I Remember Mama - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

I Remember Mama Reviews

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May 9, 2015
Flawless, heartrending performance by Irene Dunne; beautiful story, excellent screenplay. Love, love, love it!
½ September 26, 2014
I must say that I think Ruby's review of this film is right on the money. I had anticipated a masterpiece after reading so many good things about it. Instead I met with nauseating over sentimentality and some of the worst accents I've ever heard. I'm with you Ruby, give me the Curtiz' "Life With Father" over this mush and gush every time.
Super Reviewer
October 23, 2013
You have to love this Irene Dunne performance here even if it borders on the overly sentimental. You hope that you have people around you that are as interesting as those who stop in to visit this San Francisco family.
October 14, 2013
Wonderfully endearing. I don't usually like this kind of story that spreads over many years, but the characters here are so great that I am happy to make an exception.
February 18, 2013
Classic George Stevens drama about a Scandanavian family living in San Francisco in the early 1900's....if you liked "Its a Wonderful Life", you'll probably enjoy this film.
½ February 13, 2013
Self-sacrificing matriarch leads immigrant family to prosperity--The family goes as Mama goes!!
January 29, 2013
Feel good family drama encompassing the whole unit, similar to 'The Waltons' television series.
rubystevens
Super Reviewer
½ June 21, 2012
don't really get why everyone loves this so much or else it's just far too sentimental for my tastes. the outlandish accents and gushing music put me off right away but i stuck it out for 2+ hours thinking there must be something...give me curtiz' 'life with father' any day
June 20, 2012
stevens amps up the home spun
July 14, 2011
George Stevens' adaptation of the stage-based memoir "I Remember Mama" hasn't aged well. It's easy to see how it pleasing it would have been in 1948, an age when critics and audiences were easily satisfied merely by the depiction of wholesome family values on screen, no matter how mundane, but today it only translates as boring saccharine. The lengthy episodic plot structure (probably better suited to television, onto which it was eventually spun off) is enough to put one to sleep. While Irene Dunne does play the part of the family's problem-solving matriarch with much warmth, without any kind of arc to guide her, the character becomes one-note, however appealing she may come off.
½ June 20, 2011
Pretty good film directed by George Stevens and starring Irene Dunne as a the mother of a Norwegian family who live in early 20th century America and try to cope with living in the new country. While the acting is over the top and the plot is pretty cliched, I couldn't help but be entertained by it. Though the plot sounds extremely dull, it's actually easy to watch. Perhaps it's way too happy and easy going, but hey, the movie was made in 1948, after WWII had ended, it's an obvious mainstream Hollywood feel good film, and it pulled it off. I guess if you're watching the film you should know what you're getting in to.
January 6, 2011
Tugging a Little Forcefully at the Heartstrings

The thing is, "write what you know" isn't always good advice. Sticking exclusively to people and places you know cuts down on huge, huge amounts of art. Not just writing, either. Yes, there's great art created from following that advice. If you think about it, [i]Citizen Kane[/i] is writing what you know, inasmuch as he knew William Randolph Hearst. On the other hand, Orson Welles didn't live that life. And while L. Frank Baum certainly found Kansas boring, he never lived in the fantasy world of Oz. Heck, William Shakespeare never left England. Sometimes, you have to step outside what you know. You have to invent. Degas went to the ballet and the horse races, and he painted and sculpted ballerinas and horse. Okay. But those medieval tapestries with the unicorns are certainly not woven from life. Even most nonfiction is based on the past, based on experiences outside the writers' lives.

Katrin (Barbara Bel Geddes) is the daughter of Norwegian immigrants. Her parents are poor, but they're thrifty and manage to keep the house and keep food on the table. Mama (Irene Dunne) and Papa (Philip Dorn) moved to San Francisco because that's where Mama's family is. The four children were all born in that house. Nels (Steve Brown) makes it very clear at the beginning of the movie that he's going to continue with school, and by the end, it's stated that he's going to be a doctor. Christine (Peggy McIntyre) doesn't seem to have much ambition, but she is, after all, the Middle Child. Dagmar (June Hedin) is crazy obsessed with animals. Aunts Jenny (Hope Landin) and Sigrid (Edith Evanson) are battle-axes, and Aunt Trina (Ellen Corby) is afraid they'll laugh when she announces her engagement to Mr. Thorkelson (Edgar Bergen!). And over all is Uncle Chris (Oskar Homolka).

It's really an "a bunch of stuff that happens" kind of movie. It doesn't have a real plot. Papa loses his job. Papa gets another one. The boarder, Mr. Hyde (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), spends time reading to the family then absconds, leaving a bad check for his rent. Dagmar gets sick and needs an operation at the same time as Cousin Arne (Tommy Ivo) gets an operation on his knee. Uncle Chris storms in and out of their lives. Mama goes out of her way to find Florence Dana Moorhead (Florence Bates), a Famous Writer, so that she can get good writing advice for Katrin. (She trades recipes for getting Miss Moorhead to read the stories.) And so forth. There are several instances where people Learn Valuable Lessons. The woman Mama's sisters scorn as "That Woman" (Barbara O'Neil, probably?) turns out to have married Uncle Chris several years before. Just everyday stuff from an ordinary immigrant family.

But we in this country have a complicated relationship with immigration. My most recent immigrant ancestor came to this country maybe a hundred years ago, and she was from a people despised throughout Europe and basically hounded from place to place. I think there are still countries with laws on the books against them. However, she was my great-grandmother, and all the rest of the family has been in the country even longer. But there are people who take pride in their family's immigrant status while denigrating others'. It all depends on when their families got here. I've been reading about Prohibition and national sex education and whatever, and so much of it was about Those Types. Blacks, yes, but there's a distrust of immigrants running all through the country's history, since before we've had a country. And perhaps the most interesting thing about the popularity of this movie--it spawned a TV series almost right away, long before most people even had TVs--is that these are people with ties to the Old Country who are still at heart Americans. Immigrants but not foreigners.

And, of course, it appeals to Americans' longing for schmaltz. The saccharine. I think we like to believe that there is an ideal family out there, and maybe we can find it if we just look long enough. And this family Has Hardships But Sticks Together Anyway. Mama budgets out their money meticulously. And even though it was really important to her that her daughter inherit a brooch which her own mother had given her, Mama was willing to trade it instead for a dresser set (with a hair receiver, whatever that is) that's what the daughter actually wanted. And of course the daughter finds this out, weeps a bit, and trades the dresser set back. Because it's important to her that her mother is happy, even if she finds her mother's brooch old-fashioned. Even if All the Other Girls get something fancy and modern, it's okay to get the brooch she thinks is dowdy, old-fashioned and, worse, [i]Old Country[/i]. Really, the story is about what it means to become an American, and the funny thing is that it seems to be in a way people don't much like these days.
November 4, 2010
Every once in a while I see an older film regarded as a classic or semi-classic and I just seem to disagree with the masses and not like the film. Such is the case with I Remember Mama. The story is about a Norwegian family in San Francisco in the early 20th century as told in reflection by one daughter concentrating her story on her mother. The family struggles financially through the years to make ends meet. There is never any seemingly major issues - just things like a refined old lodger who does not like to pay rent; a daughter needing surgery and the mother needing to live up to her word to see her after the operation; a broach with intrinsic traded for something else. This family has such self-sacrificing niceness that it gives off that golly-geewillikers kind of sickening vibe. There is a cat scene that is dragged out to maximum melodrama; Oscar Homolka yelled just about every line (and still scores an Oscar nomination no less) so of course he will turn out to be a loud saint; the nerdy sister falling in love with an equally nerdy, but completely dedicated man. And the hospital scene just really annoyed me - I wouldn't want some woman who likely hadn't bathed and potentially had lice or other bugs on her coming into my post surgery room! What was with Bel Geddes' characters excessive blinking issue? 4 acting nominations at the Academy Awards - a little much, especially considering most performances were a little too much over-the-top. Dunne is perhaps the finest in her role as matriarch, but the accent sometimes slips from Scandanavian to Irish sounding every once in a while (I can never stop staring at how perfect her teeth are in every film I see her in!) Melodrama to the extreme and pure cheese, I really can't understand such high ratings.
Super Reviewer
½ October 24, 2010
A really great family drama, a wonderful cast, and a good story. I really liked it.
½ October 23, 2010
Its very rarely a black and white film interests me but thanks to my own mama this one is a keeper. It's one of those warm movies of a family of Norwegian foreigners that are making it by and living the American dream. Overall its highly enjoyable, and Uncle Chris is a man you'll never forget from the film. You are given about 4-5 different stories that will make you smile and cheer you up for the day. In other words go see it already!
May 1, 2010
Irene Dunne plays the quintessential mother in this wonderful film.
½ March 17, 2010
90/100. A very heart warming film, wonderfully written and believably done. There is a fine attention to detail and the film has a loving feel of the time. Superb cinematography, good art direction but it is the marvelous cast that makes this film work, as well as George Stevens sensitive direction. Irene Dunne is so perfect in the title role and gives one of her best performances. The movie boasts an amazing supporting cast, Barbara Bel Geddes, Oscar Homolka, Ellen Corby and Edgar Bergen. The scene with the cat is a classic! Bel Geddes, Homolka, Dunne and Corby were all nominated for Oscars, as was the fine black and white cinematography.
½ March 17, 2010
91/100. A very heart warming film, wonderfully written and believably done. There is a fine attention to detail and the film has a loving feel of the time. Superb cinematography, good art direction but it is the marvelous cast that makes this film work, as well as George Stevens sensitive direction. Irene Dunne is so perfect in the title role and gives one of her best performances. The movie boasts an amazing supporting cast, Barbara Bel Geddes, Oscar Homolka, Ellen Corby and Edgar Bergen. The scene with the cat is a classic! Bel Geddes, Homolka, Dunne and Corby were all nominated for Oscars, as was the fine black and white cinematography.
December 3, 2009
***1/2 (out of four)

A sentimental and loving look at motherhood without being overly melodramatic. George Stevens strikes just the right tone.

Irene Dunne plays the mother of a family if Dutch immigrants who settle in 1910 San Francisco. The oldest daughter (Barbara Bel Geddes) fondly reminisces about various situations where her mother came through in difficult problems.

Dunne is wonderful in the lead, but the entire cast comes through.
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