I Remember Mama (1948)

134-135 or 137 mins | Drama | 17 March 1948

Director:

George Stevens

Writer:

DeWitt Bodeen

Producer:

Harriet Parsons

Cinematographer:

Nicholas Musuraca

Editor:

Robert Swink

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Carroll Clark

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
Full page view
HISTORY

Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: Katherine Anderson McLean, whose pseudonym was Kathryn Forbes, published the first two chapters of her novel, "Mama's Bank Account" and "Mama's Roomer," in a national magazine in 1942. (Modern biographical sources note that, despite the seemingly autobiographical nature of the novel, McLean's actual family life only vaguely resembled that of her fictional characters.) RKO bought the rights to McLean's novel for $50,000. Later, RKO bought fifty percent of John van Druten's Broadway adaptation and made a deal with the play's producers, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, to buy the screen rights to the play on a sliding price scale to be calculated at $2,500 for every week of the Broadway run, up to $150,000. The play ran for approximately twenty-one months. The deal with Rodgers and Hammerstein also stipulated that the studio could not begin production on the picture until the Broadway show had closed. Oscar Homolka was the only member of the Broadway show to revive his role on film. Mady Christians played "Mama" in the play, which also featured Marlon Brando in his Broadway debut as "Nels." To perform the role of Peter Thorkelson, popular ventriloquist Edgar Bergen appeared on screen for the first time without his dummy, Charlie McCarthy.
       Some scenes in the picture were filmed in San Francisco, including Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, the Ferry Building and Liberty Street, and at Agoura Ranch in Agoura, CA. Shortly after RKO acquired McLean's novel, producer Harriet Parsons approached Katina Paxinou, a Greek-born actress, to star as Mama and planned to change the nationality of the story's family from Norwegian ... More Less

Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: Katherine Anderson McLean, whose pseudonym was Kathryn Forbes, published the first two chapters of her novel, "Mama's Bank Account" and "Mama's Roomer," in a national magazine in 1942. (Modern biographical sources note that, despite the seemingly autobiographical nature of the novel, McLean's actual family life only vaguely resembled that of her fictional characters.) RKO bought the rights to McLean's novel for $50,000. Later, RKO bought fifty percent of John van Druten's Broadway adaptation and made a deal with the play's producers, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, to buy the screen rights to the play on a sliding price scale to be calculated at $2,500 for every week of the Broadway run, up to $150,000. The play ran for approximately twenty-one months. The deal with Rodgers and Hammerstein also stipulated that the studio could not begin production on the picture until the Broadway show had closed. Oscar Homolka was the only member of the Broadway show to revive his role on film. Mady Christians played "Mama" in the play, which also featured Marlon Brando in his Broadway debut as "Nels." To perform the role of Peter Thorkelson, popular ventriloquist Edgar Bergen appeared on screen for the first time without his dummy, Charlie McCarthy.
       Some scenes in the picture were filmed in San Francisco, including Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, the Ferry Building and Liberty Street, and at Agoura Ranch in Agoura, CA. Shortly after RKO acquired McLean's novel, producer Harriet Parsons approached Katina Paxinou, a Greek-born actress, to star as Mama and planned to change the nationality of the story's family from Norwegian to Greek. Modern sources note that Parsons also asked George Cukor to offer the role to Greta Garbo, who had retired by then, but she turned the part down. In addition, modern sources claim that Marlene Dietrich wanted to do the Mama role and had director Mitchell Leisen talk to RKO about casting her, but the studio rejected the idea because of Dietrich's racy image. A Mar 1948 LAT article states that after Parsons "got" Paxinou to play Mama, the project was "snatched away" from her. An article in NYT adds that, despite being ousted from the film, Parsons received an onscreen producing credit with director George Stevens because of her significant contributions to the final film. According to a NYT article, Paramount Pictures received twenty-five percent of the film's distribution gross because it had bought Liberty Films, a production company in which Stevens was part owner, in 1947. Modern sources note that, although it received excellent reviews, the picture lost money at the box office because of its big, $3,068,000, budget.
       Irene Dunne was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of "Marta," but lost to Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda . Homolka was nominated as Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Walter Huston in Treasure of the Sierra Madre , and Barbara Bel Geddes and Ellen Corby were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress, but lost to Claire Trevor in Key Largo . Nicholas Musuraca was nominated for Best Cinematography. In addition to the John van Druten adaptation, McLean's novel was twice turned into a stage musical. The first, entitled Mama , was adapted by Neal Du Brock and John Clifton and opened in Buffalo, New York on 6 Jan 1972, with Celeste Holm as Mama. In 1979, Richard Rodgers wrote the music for the second musical version, also called Mama , for which Thomas Meehan wrote the book and Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann played Mama. Irene Dunne and Barbara Bel Geddes reprised their roles in a 30 Aug 1948 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast. McLean's book was also the basis for a television series, I Remember Mama , which was broadcast on the CBS network from 1 Jul 1949 to 17 Mar 1957. Peggy Wood starred as Mama in the popular show. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
13 Mar 1948.
---
Daily Variety
9 Mar 48
p. 3, 11
Film Daily
9 Mar 48
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jan 47
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 47
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 47
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 47
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 47
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 48
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Mar 48
p. 8.
Life
12 Apr 48
pp. 61-62.
Los Angeles Times
12 Mar 1948.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
28 Feb 48
p. 4079.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Mar 48
p. 4093.
New York Times
6 Aug 1947.
---
New York Times
26 Oct 1947.
---
New York Times
12 Mar 48
p. 29.
New York Times
21 Mar 1948.
---
New York Times
11 Apr 1948.
---
San Francisco Chronicle
9 Aug 1947.
---
Variety
10 Mar 48
p. 10.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
George Stevens' Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Assoc ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Women's cost
Men's cost
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec asst
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play I Remember Mama , adapted by John van Druten (New York, 19 Oct 1944), which was based on the novel Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Anderson McLean (New York, 1943).
SONGS
"Sovnen," Norwegian lullaby.
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 March 1948
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 11 March 1948
Production Date:
26 May--mid October 1947
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
Copyright Date:
11 March 1948
Copyright Number:
LP1606
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
134-135 or 137
Length(in feet):
12,081
Country:
United States
PCA No:
12511
SYNOPSIS

Upon completing the last lines of her autobiographical novel, youthful Katrin Hanson reminisces about her family life: In 1910, in a modest San Francisco house, Katrin's Norwegian-born mother, Marta Hanson, computes the weekly budget with help from her husband Lars, daughters Katrin, Christine and Dagmar and son Nels. When the adolescent Nels declares his desire to attend high school, Marta is pleased, but realizes their "little bank" lacks sufficient funds to pay for his education. After each family member offers to make a monetary sacrifice so that Nels may continue his schooling, Trina, Marta's spinster sister, drops by to speak privately with Marta. To Marta's surprise, Trina announces that she is marrying Peter Thorkelson, a homely undertaker, and begs Marta to break the news to their sisters, Sigrid and Jenny, who Trina fears will laugh at her. As predicted, the bossy Jenny and whiny Sigrid laugh upon hearing of the engagement, but when Marta threatens to reveal embarrassing anecdotes about them to Trina, the sisters agree to keep quiet. Later that evening, Jonathan Hyde, the Hansons' erudite, penniless lodger, reads to them from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities , and the entire family, especially fledgling writer Katrin, is deeply moved by the story. Soon after, the family is visited by Marta's overbearing but big-hearted uncle, Chris Halvorsen, who drives into the city with his common law wife, Jessie Brown. When the lame Chris, whose loud, gruff ways strike fear in the Hanson children, learns that Dagmar, the youngest daughter, is severely ill with mastoiditis, he insists on driving her to the hospital. Because they disapprove of Jessie, Sigrid and ... +


Upon completing the last lines of her autobiographical novel, youthful Katrin Hanson reminisces about her family life: In 1910, in a modest San Francisco house, Katrin's Norwegian-born mother, Marta Hanson, computes the weekly budget with help from her husband Lars, daughters Katrin, Christine and Dagmar and son Nels. When the adolescent Nels declares his desire to attend high school, Marta is pleased, but realizes their "little bank" lacks sufficient funds to pay for his education. After each family member offers to make a monetary sacrifice so that Nels may continue his schooling, Trina, Marta's spinster sister, drops by to speak privately with Marta. To Marta's surprise, Trina announces that she is marrying Peter Thorkelson, a homely undertaker, and begs Marta to break the news to their sisters, Sigrid and Jenny, who Trina fears will laugh at her. As predicted, the bossy Jenny and whiny Sigrid laugh upon hearing of the engagement, but when Marta threatens to reveal embarrassing anecdotes about them to Trina, the sisters agree to keep quiet. Later that evening, Jonathan Hyde, the Hansons' erudite, penniless lodger, reads to them from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities , and the entire family, especially fledgling writer Katrin, is deeply moved by the story. Soon after, the family is visited by Marta's overbearing but big-hearted uncle, Chris Halvorsen, who drives into the city with his common law wife, Jessie Brown. When the lame Chris, whose loud, gruff ways strike fear in the Hanson children, learns that Dagmar, the youngest daughter, is severely ill with mastoiditis, he insists on driving her to the hospital. Because they disapprove of Jessie, Sigrid and Jenny attempt to stop Chris, but he bullies his way past them with Dagmar and Marta in tow. Then the meek Trina and Peter reveal their engagement to Chris, the family's head, and are relieved to receive his blessing. Although Dagmar's operation is a success, Marta is forbidden to see her by the hospital staff. At home, Marta, who promised Dagmar she would visit immediately after the operation, becomes increasingly agitated about the separation and begins scrubbing the floor nervously. Marta's scrubbing inspires a plan: Impersonating a floor-scrubbing maid at the hospital, Marta sneaks into Dagmar's ward and sings a Norwegian lullaby to help her frightened daughter fall asleep. Sometime later, when a recovered Dagmar returns home, she learns that her cat, Uncle Elizabeth, is very ill. Despite Dagmar's belief in her mother's curative powers, Marta feels helpless to save the wounded cat and sends Nels to buy some chloroform with which to kill it. The other children, meanwhile, see Mr. Hyde leaving the house with his suitcases, and Marta discovers that he has left them a check for his overdue rent, as well as his book collection. The family's joy at receiving Mr. Hyde's check is soon undone when Sigrid and Jenny inform them that their lodger has no bank account. Although Sigrid and Jenny are indignant over Mr. Hyde's deception, wise Marta declares that his gift of literature is payment enough. Marta then applies the chloroform to Uncle Elizabeth, but is astounded when, the next morning, an unsuspecting Dagmar marches off with a sleepy but very alive cat. Later, as Katrin nears her school graduation date, she brags to Christine that Marta is going to buy her a much-coveted dresser set as a present. Although the younger, envious Christine tells her that Marta is planning to give her their grandmother's brooch, Katrin does receive the dresser set. As Katrin is about to leave to perform "Portia" in her school's production of The Merchant of Venice , however, Christine informs her that Marta sold her beloved brooch in order to buy the dresser set. Crushed by this revelation, Katrin performs badly in the play, and later presents her mother with her brooch, which she exchanged for the dresser set. Touched by Katrin's gesture, Marta gives her the brooch and scolds Christine for telling. Then, to mark her entrance into adulthood, Katrin's father serves her coffee for the first time. Sometime later, Marta is notified that Uncle Chris is near death, and she takes Katrin to say goodbye to him at his ranch. The alcoholic but still feisty Uncle Chris reveals to Marta that he has no money to leave her, and confesses that he and Jessie have been married for years but have been silent about it because of his nieces' snubbing. After enjoying a last drink with Jessie and Marta, Uncle Chris dies. Marta then tells her sisters the truth about Jessie and that Uncle Chris had long been donating money to help poor lame children. Having "seen" death, Katrin returns to San Francisco with Marta and is devastated when she receives her first literary rejection letter. Determined to bolster Katrin's confidence, Marta takes some of her stories to renowned author Florence Dana Moorhead, who loves to eat, and convinces her to read one by offering to share a family meatball recipe with her. Marta returns home to find Katrin destroying her writings and happily tells her that, while Moorhead agreed that her stories were lacking, she also felt that Katrin was a born author. Taking Moorhead's advice to write about "what she knows," Katrin submits a new story for publication and is overjoyed when she is paid $500 for her efforts. After announcing that some of the money is going to buy the winter coat that Marta has always longed for, Katrin confesses that her mother is the subject of her story and begins to read it aloud. The introduction of her story concludes with the line, "But first and foremost, I remember Mama." +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.