“There ain’t nothing silly on Christmas.”
This movie takes place over several months, including Christmas, as we follow the story of the poor Nolan family. As Christmas approaches, they have just moved to a cheaper and smaller apartment after Katie Nolan learns she’s pregnant.
Her husband, Johnny, continues to struggle with alcoholism, but comes up with a way to help get their daughter and eager-to-learn student, Francie, into a wealthier school in a different neighborhood. It’s the 20th Century Fox movie, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (1945),
Our Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” is a beloved classic. And for good reason. But it is not an easy watch – at Christmas or any time of the year.
But at CMG, we review movies and specials from a Christmas perspective (If we were rating this as a regular movie, it would probably get a 9 – Danny).
Our first Christmas moment comes 72 minutes in.
At school, in order to get a crushed pie, Francie (Peggy Ann Garner), tells an elaborate story about a poor family who really needs it. But after school, she admits to her teacher that it’s really her poor family that needs it.
A bit later, Francie and her brother, Neeley (Ted Donaldson), decide to secure a tree for the family because they can’t afford to buy one. How?
Well, apparently back in the day, Christmas tree vendors used to get rid of their unsold inventory by throwing spare Christmas trees at people on Christmas Eve. If someone caught a tree, they got to keep their tree.
Sound like some weird game show? Yeah we thought so, too!
So anyway, Francie and Neeley tag team and manage to catch a tree for their family and bring it back home to their apartment late on a snowy Christmas Eve. As Johnny helps carry the tree up, the tenants of the building sing “Silent Night” in a touching moment.
The poor kids have also managed to save enough money to give their parents gifts – rose water and glycerine for their mother, Kate, (for her to rub on her hands) and a watchbob made out of shoelaces for their father, Johnny (even though he doesn’t own a watch).
It’s only on Christmas Eve that Kate finally reveals to Johnny why they had to move upstairs – because she’s pregnant. Though Johnny says he’s glad about that, he’s not happy to hear that Kate wants to take Francie out of school so she can work and help bring in more money.
Later, Johnny checks on Francie in her room, as “The First Noel” plays in the background.
Francie asks her papa: “The people in the hallway when we brought up the tree, the look on their faces, all friendly and nice, why can’t people be like that all the time, not just on Christmas?”
Johnny tells his daughter she’s got a bad case of growing up.
This is it for Christmas, as the movie leaps ahead to the New Year, and things get really sad, really fast.
The Nice List
Peggy Ann Garner
Francie is the standout in this “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. Her acting is absolutely brilliant – and she earned herself the Academy Juvenile Award for her performance in this movie.
You feel her unconditional love for her father (James Dunn also won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor). And you feel it later when her life gets incredibly bleak.
Our Favorite Scene
When Francie and Neeley return home with the Christmas tree and the few minutes that follow it. These are probably the happiest moments of the entire film.
At much of the final 30 minutes. Things get really emotional and dark after Christmas.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
While “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” is a great film, we can’t get past the fact that Christmas only makes up about 20 minutes of the 129 minute runtime. That’s why we’ve categorized it as Christmas-ish. While the Nolan’s Christmas offers a couple of nice moments, it gets heart-wrenching after that. So if you’re looking for a sad movie or a good cry (or cries in this one), “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” will definitely do the trick. But this movie will never make it into our regular rotation at Christmastime.