Five Classic Films with Six (or Seven) Classic Moms

Here are some memorable–although not always admirable–moms in honor of Mother’s Day this Sunday.

Most of these women are flawed, but doing their best, which is all we can ask from anyone, right? And admittedly, perfect moms often (but not always) make boring characters on screen. Still, for the most part, these women have their redeeming qualities. And a few are down-right saints.

So if you can’t be with your mom this weekend, or even if you can, check one of these movies out.

Some of these films have been reviewed on my other blog, Classic for a Reason, and I’ve conveniently linked to those posts.

Mildred Pierce

Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth
Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford) does her daughter no favors, but which one gets what she deserves?

A single mom who will sacrifice anything for her ungrateful daughter, Mildred Pierce will have you screaming, “Are you kidding me?” at various points throughout the film. Each of the characters has his or her own flaws, and several of them aren’t ashamed to use them against the others. Joan Crawford won an Academy Award for her performance, and it’s one of her best roles, ever. The film was remade for HBO several years ago, and I hear good things about that version as well, although it is decidedly different.


Bachelor Mother

David Niven, Ginger Rogers starring in Bachelor Mother
David Niven gives his best advice for feeding a baby–but Mama Ginger Rogers knows best.

Ginger Rogers’ seasonal job is about to end when she discovers an abandoned baby during her lunch hour. A series of misunderstandings lands that baby in her apartment, and to keep her job, she has to “admit” the baby is hers. David Niven plays opposite her in this charming comedy about getting what you want while going after what you think you need.


Stella Dallas 

Barbara Stanwyck, Anne Shirley in Stella Dallas
Barbara Stanwyck and Anne Shirley star as a devoted mother and daughter whose ways must part for their dreams to come true.

Stella is coarse and uncouth, and lucky enough to marry a society catch while he’s on the rebound. She’s not a particularly good wife, but her dedication to her only daughter is unparalleled. Barbara Stanwyck gives a wonderful performance in this tearjerker, one that raises more questions than it answers.


The World of Henry OrientTippy Walker, Merrie Spaeth in The World of Henry Orient

Tippy Walter, Merrie Spaeth–no, they’re not playing moms, but their mothers are memorable characters in this marvelous film.

Okay, this one isn’t about moms–nor is about Henry Orient, played by Peter Sellers. It’s about two young teen girls, played by Tippy Walker and Merrie Spaeth in their first film roles. The girls, Val and Marian, are, to use one of their own words, fantabolous in this heartwarming story. But adding to the charm are Phyllis Thaxter, as the compassionate, generous mom of Marian, Bibi Osterwald as her live-in best friend (by some accounts, Marian has two moms), and Angela Lansbury as Val’s self-absorbed, socially-conscious mother. Tom Bosley plays Lansbury’s long-suffering husband and father of Val. This is a wonderful film you will want to watch again and again.


The Best Years of Our LivesMyrna Loy, Teresa Wright in The Best Years of Our Lives

Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright–the women who held the men, and each other, together

Myrna Loy took a step down to a supporting character role in this post-war classic, but her portrayal of the long-suffering wife of alcoholic husband Fredric March and mother of love-struck daughter Teresa Wright makes her one of the most beloved moms of classic films. This movie shines in every aspect, and Myrna Loy is one of the brightest spots.


 

 

 

 

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Carefree and Campy

During our “break-up” talk, my now ex-boyfriend did everything he could to hurt me. One comment, however, had entirely the opposite effect.

“You’re kind of…offbeat,” he said, in a tone clearly not meant to be complimentary.

“Yes, I am,” I replied with a smile. Truer words were never said.

A junior high crush worded it differently, and at the time, it did hurt. “She’s different,” he told my friend when she asked the crucial question, “do you like her?” I felt like an outsider then.

As part of my offbeat side, I’ve always been drawn to the campy. While my wardrobe is actually fairly conservative, in fact, at this point, one might say, boring, I easily could have become known for a flamboyant style. Back in high school my life-long love of classic films began, particularly the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films of the 30s. Their second to last movie with RKO Pictures, Carefree (1938), featured Ginger in a couple of outfits I desperately wanted to emulate.

carefree2
Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers

Carefree is not the best Astaire/Rogers film, either in plot or dance numbers, but this sweater caught my attention. It’s actually a bit, well, tacky, compared to what Ginger normally wore, but is true to the character, who has the hearts & minds of a variety of men and can’t make up her mind whom she cares for most.

If you can’t tell from the picture, it’s a picture of a heart with numerous arrows aimed straight for it. It also has what is, on me, a flattering neckline, and slightly puffed sleeves, a look I favored for a time in my teens (hey, it was stylish then, I swear.)

I probably wouldn’t wear it today, but the sweater still makes me smile. It reminds me of a time in my life that, like the title of the movie, was carefree. Yes, I had my concerns and burdens. It was not an easy time in my life. But when it comes to adult responsibilities, I had few.

Life was ahead of me. Choices were exciting, opportunities were boundless. There are still choices and opportunities for me, but my life no longer stretches in front of me. My health limits me at times.

Still, I look for that desire in my life to create something new and exciting, modified for the times yet not compromised. Perhaps it’s time to watch Carefree again.


Carefree