Movies that make you cry aren’t necassarily going to give you a good movie experience too. And let’s face you want both, right? I can recommend the 1948 tearjerker I Remember Mama. It tells the story of a large poor Norwegian family and their wrestles with life’s ups and downs in San Francisco.
Does anyone out there remember TV soap opera Dallas from 1978? Back in the day that show was HUGE and focused around the trials and tribulations of the Ewing family. The wealthy Ewing family owned an oil empire in Dallas and the matriarch was Mrs Ellie Ewen played by Barbara Bel Geddes. The narrator and eldest daughter Katrin Hanson in I Rememeber Mama is played by Geddes. Talk about going from rags-to-riches in her character acting!
The movie metamorphosed from a book (Kathryn Forbes’ novel Mama’s Bank Account) to a play (John Van Druten’s stage play) to a screenplay (by DeWitt Bodeen) and then finally George Steven’s movie production.
Katrin finishes typing her book and pulls out the final sheet from the typewriter. She places the page on top of her manuscript and smiles. She stretches her arms high in the air and she has the gleeful look of someone who is satisfied after completing a long project.
Standing up and taking the papers she says out loud, “A novel by Katrin Hanson“. She takes a pen and sits down to edit but dreamily she starts to remember her family.
Telling us that her Mama (Marta Hanson played by Irene Dunne) and Papa (Lars Hanson played by Philip Dorn) were both born in Norway but she and her three siblings were born in San Fransisco she starts to reminisce.
Katrin remembers her brother Nels (Steve Brown), her two sisters Christine (Peggy McIntyre) and Dagmar (June Hedin). And then she says, “But first and foremost…… I remember Mama”.
Mama’s voice is heard faintly calling for Katrin and the movie movie flashes back to when she was younger.
Katrin is busily writing in her journal when Mama calls her to come down to the kitchen. Lars hands his wages to Marta and the family begin to crowd round to watch the money being organised. Marta splits the money between the landlord, the grocer etc. and Lars wraps the money separately into little parcels.
Dagma’s cat (Elizabeth) has two tiny plasters stuck on its face and she tells them all that Elizabeth is a brave cat. Concentrating she tells Dagma to put the cat out while she counts their money. Other expenses are said out loud like Katrin’s shoes to be half-soled and Dagma’s notebook.
When Marta finishes, Lars asks, “Is all Mama?” and she replies, “Ya, is all for this week. It’s good, we do not have to go to the bank”.
The Little Bank
Lars expresses interest in going to high school and wants to know if he can. Or more importantly, can they afford it? Mama smiles and looks at Lars puffing on his pipe. Telling Katrin to get the little bank, Mama starts to scribble and calculate on her on notepad.
Katrin narrates again to explain that the most important thing in the house was the little bank. A small buffer of money for emergencies. They always seemed to waiting for the buffer to build up so that her Mama could buy a warm coat. But there was never enough.
Disappointment clouds over the kitchen as they realise that there is not enough in the little bank for Nels to go to high school. As they start to walk away from their meeting Nels shouts out that he could work at the grocers after school. Crowding back in to the table where Mama is sat Christine offers to babysit the Maxwell children and Papa offers to give up his tobacco.
Frantically calculating Mama suddenly exclaims it is good, he can go now and they don’t have to go to the bank.
Aunt Trina’s News
One of Marta’s sisters arrives in a state of anxiety and breathing heavily. Aunt Trina (Ellen Corby) speaks to Marta outside on the porch in private to tell her she wants to marry the man from the local funeral parlor. Scared that they will laugh at her she has not told the two eldest sisters and wants Marta to do it for her. She agrees and at that moment the two older sisters can be seen coming up the hill to visits.
Trina also wants Marta to speak to the head of the family Uncle Chris (Oscar Homolka). But Marta insists that it is the husband’s job to speak to him and she tells her to go hide in another room for a moment.
Aunt Jenny (Hope Landin) and Aunt Sigrid (Edith Evanson) arrive looking for Aunt Trina and saying this is the only place she can be because she doesn’t know anyone else. Marta immediately sits them down with coffee and tells them about Aunt Trina’s plans. They both smirk and start laughing. Marta tells them that Aunt Trina is there and will come out of the other room in a moment.
Marta tells Aunt Jenny that if she laughs when Aunt Trina comes out she will share an old story with her. The time that her husband tried to run away the day before she got married. Aunt Jenny’s face drops sullenly. Explaining that this is serious for their sister she also shuts up Sigrid with a threat to tell a past embarrassing incident. Apparently Sigrid cried and cried on her wedding night and her husband had to take her home to her mother.
Threatening to tell the stories only to stop their laughing and not for spite Mama calls Aunt Trina into the room. No laughing takes place and the Aunts leave. And Marta calls Mr Hyde to come out of his room.
Mr Hyde (Old School Netflix)
My Hyde is the Hanson’s lodger. Being an out of work actor he hasn’t paid his rent for a while but Mama doesn’t mind. Every evening he reads to them the classics from Dickens to Kipling and the whole family really appreciate it.
The family gather for their evening reading. Holding up The Tale Of Two Cities as he sits down to read to them he announces that he would like to finish the book tonight. Everyone (except the youngest Dagmar) is engrossed in the story even though it is nearly midnight when he finishes.
The scene changes to another reading night and Mr Hyde is reading The Hound Of The Baskervilles. Christine is on tenterhooks as Mr Hyde reads out, “Mr Holmes, they were the footprints…….of a gigantic hound”. And then he closes the book as they all make a gasp of disappointment that they have been left at a cliffhanger. Not unlike the end of an episode from a Netflix TV show, eh?
The Loud And Bushy Uncle Chris
Dagmar gets ill and goes to hospital. Uncle Chris limps into the story with his amazing bushy eyebrows and mustache. He scares everyone but not Mama. You may think at first that Uncle Chris is a curmudgeon but you will quickly see behind that facade.
A beautiful tale with warm, gentle characters that will tug at your heart strings. Looking for an old classic that will make you cry and also laugh in an old-fashioned sort of way? Then watch this 1940s classic movie and let me know what you think.
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Have you seen this one already? If not, will you?