I Remember Mama
Dir: George Stevens
I Remember Mama is George Stevens' 1948 film based upon the play by John Van Druten, which was itself based on the novel Mama's Bank Account which was a heavily fictional account of author Kethryn Forbes' childhood. It is narrated by the stories would be author, Katrin, eldest daughter of the Hanson family, who immigrated to San Francisco from Norway at the turn of the century. The original title refers to the family's continued money situation as they struggled with the cost of living, when times were tough they would have to visit the 'little bank', an emergency stash of money hidden in father's sock draw, but the family were regularly relieved on pay day night when it was calculated that they wouldn't have to visit the real bank. If a child needed school books then the family would rally round and work for the money with Mama calling the shots as head of the household. Each character of the story represents an attribute to a close working family, although Katrin the author is the 'emotional one' and every bit of the story is somewhat melodramatic. I used to watch it with my elder sister and grandmother and it brings back very warm memories indeed. I always saw myself and my sister as the bickering sisters of the film and my Grandmother as the matriarch of the family. Each chapter would end in fresh tears, tears of the good kind. Mama would do anything in her power for her children, often with heart-warming and hilarious results. A favourite scene of mine sees Mama try to put down her daughter's tom cat (called Uncle Elizabeth) with chloroform after it is fatally wounded in a fight. She ends up not using enough to kill it but enough to give it the rest it needs to recover. It's incredibly emotionally manipulative but also rather wonderful. The performances are fantastic, particularly from Irene Dunne as Mama and Oskar Homolka as Uncle Chris. There are also notable appearances from the great Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Edgar Bergen and legendary drag racer Tommy Ivo, as well as an array of wonderful character actors of a golden era. It is somewhat rose-tinted but it's also very charming, irresistible even and meticulously directed by the great George Stevens.