» Mother, daughter graduate college together after tragedy strikes family
Hollywood often gets it wrong. But sometimes its made-up moms really strike a chord.
In honor of Mother’s Day, here’s a salute to 10 of the screen’s most memorable moms.
- Bambi’s Mother in “Bambi” (1942). Really? This was the wholesome, G-rated Disney movie that our parents took us to so we could learn about forests and furry animals? And, oh, by the way, just as we’re basking in the warmth and wisdom of our little hero’s mom, she gets gunned down by hunters? Dead. Gone. A tragic loss of a nurturing spirit.
When all is crumbling around you, thankfully there are some rock-solid women to turn to.
- Cicely Tyson as Rebecca in “Sounder” (1972). Rebecca fights off racism and hunger with equal strength and keeps her family afloat when her husband is shipped off to prison during the depths of the Great Depression.
- Jane Darwell as Ma Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940). Speaking of the Depression, the Joad family personified the horrors of the Dust Bowl and the long trek from Oklahoma to California, facing a scarcity of jobs, food and hope. Ma Joad kept the family moving forward despite the odds.
- Shirley MacLaine as Aurora Greenway in “Terms of Endearment” (1983). If your daughter was in the hospital fighting cancer, you would definitely want the feisty Aurora advocating for her with the nurses: “My daughter is in pain! Give my daughter the shot!” She couldn’t save Debra Winger, but she helped ease her anguish.
- Sally Field as M’Lynn Eatenton in “Steel Magnolias” (1989). M’Lynn is mad as hell at God for taking away her beautiful young daughter, Shelby (Julia Roberts). It’s not the how, but the why. “Oh, God! I am so mad I don’t know what to do! I wanna know why! I wanna know why Shelby’s life is over!” she wails in a wrenching speech. “Oh, God, I wanna know why? Why?”
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- Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest” (1981). The classic, sweaty, scenery-chewing moment is when the sadistic, alcoholic Crawford rants incessantly at her adopted daughter Christina about using “wire hangers,” then proceeds to beat her with one. Pretty awful film. Ironically, 35 years earlier, Crawford had won an Oscar for playing a mother who would risk everything just to help her daughter, in “Mildred Pierce.”
LARGE AND IN CHARGE
- Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in “The Blind Side” (2009). Bullock owns the screen as the no-nonsense, don’t-mess-with-me mom who takes young adrift athlete Michael Oher under her wing and into her home. She’s a pistol when taking on the outside world, but a supreme nurturer on the homefront.
PASS THE KLEENEX
- Susan Sarandon as Jackie Harrison in “Stepmom” (1998). Jackie is dying. This means that soon, the new woman in her two children’s lives will be her ex-husband’s young fashion photographer girlfriend Isabel (Julia Roberts), whom she loathes and distrusts. Of course, as her illness worsens (sniff) she has to bid farewell to her kids (sniff, sniff) and somehow reconcile with Isabel.
MAKE THAT TWO BOXES
- Ann-Margret as Lucile Fray in “Who Will Love My Children?” (1983). Stepmom is sad. But for massive tissue-tearing, puffy-eyed super-weeping, nothing comes close to this TV movie directed by John Erman. Ann-Margret plays an Iowa mother with a terminal illness, who, before she dies, is determined to find good homes for all of her children. Yep. It’s 95 minutes of a dying woman giving away what she loves most in the world.
Did I mention that she has 10 children?!
Did I mention that it’s based on a true story?!
Tears are touching, cheers are inspiring and laughs are joyous. But there is another realm we have yet to honor: utter ruthlessness.
- For my money, the all-time most memorable matriarch is Angela Lansbury as Eleanor Shaw Iselin in “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962). No one is as controlling, manipulative and Machiavellian as Lansbury as the bloodthirsty political climber.
John Frankenheimer’s thriller about brainwashing and an insidious assassination plot is one of the greatest films of the 1960s. And it features strong performances by Frank Sinatra as a Korean War vet, and Laurence Harvey as Iselin’s unsuspecting son, Raymond.
When President John F. Kennedy heard that one of his favorite novels was being turned into a film, he had one question for his friend Sinatra, “Who are they getting to play the mother?”
After Iselin reveals her diabolical plot to her unwitting son, she grabs him and gives him a square-on-the-lips smooch. It’s a little too long, a little too affectionate.
It’s the mother of all creepy kisses.