Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reviewing "Mom in the Movies"

For Mother's Day, I decided to review a book I read recently titled Mom in the Movies: The Iconic Screen Mothers You Love (And a Few You Love to Hate) © 2014 by Richard Corliss and TCM.


Table of Contents
Forward by Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher
A Gallery of Golden Age Moms
Motherhood in the Movies by Sam Robards
Silent Moms
The Mother Martyrs of Pre-Code
The Great American Mom
On Jane Darwell in The Grapes of Wrath by Eva Marie Saint
Serial Moms
Perennial Moms
On Movie Motherhood by Jane Powell
Mammies and Nannies
A Mom by Any Other Name
When Moms Collide with Their Kids
Bad Seeds
Malevolent Moms
Crime and Horror Moms
On Being a Mother and Actress by Tippi Hedren
Sci-Fi Moms
Showbiz Moms
The Greatest Mama of Them All by Illeana Douglas
A Gallery of Modern Moms
Semper Mom!
The Introduction asks the question, Where have all the mothers gone? Here are the reasons they suggest:
1. Movies are about movement - people want to see action when they go to the movies.
2. The role of women has evolved - women are no longer stay-at-home moms.
3. The audience has evolved - moviegoing is no longer mainly a family activity, rather, guys go see guy movies and girls go see girl movies and couples see a mix of both.
The Gallery of Golden Age Moms focus's on the actress's who "played women who were "heart strong and hearth warm." It looks at the mother roles of Fay Bainter in Mother Carey's Chickens (1938) and White Banners (1938); Beulah Bondi in Remember the Night (1940), Of Human Hearts (1938), and of course It's a Wonderful Life (1946); Anne Revere in Body and Soul (1947), National Velvet (1944) and Gentleman's Agreement (1947); Myrna Loy in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), The Red Pony (1949), and Cheaper by the Dozen (1950); and Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1931), Penny Serenade (19__), and The White Cliffs of Dover (1944).
Silent Moms looks at the mother roles of silent stars Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, and Anna May Wong, among others.
The Mother Martyrs of Pre-Code focuses on 4 "weepies": The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931) starring Helen Hayes - a role which won her an Academy Award, Sarah and Son (1930) starring Ruth Chatterton, The Most Precious Thing in Life (1934) starring Jean Arthur, and Madame Butterfly (1932) starring Sylvia Sidney. All are about mothers who have sacrificed their personal happiness for that of their child in order that they might have a better life than what they could offer.

The Great American Mom - moms as "warm and nourishing as apple pie," honors moms who held their families together through thick and thin, good times and bad: Jane Darwell in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Claudette Colbert on the Home Front in WWII in Since You Went Away (1944), Greer Garson protecting her family on the British Front in Mrs. Miniver (1942), Mary Astor at the Turn-of-the-Century in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), underappreciated Dorothy McGuire in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), and the saintly Irene Dunne in I Remember Mama (1948).

Serial Moms looks at the wife-mother roles in family-friendly film series: Fay Holden in The Hardy Family, Marjorie Main in Ma and Pa KettleSpring Byington in The Jones Family, the Gleasons in The Higgins Family, and Penny Singleton in Blondie (based on the comic strip).

Perennial Moms are those "mother stories retold across the decades." These include the stories of Madame X (1929 & 1937), Stella Dallas (1925, 1937, 1990), Anna Karenina (1927 as Love, 1935, 1948, and 2012), and Imitation of Life (1934, 1959 & 1948 as Little Black Angels).

Aunts are those who sometimes take the place of moms, including Auntie Mame in Auntie Mame (1958), Aunt Alicia in Gigi (1958), Aunt Polly in Pollyanna (1960), Aunt Polly in Tom Sawyer (1938), and Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Mammies and Nannies have to be content with "pouring their love or pain into other people's children. The most famous of these is Hattie McDaniel's role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind (1939), for which she won an Academy Award. Others include Ethel Waters in The Member of the Wedding (1952), Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), and Cicely Tyson in The Help (2011).

A Mom By Any Other Name looks at three kinds of "moms." Mothers of Lost Children looks at Greer Garson in Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Lillian Gish in The Night of the Hunter (1955), and Angelina Jolie in Changeling (2008). Stepmothers include Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965), Julia Roberts in Stepmom (1998), and Natalie Portman and Lisa Kudrow in The Other Woman (2011). Surrogate Moms covers Ginger Rogers in Bachelor Mother (1939), Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956), Diane West in Edward Scissorhands (1990), and Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side (2009).

When Moms Collide With Their Kids is an all too familiar topic. It looks at Claudia McNeil in A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Esther Minciotti in Marty (1955), Bette Davis in The Catered Affair (1956), Debbie Reynolds in Mother (1996), Barbara Harris in Freaky Friday (1976) and Jamie Lee Curtis in the 2003 remake, and Shelley Winters in Lolita (1962).

Bad Seeds try to answer the question, "what's a mother to do when she senses something is terribly wrong in the child she loves?" These mothers include Dolores Costello in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945), Nancy Kelly in The Bad Seed (1956), Beulah Bondi in Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), and finally Tokyo Story (1953).

Malevolent Moms focus's on what happens when the mother has something "terribly wrong." This includes Gladys Cooper in Now, Voyager (1942) who drives her daughter, played by Bette Davis, to a sanatorium. Laura Hope Crews runs her sons' marriage (Joel McCrea and Irene Dunne) in The Silver Cord (1933). Angela Lansbury turns her son into an assassin in The Manchurian Candidate (1962).

Crime and Horror Moms includes, to name a few, Margaret Wycherly in White Heat (1949), Leopoldine Konstantin in Hitchcock's Notorious (1946) and Mrs. Bates of his Psycho (1960).

Overall this was an interesting and easy book to read. I skipped parts that I wasn't really interested in (movies made from the 70s to the present).

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