Beloved actress Irene Dunne received her fifth (and last) nomination in the Best Actress category for playing Martha, a strong-willed and loving Norwegian mother raising her children in San Fransisco in the movie I Remember Mama. Jane Wyman said once that she herself thought that Irene Dunne was going to win the Oscar. And that makes sense: it was her fifth unsuccesful nomination, she had many friends in the industry and she had many imporant factors on her side. I'm just pissed that she lost for The Awful Truth, gosh she was so great in that (yes, I have seen the others).
I Remember Mama is a bit sentimental and yet touching little American movie about a nice, loveable family with whom you can easily identify and about whom you really care. The movie itself received five nominations (four of them in acting categories). The three performances which got the noms are not very outstanding to tell the truth: Oskar Homolka gives a very over-the-top performance which is occasionally quite annoying, Ellen Corby gets nearly nothing to do, but she's not that bad. Barbara Bel Geddes is the finest of the three, however when I look at her always Miss Ellie comes to my mind (here in Hungary Dallas was unbelievably popular).
Irene Dunne whom I adore, love and everything is not at the top of her game either unfortunately. In short we can say: she gives a very lovable and enjoyable performance, however she was not able to have a lasting effect on me. But if we look at the role (and her performance) we can easily see why she was the front-runner and why she gets so much love for this movie. The character of the lovely, self-sacrificing mother has always been very popular among the people and that also includes the members of the Academy (a fine example is Sandy Bullock's win this year). The audience loves mums in movies, because they remind them of their own mother and by this they love the actual actress.
First of all, the technical part of the performance is not very well worked on. I don't care about the accents, but even I noticed how exagerrated her Norwegian accent was. This is very surprising (or rather shocking) as Irene Dunne always nailed the technical part. Here she simply decided to be only lovely and rely on the emotions. She constantly (and desperately) wants to get the sympathy of the audience and her character became way too perfect and angelic, I actually couldn't believe that she was an actual person.
Her singing scene at the hospital is considered to be very moving and although I liked it to a degree, it did not really warm my stone heart. I felt so indifferent towards all of the characters and that unfortunately did not include Ms. Dunne. Too bad, however I would not really say that I was very disappointed, because I really did not have any expectations, actually I expected a good, but very sentimental performance, which I got ironically. So now I would not say that I'm bitter like I was with Olivia. I just feel this neutrality.
Towards the end of the movie however there are scenes where Irene Dunne gets some opportunities to shine and show her very radiant personality. First of all, when her uncle is dying, she's just excellent. She does not have much to do, but she says a lot in her silence. It's very moving where she decides to show the dead body to her daughter so that she wasn't terrified of death. There my indifference started to fade away and the sympathy for which Dunne so desperately worked was born in me. I really felt then that Martha was a breathing, living human being.
Another great moment is her chat with the famous writer to whom she shows her daughter's stories. Her loveliness shone through the screen and she quite impressed me right there. It's interesting her performance started mediocre but ended in total greatness. I'm always greatly influenced by the ending for if the end is good I can get over some mistakes. However, if it's not satisfying, I cannot forgive it. Fotunately, Dunne belongs to the former.
So to sum up, I can say that Irene Dunne gave a heartwarming, lovable performance which definitely had it's flaws but it did not bother me for her strong presence attracted my attention all the way. In time it grew on me so much that I only have positive memories about it and she still warms up my heart if I think about her.