at the end. However, the true to life nature of "growing up during hard times" struck a chord with the World War II audience that initially saw the film, and it remains a classic family film to this day. Garner received a special Oscar as most promising juvenile performer. Dunn carries the film whenever he is on screen. McGuire does an outstanding job disappearing into the role of an embittered yet sympathetic matron. Lloyd Nolan adds able support as a neighborhood policeman, remember those, and James Gleason does the same as the neighborhood barkeep. Great acting and dialog are the highlights of this film and the hallmarks of many of Kazan's films that followed. ***1/2 of 4 stars.
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10/10
This movie will forever be in my collection!
jonesd-864-2524727 October 2010
As a young girl growing up in a situation similar to Francie, I first read the book in 1968 as a 14 year-old. I credit the book for being the first -- the impetus -- that instilled in me a life-long love of reading! I had never read a book that caused such emotion and kindred spirit feelings towards a character. I cried right along with Francie. I had a fun-loving, alcoholic, ne'er-do-well father, but I was the apple of his eye - his first daughter after two sons. I loved my playful father so much and felt about my mom as Francie did -- that our mothers were so serious, practical -- and not at all fun-loving.

It was years later, as an adult, that I first saw the movie. Emotions flooded me again as I watched the book come to life on television! The acting by all was superb. Dorothy McGuire reminded me so much of my mother. And James Dunn was the epitome of my father -- except my dad wasn't musically inclined. LOL And I WAS Francie -- at least in my imagination. I was the talented child who loved school. My older brothers couldn't care less, and I felt they were the apples of my mother's eyes.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned in this movie -- and which has stayed with me -- was when Francie tearfully confronted her mother about why she had to leave school to take on home and baby-care responsibilities, instead of her brother, who didn't even want to go. I felt that Katie loved her son more than her daughter, and that she was being unfair to Francie.

In a theatrically tense episode in the movie, Katie Nolan finally told Francie how proud she was of her writing and how well she did in school. Francie thought her mother cared little about her good schoolwork. But Katie answered Francie's tearful question about leaving school with something like, "Because I knew you loved school. That you will go back. If I don't make Neeley go, he'd never finish." Katie saw Francie's strength and potential for success, after all. She was proud of her daughter!

From this scene I understood, as a young girl, that sometimes tough decisions have to be made for the betterment of others. Francie WOULD go back to school, because she loved school -- and she she was strong and determined. Neeley didn't want to go and had to be forced to go or he would never finish.

I absolutely loved the relationship between Francie and her father. He encouraged her to dream, to laugh, to create, to live! So very much like my own dad. Like Francie, I love to write. I like to imagine that Francie, like myself, went on to earn degrees in journalism and blessed the world with her creative spirit and love of writing.

In this age of everything goes on television and in the movies -- young people today could learn a lot from this movie; so many of them are living in similar (but much more serious and volatile) family situations.

I don't purchase many movies on VHS or DVD, but when I do I generally pass them on to others when I'm done. I buy a lot of books, but only keep reference or other important books. I pass on others. I have an early edition and a newer edition of the book in my library, and a DVD copy of the movie! They will always be in my collection!
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