In this post I hope to share with you, gentle reader, why I chose who I chose to write about for my Mother’s Day post. First, I’ll give credit to some honorable mentions:
Donna Reed’s Mary Hatch in It’s A Wonderful Life certainly came to mind, but her role in that film really emphasizes her strengths as a wife more so than a mother. Kate Dickie as Katherine in The VVitch pays her matronly dues, but, quite frankly, I don’t want to even think about such a horror during the time of flowers and renewal. Anne Ramsey’s Momma (Throw Momma From The Train) ought to win some kind of award for most memorable screen mother, but I don’t want to celebrate her family on a day of love and kindness and appreciation. Ditto Mama Fratelli! (The Goonies)
Piper Laurie certainly will never be forgotten as Margaret White, the fatally oppressive mother of Carrie White. But again, not the vibe I’m looking for for this special day. Might as well talk about Mia Farrow as Rosemary if we are going that route! Or Ellen Burstyn’s Chris MacNeil…
(A woman raising her family as serenely as is possible doesn’t make for a very interesting film, perhaps. Or maybe I just don’t watch those sorts of films, more likely…)
All grown up in Blast From The Past, Sissy Spacek plays Helen, long suffering mother of Adam. It’s a great role and Sissy nails it perfectly, but the film is ridiculous and still doesn’t fit the bill for today’s post. Closer to the mark is Brenda Vaccaro as Kay Brubaker in Capricorn One. Here we have a down to earth presentation of a real life mother and wife. Having been told her husband has been killed on re-entry to earth’s atmosphere, she has to handle the media, the government and herself while still being mother to her now fatherless children. Brenda’s performance moves me every time I watch this film.
While Kay Brubaker is not an insignificant character in the overall plot of Capricorn One, she is nonetheless a small part of the overall action. The film I am going to discuss really has at its center the relationship between a mother and her daughter. Maureen O’Hara’s Doris Walker in Miracle On 34th Street is such a complex mother character a few blog posts could probably be written about her. She’s passionate about her work, and her beliefs, and her desire to protect her innocent daughter from fantasies and delusions. She’s almost tortured to prevent her daughter Susie from falling into the same trap she feels she has fallen into. While no one can protest the fact little Susie is intelligent and mature beyond her years, something must be wondered about a kid who doesn’t know how to play make believe. Or, worse yet, doesn’t care to, feeling it is beneath her and pointless. But no one can attack Ms. Walker for doing what she feels is best; life doesn’t come with an instruction manual, and this is probably never more apparent than when we become a parent. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun.)
She juggles her career as a department store manager with raising her precocious child and never stops to complain or whine about her station. She’s bitter, but she buries it deep enough to where it doesn’t interfere with her ability to live and be successful.
Ms. Walker is level-headed and focused, even when confronted with the bizarre situation of encountering Santa Claus while finalizing preparations for the most famous parade of them all. It is a testament to the human spirit that she never fully loses her heart or her ability to love, and the scenes where she fights for Kris Kringle and Mr. Gailey are still heart warming 70 years later. Realizing she may have pulled Susie a bit too far towards cynicism, she rights their mother-daughter ship in time to save the day and wet our eyes with the eternal promise of faith and optimism.