REVIEWED BY DAVID M. KINCHEN
This past Mother’s Day weekend Turner Classic Movies screened a wide variety of films featuring moms of all kinds, from the ones you remember with fondness like Irene Dunne in I Remember Mama to the ones who scared the dickens out of you, like Mommie Dearest with Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford.
TCM also heavily promoted a lavishly illustrated book by TCM and film critic and historian Richard Corliss: ‘Mom in the Movies: The Iconic Screen Mothers You Love (and a Few You Love to Hate)’ (Simon & Schuster, 256 pages, $35.00).
Both of the movies mentioned above are in the book, along with dozens of others in a variety of genres. You’ll find Jimmy Cagner’s Cody Jarrett’s gangland mom from the classic 1949 flick White Heat — “Top of the world, mom” — and Bette Davis’s horrible mom in Now, Voyager (1942).
With a foreword written by Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher, and sidebar essays by Eva Marie Saint, Illeana Douglas, Jane Powell, Sam Robards, and Tippi Hedren, this book is packed with an incredible collection of photographs and film stills.
Here you will meet the Criminal Moms, like Shelley Winters in Bloody Mama, and the eccentric Showbiz Moms, including those from Gypsy and Postcards from the Edge. You’ll also find Great American Moms, in movies such as I Remember Mama and Places in the Heart, along with Surrogate Moms, like Ginger Rogers in Bachelor Mother, Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame, Dianne Wiest in Edward Scissorhands and Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side.
There are plenty of the baddest moms of all, including one of the worst, Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate. It’s interesting to note that Lansbury was 36 when she made the 1962 movie, only a few years older than 33-year-old Laurence Harvey, who played her P.O.W. brainwashed son.
I looked in vain for the actress who played Cary Grant’s mom in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 thriller North by Northwest, the woman who advised her son to “pay the $2” fine for driving while intoxicated on Long Island. That’s Chicago native Jessie Royce Landis (1896-1972). She was only seven years older than Grant!
I know Father’s Day is coming up this weekend (is there hope for a book about movie fathers?) but there’s still time to get order the book as a gift for your mother. My mother has been gone 30 years now, but I’m sure she’d love to read about the amazing variety of mothers that have fascinated, frightened or delighted us down through the years.