Mother’s Day is a time to honor the women we love and admire. So if you plan to encourage the special woman in your life to relax and watch a movie or two, here are several delightful films from the 1930s and 1940s to consider.
While a few of these flicks have sad endings that focus on how good intentions can turn out for the worst, the others end happily by highlighting the patience and sacrifices of wonderful mothers.
These movies are listed in order of the year they were released. If you only have time for one, try the second to last movie listed.
The first talkie rendition based on the classic novel, “Little Women” stars Katharine Hepburn. But Spring Byington, who plays her mother, is a wonderful actress who is often overlooked. Marmee is a patient, gentle mother of four very different daughters. When her girls enter the world of adulthood, she sits gently back, ever ready to cheer their successes and comfort their pains. Her daughters always know their mother loves them and can be counted on. This delightful 1933 movie is family-friendly and can be seen May 12 at 4 p.m. MDT on the cable channel Turner Classic Movies. It can also be viewed via Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, iTunes or Netflix DVD.
This heartbreaking movie shows the depths a poor, unrefined woman will go to help her daughter. Stella Dallas is a beautiful yet crude woman whose only desire is to move up the social ladder. However, when she becomes a mother, she changes her focus to her beloved daughter. When Stella and her husband separate and their daughter is sought after by a well-to-do young man, Stella decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to help her daughter achieve happiness. Made in 1937, this movie is not for those who need a story to end happily. It stars Barbara Stanwyck and Ann Shirley. "Stella Dallas" can be seen May 10 at 6 p.m. MDT on TCM. It can also be found on Amazon Instant Video or Netflix DVD.
‘The Good Earth’
The life of a Chinese woman was not easy during the early 20th century. She was expected to be hard-working and docile towards her husband, all while giving him many sons. In “The Good Earth,” O-Lan is a slave belonging to a wealthy family. When she gets married to Wang Lung, her lot in life gets steadily worse until, at one point, she and her children are begging in the streets. However, during a riot, O-Lan finds herself the possessor of something that will soon change her family’s fortune. O-Lan is the all-enduring, all-suffering wife and mother who loves her husband and will do anything he asks, even when it breaks her heart. Based off Pearl Buck’s monumental novel, this 1937 movie helped Luise Rainer win the Best Actress award. This movie can be seen on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes or Netflix DVD.
A typical British family, enjoying an idyllic life in a small village outside London, experiences the ultimate change as World War II enters their lives. The mother, the beautiful Mrs. Miniver, holds the family together as her husband helps a dangerous evacuation mission and a son joins the air force. Mrs. Miniver survives being held hostage by a downed German fighter pilot, the bombing of her home and the death of a loved one. This movie powerfully shows what life was like on the home front during the war and how a mother succeeded at not letting violence overtake her family. This 1942 movie stars Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. It can be seen June 19 at 10 a.m. MDT on TCM or found via Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, iTunes or Netflix DVD.
A mother’s life turns upside down when her husband leaves her for another woman and she is forced to raise their two children on her own. Shamed by her oldest daughter about their lack of money, Mildred Pierce opens a small restaurant and is surprised when it enjoys financial success. But her daughter isn’t happy until Mildred can provide even more. After Mildred takes steps she later regrets to ensure her daughter’s happiness, she realizes that she has only succeeded in making both of them miserable. This movie shows how far a woman will go in order to buy her daughter’s love. Joan Crawford plays the hard-working mother in this 1945 drama. It can be seen May 11 at noon MDT on TCM. It can also be found on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play or Netflix DVD.
‘I Remember Mama’
Out of all the movies on this list, “I Remember Mama” is probably the one that showcases mothers and their sacrifices the best. Irene Dunne plays the early 20th century immigrant mother. She helps her family with school tuition, gives comfort when sick and provides a listening ear. Viewers can embrace this mother and the difference she made in her children’s lives all while remembering similar angel mothers they have known. Made in 1948, this happy, family-friendly movie can be seen May 11 at 6 p.m. MDT on TCM. It can also be seen on iTunes and viewed on Amazon Instant Video or Google Play.
‘Three Came Home’Comment on this story
Based on a true story, a small family residing in Borneo is taken prisoner by the Japanese during World War II. After the women and children are separated from the men, one mother finds her inner strength as she struggles to keep her young son and herself alive. Loneliness, illness, hunger and even physical attacks fail to rob this woman of her humanity. Finally, at the end of the war, she faces a new trial as she worries about the unknown fate of her husband. This movie celebrates the courage and tenacity of women in extremely difficult situations. Claudette Colbert stars in this 1950 drama which, because of its subject matter, is probably best suited for those 13 and older. It can be viewed on Google Play, Amazon Instant Video or Netflix DVD.
Let these classic movies help memories flow about moms who have helped comfort and support those they love best.
Elizabeth Reid has bachelor's degrees in economics and history. She has worked in retail, medical billing, catering, education and business fields. Her favorite occupation is that of wife and mother. She blogs at gelatoandchocolate.blogspot.com.