Saturday, June 5, 2010

Best Supporting Actor reviews: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)

As I promised, the next Best Supporting Actor review is about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a movie about a the Nolans, a poor family living in Brooklyn. The very bright and promising young girl, Francie (Peggy Ann Garner) is encouraged by her idealistic alcoholic father Johnny (James Dunn) to learn and know the world and we can witness as she becomes an adult as a result of their hardships.
This movie is not nearly as sentimental as I would have thought or anyone who reads the story and it was certainly a great surprise. The number of cheesy dialogues is fortunately low, which is pretty miraculous considering the fact that this is a movie made in the 1940s. So in my opinion, that screenplay nomination was deserved.
Of course, when you look at who directed this movie (Elia Kazan) than you won't be surprised at how great the acting ensemble is, another rare thing. Of course, don't expect something like A Streetcar Named Desire or On the Waterfront, but they are still all brilliant. Naturally, a lto of that is due to the brilliant directing genious of Kazan. That guy was miraculously great with actors and directors like him are not very common anymore unfortunately.
Although Dorothy McGuire (a very underrated actress) was nominated (in my opinion deservedly and I think I'm alone in this) for Gentleman's Agreement (also directed by Kazan), this performance of hers as Mrs. Nolan was probably even better. Her character is very complicated and easily dislikeable, but she's able to give her some humanity and made us understand her choices.
Peggy Ann Garner, the real lead of this movie gave a beautiful child performance in a bit standard role, but I can only say good things about her as she did not go too over-the-top with her charm, so she was great.
Joan Blondell probably should have been nominated for her impressive turn as Aunt Sissy, a good looking, nice and free woman. Blondell's screen presence was really brilliant and you really can't take your eyes off her.
Still, this movie belongs to James Dunn, who gives a brilliant performance as the alcoholic dreamer, Johnny Nolan. That Oscar was not only well-deserved, but also one of the truly-truly deserved one. He also did not go over-the-top with his alcoholism and I salute him for that. That year was a lucky one for men who played alcoholics as Ray Milland also won that year for his brilliant turn in The Lost Weekend. But back to Dunn: his performance is brilliantly mixing joy with desperation, humor with tragedy and he's truly moving.
This movie is based on a novel which I haven't read yet, but I enjoyed this one without any previous knowledge. Good work.
Grade: 8/10 Great movie.
Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (James Dunn WON); Best Writing, Screenplay
My wins: Supporting Actor for Dunn

Next reviews coming: The Barefoot Contessa, The More the Merrier, Sayonara (not in this order probably)


Louis Morgan said...

I liked the movie, and Dunn was brilliant.

Anonymous said...

James Dunn is in my top 10 winners...he was fantastic.

joe burns said...

I haven't seen this yet, but it sounds interesting.

dinasztie said...

You should see it Joe.