A Conversation with Richard Corliss


Club TCM kicks of the second day of discussions with a great line up. First off we have author and film critic Richard Corliss, who wrote the new book MOM IN THE MOVIES: THE ICONIC SCREEN MOTHERS YOU LOVE (AND A FEW YOU LOVE TO HATE). Mr. Corliss was interviewed by TCM’s own Shannon Clute. Below are a few highlights from their discussion:

  • “I think every child thinks his or her family is a normal family, until you meet other families. And mine, I probably took it for granted, was idyllic. Very loving, let me see all the movies I wanted. We still had a dozen theatres in walking distance, or a trolly ride away. I grew up in Father Knows Best (1954-1960), I thought it was a documentary.”
  • “At the age of 7 I saw Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), which I thought was hilarious, though I’m sure I didn’t understand all of it. Also, The Moon is Blue (1953) – and I was raised Catholic – the Legion of Decency gave it a C for condemned. So after mass I would go see what C rated movies were out. But I’d see almost any movie that came out.”
  • “Not until I was in my twenties did I fall for the classic movies that were running on CBS. And I fell for them like I did the movies when I was a kid.”
  • “The first thing that I did with Mary Corliss was the day after Christmas 2012 was the screen all the films. I think we came up with about 150 films. We didn’t want to miss anything, but we ended up with about 120 films. My first thought was to write about two paragraphs on 1,000 films – because everyone is going to wonder why one is missing.”
  • “In the Golden Age, women were as important as men, and children were too. But female stars were as big as male stars and they were given a tremendous variety of roles. And because they were beautiful young women, they were often unmarried mothers – single mothers, working mothers, sexy mothers.”
  • “The chapter that surprised me was Serial Moms. In the ’30s and ’40s, contingent with the Hardy family series, was a series of B movies each producing 3 or 4 films a year – the Jones family, Blondie – and I was a little surprised. These films were rooted in the time, resolving real problems. These were situation elements.”
  • “We must mention Irene Dunne here – she is the patron saint of movie moms.”
  • “To get good movie moms you need to get popular young talent, and let them age – Sally Field, Susan Sarandon. It’s also because of the Oscars, that started in this room. Judi Dench [in Philomena (2013)] is everything you want a mother to be, Mo’Nique in Precious (2009) was everything you don’t want a mother to be.”
  • Barbara Stanwyck wanted Stella Dallas, studio wanted Ruth Chatterton, who suffered through many of these roles. Stanwyck always knows her affect on men, she’s very smart. Stella doesn’t realize her effect on men, it’s hard for us to see her playing someone who isn’t in control of her affect. But she does it wonderfully.

MOM IN THE MOVIES is widely available at book retailers, or to purchase now from the TCM Shop, please click here.