Friday, January 04, 2002


A sweet, sad coming-of-age story. I had heard a lot about this movie's wrenching Christmas scene and it didn't disappoint. Peggy Ann Garner plays Francie Nolan, a young girl growing up in turn of the century Brooklyn. Dorothy McGuire is marvelous in the part of the loving but rather cold mother--I had only seen her in softer, more passive parts so I was surprised how complex she made her character here. It's clear that she loves her husband and daughter (and even her black sheep sister), but it seems she has been forced by situation to be the member of the family who has to make the tough choices. Even though he looks a bit too old for the part, James Dunn is equally strong as the dreamy father whom Garner adores. He prides himself on being a great singing waiter, but he can't hold a decent job long enough to provide his family with a consistent income, largely becuse of his drinking. He drinks because he's always dreaming of a better, more beautiful life. Joan Blondell was a revelation as McGuire's good-time (and good-hearted) sister; this is one of the few roles I've seen her in where she actually had a strong, well-written character. Even though she ultimately doesn't get much screen time, she makes the most of what she does get. The old-time Brooklyn sets were wonderful, although oddly enough, I don't remember getting a good shot of the title tree, which, though symbolic, is also real. James Gleason and Lloyd Nolan have memorable supporting parts. Overall, a tearjerking gem.

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