Mother’s Day Movie Madness!

May 08, 2008


Mother’s Day is Sunday May 11, 2008!

The movies have been making a big deal of Mom for ages, since well before James Cagney’s psychopathic Cody Jarrett went stark-raving bonkers in the prison mess hall on learning his beloved, but homicidal, mother had bought it in the back (White Heat, 1949)…

In the run-up to Mother’s Day weekend, I’ve put together a list of noteworthy films from yesteryear that all have one thing in common: At least one compelling mother(ing) character, or a strong motherhood theme.

If you’re thinking of piling into the den with Mom for Saturday Night at the Family Bijou—complete with butter-soaked popcorn, soda-pop, Twizzlers, and Raisinets—you might want to consider putting together a double feature with some of the goodies on this list.

If you’re thinking of staging an after-church, after-brunch matinee at the house Sunday afternoon, you may not want to go with Roger Corman’s Bloody Mama on that double bill, but there are plenty of other flicks to choose from, and I suspect you’ve got your own favorite “mom films” as well!

Here’s the Mother’s Day Movie Madness List, categorized for easy review:



Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, 1945) is a richly melodramatic study of why it’s no good catering to every whim of a demon child with a “life’s all about me” complex. Exceptional women’s wear by Milo Anderson

The Grapes of Wrath (Henry Fonda, John Carradine, 1940) Jane Darwell keeps the family together on the arduous cross-country trek they hope will end in a new life in Depression-era California

Gypsy (Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood, 1962) Musical about the early career of burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee, and her relationship with her hard-driving stage mother,  “Mama Rose” Hovick

You Can’t Take It With You (James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, 1938) Spring Byington is the matriarch of the most eccentric, artsy, musical, wise-cracking family on the block in this Frank Capra feel-gooder



Stella Dallas (Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, 1937) Miss Barbara pulls out all the stops in this tale of a mother’s endless capacity for self-sacrifice, as she sees the gap widening between her working-class self and the loving daughter she’s reared for the posh life

Terms of Endearment (Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, 1983) Wry look at sometimes-difficult mother-daughter relations, with a generous dollop of personal calamity and Jack Nicholson along the way

Imitation of Life (Lana Turner, Juanita Moore, 1959) The splashy, sudsy Douglas Sirk version of a story of modest beginnings; the price of fame; maternal sacrifice; friendship; identity; and passing for white in the ’50s, which turns out not to be such a good idea here

Steel Magnolias (Sally Field, Dolly Parton, 1989) Major Southern female bonding centered around the local beauty salon; a bitter fate lies in wait for some in this witty, resilient circle of friends…


Tune in tomorrow for Part II, the end of the Mother’s Day Movie Madness List,
featuring selections for young folk, and a section on
The Most Horrible Movie Mothers of All Time!