Father’s Day is coming up and it reminded me that on Mother’s Day weekend both local papers in Salt Lake City ran lists of recommended movies for watching on this day in May to celebrate our mothers.
Among them were “Rocky,” which doesn’t feature a mother at all (but Rocky’s future wife does become a mother a couple of films later); “Driving Miss Daisy,” in which the title character berates her son and attempts to make everyone around her as miserable as she is; “Fargo,” with the protagonist seven months pregnant but not really a mother yet, per se; and — wait for it — “Throw Momma From the Train,” a parody of “Strangers On a Train,” with perhaps the most miserable mother ever portrayed in a comedy.
“Throw Momma From the Train”? Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
Makes you wonder which movie dads they’ll be suggesting for Father’s Day. Darth Vader in “The Empire Strikes Back”? Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”? How about John Huston in “Chinatown”?
To be fair, the Mother’s Day lists also contained some really good choices, including “The Impossible,” “The Blind Side,” and the 1994 version of “Little Women,” among others.
But given that the oldest film on either list was 1977 (“Rocky”), well, that may provide a clue to the problem.
Mothers in movies these days are anything but traditional, unless it’s a true story or a period piece. And for me, many mothers in older movies, wayyy older movies, still hold up as grand examples of fierce devotion and love.
Take Myrna Loy in the Oscar-winner “The Best Years of Our Lives,” about three soldiers with what we now call PTSD returning from World War II, each with difficult problems to overcome. Loy is the wife of one of these men, played by Fredric March, and their daughter, Teresa Wright, falls in love with another of these soldiers, Dana Andrews. Of course, Andrews is older and married, so Loy has her work cut out for her, but however much she disapproves, she demonstrates unconditional love and an understanding shoulder for her daughter to cry on in a very difficult situation.
Some others are more obvious: Irene Dunne in “I Remember Mama”; Loy again in “Cheaper By the Dozen” and its sequel, “Belles On Their Toes”; Lucille Ball in “Yours, Mine and Ours,” Doris Day in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” and “With Six You Get Eggroll,” and the list goes on and on.
If you never think of movies older than 20 years, you’re missing a lot of great film-watching experiences.
But if you must have movies from the ’80s and ’90s, there are still better choices —Sally Field in both “Forrest Gump” and “Steel Magnolias,” Cher in “Mask,” Melinda Dillon in “A Christmas Story,” Debbie Reynolds in “Mother,” etc..
I know Mother’s Day is long over and done but these movies are all good choices regardless of the time of year.
Next time we’ll look at movies for Father’s Day.
Chris Hicks is the author of Has Hollywood Lost It's Mind: A Parent's Guide to Movie Ratings.