A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) - Rotten Tomatoes

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Based on the novel by Betty Smith, this film relates the trials and tribulations of a turn-of-the-century Brooklyn tenement family. The story is told from the point of view of daughter Peggy Ann Garner, a clear-eyed realist who nonetheless would like to believe in her pie-in-the-sky father, whom she loves,
  • Rating:
    PG (for mild depiction of mature plot material)
  • Genre:
  • Directed By:
  • Written By:
  • In Theaters:
  • On DVD:
  • Runtime:
  • Studio:
    Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment


Peggy Ann Garner
as Francie Nolan
James Dunn
as Johnny Nolan
Lloyd Nolan
as McShane
Joan Blondell
as Aunt Sissy
Ted Donaldson
as Neely Nolan
James Gleason
as McGarrity
Ruth Nelson
as Miss McDonough
John Alexander
as Steve Edwards
B.S. Pully
as Christmas Tree Vendor
Ferike Boros
as Grandma Rommely
Charles Halton
as Mr. Barker
Robert Tait
as Street Singer
J. Farrell MacDonald
as Carney the junkman
George Melford
as Mr. Spencer
Mae Marsh
as Tynmore sister
Edna Jackson
as Tynmore Sister
Al Bridge
as Cheap Charlie
Vincent Graeff
as Henny Gaddis
Susan Lester
as Flossie Gaddis
John Berkes
as Mr. Crackenbox
Lillian Bronson
as Librarian
Alec Craig
as Werner
Alan Bridge
as Cheap Charlie
Virginia Brissac
as Miss Tilford
Art Smith
as Ice Man
Erskine Sanford
as Undertaker
Al Eben
as Union Representative
Harry Seymour
as Floorwalker
Nicholas Ray
as Bakery Clerk
Norman Field
as Principals of School
George Meader
as Principals of School
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Critic Reviews for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (3)

A sober and reasonably truthful story of life among the lowly.

Full Review… | December 5, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Where Tree is frequently slow, it is offset by the story's significance and pointed up notably by the direction of Elia Kazan.

Full Review… | November 1, 2007
Top Critic

Elia Kazan has directed this picture, his first, with an easy naturalness that has brought out all the tone of real experience in a vastly affecting film.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Faithful adaptation of classic family story.

Full Review… | December 21, 2010
Common Sense Media

Kazan's first film, a sentimental family melodrama, is well acted (James Dunn won a Supporting Oscar), but it doesn't begin to suggest the powerful director he would become in the 1950s.

Full Review… | April 8, 2009

Rarely has the dream factory lavished such skill on such destitution and such insistence that people are not really that changeable in nature.

Full Review… | February 15, 2009

Audience Reviews for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


I loved the book and found the story of Irish immigrant life in depression era to be profound and well told. In contrast, I did not love this movie and although it generally accurately portrayed scenes from the book, I felt it lacked every aspect that made the book so compelling. I didn't feel like Francie or the father were cast the way I think the book depicts them and found them both lacking - the father was not as handsome or charming as the book's father -in fact I simply couldn't suspend my disbelief that I was supposed to imagine his character as winning so many people over despite his being a drunken failure, and he was far too much older than the wife to believe they had fallen in love as teenagers together 12 years earlier - the mother was correctly portrayed by a 30 year old actress while the father portrayed by a 45 year old actor. A different actor might have pulled the part off far better. I also wasn't so sure that the author had intended Francie to be depicted by such a breathy shy mouse of a girl, though she was probably closer to the target than the father. All in all, the book was great, this movie did not become great merely by showing some scenes from a great book, and I didn't think the movie stood on its own. Without having already read and loved the book, I would have been too bored to continue past the first 20 minutes. As it was, I stuck it out waiting and hoping it would grow on me at least for the sake of having a visual representation of one of my favorite books, but it didn't and I turned it off about 3/4 of the way through.

Jules RT
Jules RT

Flying under the radar, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a great Kazan film. Putting aside the snitch tendencies off the screen, the tale of the family in a Brooklyn tenement is particularly dark in a tremendous way.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

Director Elia Kazan gives us his adaptation of the Betty Smith novel about a young girl coming-of-age in 1900s Brooklyn. Living with an alcoholic father and a workaholic mother, she and her tough little brother try to survive the rough times in their little apartment home. The father is a singing waiter and dreams of one day making it big in show business. To his daughter, he's larger-than-life character, a charming prince or movie star. The mother is more pragmatic or cynical, or maybe just tired of the hard life, and finds his antics less amusing. The daughter is naturally inquisitive, she attempts to read every book in the library in alphabetical order. It's only natural she's extraordinarily bored at the substandard and overcrowded school she attends. She wants nothing more than to attend the school where the children of higher incomed families go. The father makes it the one wish of hers he can fullfill and somehow manages to get her in. She means to rise above her status in life and make something great of herself. She wants to be a writer. The teacher at her new school encourages her, but warns her not to be a pipe-dreamer, as "they never do anyone any good" (ironically, her father is one of the biggest pipe-dreamers ever, and she fails to see this). The little girl is like a tree growing in Brooklyn, a thing of radiant beauty pushing it's way up through the sidewalk. Where so many darkened minds exist in illiteracy and poverty, she intends to grow up with her imagination intact and in pursuit of the intellectual, despite her surroundings. But when her surroundings are a family as loving and supportive as hers, she almost can't help but succeed. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a wonderfully expressed film, full of the sorrow and joy of timeless adolescence.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

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