Book traces history of moms in the movies

  • By Douglass K. Daniel Associated Press
  • Friday, May 2, 2014 8:01am
  • LifeMovies

“Mom in the Movies: The Iconic Screen Mothers You Love (and a Few You Love to Hate)” by Turner Classic Movies and Richard Corliss

Don’t go thinking this is a hardcover companion to a sickly sweet greeting card designed to give you-know-who a good cry on her special day.

The smartly written and nicely illustrated “Mom in the Movies” is appropriate for any occasion, an entertaining slice of movie history that’s served up by one of film’s best writers and a few special guests.

Time magazine critic Richard Corliss, working with the cable channel TCM, takes us through the cinema’s treatment of motherhood from the silent films of a century ago to the IMAX-size moms of today.

That’s a long string of depictions that include Lillian Gish as “eternal motherhood” rocking the cradle in the classic “Intolerance” (1916) and Diane Lane calming a young Clark Kent in last year’s “Man of Steel.”

In spite of that stretch of time, Corliss argues that the mother movie often seems near extinction these days.

One reason he offers is that modern movies present stories wrapped in danger and physical triumph, not the stuff of home and hearth.

The shift from realism to fantasy after the success of “Star Wars” (1977) also has helped thin the herd of mother movies, he writes, as has the industry’s catering to the young male demographic.

Corliss neatly divides his subject into several types — perennial moms like those in the many film versions of “Anna Karenina” and “Stella Dallas” and great American moms like Ma Joad (Oscar winner Jane Darwell) in “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940).

As we know, not all mothers are perfect: Piper Laurie as the insane mother in “Carrie” (1976), Anjelica Huston as the swindling mother in “The Grifters” (1990) and the unseen and unhinged Mrs. Bates in “Psycho” (1960) are among those he places in the ranks of criminal moms and horror moms.

Mom movie quiz

Make mother proud by testing your knowledge of movie moms by answering these five questions inspired by Corliss’ text:

1. Shirley MacLaine was nominated for Oscars when she played mothers in what two films?

2. In what 1934 film and 1959 remake with the same title does a black mother die of heartbreak because her light-skinned daughter rejects her to “pass” for white?

3. After she plays a mother saving her daughter from the devil in “The Exorcist” (1973), what actress won an Oscar the next year for playing a mother who takes her son on the road in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”?

4. Who won the best-actress Oscar — and in what 2000 movie — for playing a twice-divorced, unemployed mother of three who turns whistle-blower?

5. Who played Debbie Reynolds’ mother in “The Catered Affair” (1956) and whose mother did Reynolds play four decades later in “Mother” (1996)?

Answers:

(1) “The Turning Point” (1977) and “Terms of Endearment” (1983), winning an Oscar for the later film.

(2) “Imitation of Life.”

(3) Ellen Burstyn.

(4) Julia Roberts in “Erin Brockovich.”

(5) Bette Davis and Albert Brooks.

More in Life

Co-owner Jason Parzyk carries two growlers to fill as he serves up beer at Lake Stevens Brewing Co. The first brewery in the city is celebrating one-year anniversary this weekend. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Beer of the Week: Lake Stevens Brewing Co.’s Sour Imperial

The beer has a depth and a complex flavor profile that goes beyond just another barrel-aged stout.

Now is the perfect time to design the garden of your dreams

Find inspiration in gardening magazines, on the internet, in your neighborhood and at nurseries.

Around Thanksgiving, gardeners give thanks for the garden

What are they most thankful for? The pleasure they receive from spending time in their yards.

Great Plant Pick: Thuja occidentalis ‘Degroot’s Spire’

What: An exceptional selection of the eastern arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis “Degroot’s Spire”… Continue reading

Our annual list of holiday events in Snohomish County and beyond

LIGHTS The Lights of Christmas: Open 5 to 10 p.m. Nov. 30-Dec.… Continue reading

AC/DC founding member Malcolm Young dead at 64

The older brother of bandmate Angus Young was the group’s key writer and leader.

Garden clubs in Snohomish, Island counties

Alderwood Garden Club: Cedar Valley Grange Hall, 20526 52nd Ave. W., Lynnwood;… Continue reading

Home and Garden calendar for Snohomish County and beyond

Printing workshop: with artist and naturalist April Richardson, 1 to 3 p.m.… Continue reading

Legendary bluesman Curtis Salgado to play Arlington show

The Northwest blues-soul-funk-R&B living legend performs with Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons Nov. 18.

Most Read