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Movie Mothers

Posted July 12, 2010 to photo album "Movie Mothers"

To coincide with the release of The Kids Are All Right, Nick Dawson looks at the trials, tribulations and triumphs of mothers on the big screen over the course of film history.

Slide 1: Introduction
Slide 2: Mother (1926)
Slide 3: Imitation of Life (1934)
Slide 4: Stella Dallas (1937)
Slide 5: Mildred Pierce (1945)
Slide 6: Gypsy (1962)
Slide 7: Where's Poppa? (1970)
Slide 8: Murmur of the Heart (1971)
Slide 9: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
Slide 10: A Cry in the Dark (1988)
Slide 11: The Joy Luck Club (1993)
Slide 12: Coraline (2009)
Slide 6: Gypsy (1962)

Slide 6: Gypsy (1962)

In Stella Dallas and Mildred Pierce, the titular mothers focus on making their daughters as happy and affluent as they can. However, Gypsy presented a flipside to this scenario by centering on a different archetype: the stage mother. No one is more ambitious for their children than a stage mother, however their modus operandi is to push their children to fulfill whatever talent they have so that their gifts will be appreciated by the world and they will become a star. And there is no more pushy a stage mother than Mama Rose in Gypsy, the movie version of the Stephen Sondheim musical adapted from burlesque legend Gypsy Rose Lee’s memoir. While Ethel Merman originated the stage role on Broadway, in Mervyn LeRoy’s 1962 movie, Rosalind Russell played the formidable, dominating matriarch, “the most momma a girl ever had,” according to the film’s trailer. In its review of Gypsy, the New York Times expressed distaste at the character of Mama Rose, who first tries to make star of her photogenic elder daughter June (Suzanne Cupito), and then transfers all her energies to her other, less promising offspring Louise (Natalie Wood). “This dynamo of a woman who charges her two little girls with the push of her own intense ambition to be an act in vaudeville is not a very pleasant person,” wrote the Times’ Bosley Crowther. “She is a tyrant, a prude, a blusterer and she brazenly sweats child labor in working a line of boys into her daughters' act.” Bette Midler played Mama Rose to acclaim in a 1993 TV movie, while the character has been an unfortunate real-life inspiration to a number of pushy mothers of famous starlets.