I Remember Mama (1948)

Irene Dunne took a break from glamour to take on a rare character role in this loving tribute to motherhood and the immigrant experience. To play the matriarch in this adaptation of Kathryn Forbes’ popular stories, she donned old-age makeup and a braided blonde wig, had her costumes padded and spoke in the character’s Norwegian accent throughout filming, even when she went home at night. The film has little plot, instead consisting of a series of vignettes in the lives of the Hanson family in early 20th-century San Francisco. Dunne helps her innocent sister Trina (Ellen Corby) announce her engagement, helps Uncle Chris (Oscar Homolka) deal with death and fosters daughter Katrin’s (Barbara Bel Geddes) writing career. Knowing what a delicate hand such material required, Dunne insisted that George Stevens, with whom she had worked on Penny Serenade (1941), direct. His painstaking attention to detail and mood made the film a little gem. Along with Dunne, he helped supporting players Homolka, Bel Geddes and Corby earn Oscar nominations.

Dir. George Stevens

In attendance: Richard Corliss