Tuesday, May 31, 2016


From the movie I REMEMBER MAMA

In conversation the other day with my mail lady, an extraordinary young woman with two sons in high school, she mentioned her Swedish grandmother and aunts, Helga, Olga, Eva and Uncle Leonard. We laughed, wondering how an uncle Leonard got tossed into such a bunch of Swedish names. When she boasted of her grandmother's independence in living alone into her late nineties and of her grandmother's fabulous cooking, including a recipe for Swedish Meatballs, which she promised to share with me, I was suddenly reminded of one of my very favorite movies, I REMEMBER MAMA. In the movie, Mama prevails on a literary editor to read her daughter's novel by offering her Mama's classic Swedish Meatballs recipe.

This was a novel and memoir by Kathryn Forbes about her Norwegian American family growing up in San Francisco at the turn of the century. It was turned into a play on Broadway by John Van Druten and was so popular and ran so long to such acclaim that it was made into a movie, which is available on DVD.

Having always been an aspiring writer myself, what I love most about this movie and play is that is was written by the daughter about her mother and their family with her mother's help and encouragement, even in their difficult circumstances. Both Mama and Katrin are strong, intelligent and fascinating women.

Here is the excellent Amazon review of this classic film.

"This high point in the 1940s vogue for movies about family life at the turn of the century was directed by George Stevens (Shane), and stars Irene Dunne as the matriarch of a Norwegian family that faces hard knocks with grace in 1910 (or so) San Francisco. Based on John Van Druten's hit play (derived from Kathryn Forbes's autobiographical memoir), the film is gorgeously rendered and quite moving as an act of memory. The sterling cast of character actors--Edgar Bergen, Rudy Vallee, Oscar Homolka, Barbara Bel Geddes, Ellen Corby, Cedric Hardwicke--add great texture and a depth of experience that make the film feel quite lived-in. Hardwicke's turn as a penniless boarder who "pays" his rent by reciting from classic literature is a special highlight. --Tom Keogh"

There is so much wonderful humanity in each scene of this film, that I get verklempt just thinking of it and a lump in my throat. It's sentimental in the best way, never saccharin, and wise without pomposity or pretension. If you love family dramas, it's without question one of the best ever done.

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