Dearest Mommy: Film Mothers Who Rule

Movie momI had this great idea for a series of Mother’s Day posts: write about moms in movies, books and song who’ve inspired me. But then, disaster struck. I blanked. I couldn’t think of them. Try it yourself – you’ll see. You may see a film and think, “Boy, I LOVED the mom character in that film.” But dredging it up out of the memory of tomorrow’s schedule, the character story lines in LOST, the names of the seven dwarves, and other ephemera — ooph. It can give you a headache.

Be that as it may, I persevered, googled everyone else’s list of Mother’s Day movies, and came up with my short list of films where the moms rule. My only requirements for inclusion were that (a) I actually had to have seen and enjoyed the movie; and (b) I had to have felt the movie was not blatantly manipulative in its depiction of the trials and tribulations of motherhood (i.e. thus disposing in my own eyes of perennial weepy favorites like Terms of Endearment and Beaches).

So what made the short list? Reflect upon the following moms with aplomb:

Mrs. Parker, aka Ralphie’s mom (Melinda Dillon): In A Christmas Story (1983), Jean Shepherd created the quintessential all-time-great mom. As played by Dillon, Mrs. Parker knew the name of the Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse (Victor – “Everybody knows that.”), knew when to hide Ralphie’s fight with Scott Farkas from the Old Man by distracting him with football, and allowed little brother Randy some alone time to hide under the sink. She is a model for us all.

Beatrice Henderson (Debbie Reynolds): In Albert Brooks‘ riotously funny film Mother (1996), he and Monica McGowan Johnson wrote a fully-realized character in Reynolds’ Beatrice. The main character John (Brooks) has moved back home after two divorces and a failing writing career, only to discover in some achingly mortifying ways that his mother has her own life (She tells John about a date, “We’re not intimate, dear. We just have sex occasionally.”) and own unfulfilled dreams. Brooks has said of the film:

There are two kinds of mothers on the planet. The first kind thinks that every single thing their children do is perfect and their children are God’s gift to the world. And then there’s the other kind. This is about the other kind.

By the end of the film, John and the audience come to realize that John and his mother have deeper ties than he has known, and that her love for him is realistic but unwavering.

Lillian Gilbreth (Myrna Loy): In Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) and its sequel, Belles on Their Toes (1952), Loy portrays the wife of efficiency expert Frank Bunker Gilbreth (Clifton Webb). The true story of the adventures of a family with twelve children (written by two of them – Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey) the mom is portrayed as being an efficiency expert in her own right, and the bastion of sanity in the storm of chaos that twelve children brings. To be truthful, it’s been years since I saw these films, and summaries of these classics are hard to come by. But I recall loving Myrna Loy in that film, and in awe of how she handled the running of a household big enough to be its own school. Note: If you rent this movie, rent the early version. The 2003 film with Steve Martin is cute enough, but the original is the real charmer.

Now you have my picks. What are yours? Who are your favorite movie mothers?

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4 Responses to “Dearest Mommy: Film Mothers Who Rule”

  1. lwayswright Says:

    K, I’m not great with names but i am great with movies…so here are my picks for great mom movies. I loved the movie step mom. I am a step mom and I am not sure I would handle the transition of handing my kids over to a new mom as I was dying to someone as beautiful smart and talented as Julia Roberts charecter was. But the whole relationship transition in that movie was moving and touching to me on a level that has always stuck with m. I also enjoyed cheaper by the dozen, although i loved the new one cuz i loved the playfulness between steve martin and bonnie hunt. I loved Father of the bride…all of the those movies actually. Great mom character in those movies. I loved Maria von Trapp in the sound of music and how she transformed into a mom. She was one of my very favorite of all time. those are some of my favs.

  2. toddiedowns Says:

    Thanks for being the first to jump into the discussion. I will second your opinion on Bonnie Hunt. She gets tapped to be a mom in a lot of projects, including her own shows, and to me, she’s always spot on at playing just the right blend of affection and exasperation. And thanks for talking about how the movie Stepmom resonated with you. I give any movie props when it showcases a contingency of moms that’s not the mainstream in a realistic, non-stereotypic way: adoptive moms, stepmoms, grandmoms doing the raising. All these moms deserve celebration as well.

  3. Betty Olson Says:

    My recent favorite mother in the movies: Ruby Dee as the “MaMa” of gangster, Frank Lucas, in the recent flick “An American Gangster”. Of course, playing MaMa to Denzel Washington probably wasn’t a odious gig, but Ruby Dee was wonderful in the part………and the character proved to be a Mother-of-Real-Worth at the time when that was required of her. I absolutely adored her.

  4. toddiedowns Says:

    I haven’t yet seen American Gangster, but considering it was written by Oscar winner Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List), it will go on my “To Watch” list forthwith.

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