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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (film)

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Title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (film)  
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Language: English
Subject: Elia Kazan, Peggy Ann Garner, Ruth Nelson (actress), 1945 in film, Culture of Brooklyn
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (film)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Film poster
Directed by Elia Kazan
Produced by Louis D. Lighton
Screenplay by Frank Davis
Tess Slesinger
Based on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 
by Betty Smith
Starring Dorothy McGuire
Peggy Ann Garner
Joan Blondell
James Dunn
Lloyd Nolan
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Edited by Dorothy Spencer
Twentieth Century Fox
Distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Release dates
  • February 28, 1945 (1945-02-28)
Running time 128 minutes
Country United States
Language English

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a 1945 film, the first film directed by Greek-American director Elia Kazan, starring James Dunn (who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), Dorothy McGuire, Joan Blondell, and Peggy Ann Garner (who won the Academy Juvenile Award).

The film is based on an American novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith first published in 1943. It relates the coming-of-age story of its main character, Francie Nolan, against a backdrop of tenement life in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, in the early 20th century.

A 1974 made-for-television film A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, starring Cliff Robertson, Diane Baker, Pamelyn Ferdin and James Olson, was adapted from the 1945 screenplay by Tess Slesinger.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Awards and nominations 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The film covers several months in the life of the Nolans, an Irish American family living in the Williamsburg neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn in 1912.[1] Katie Nolan (Dorothy McGuire) is a hard-working housewife who scrubs the floors of her tenement building and collects rags for sale to a scrap fabric dealer to help feed her family. She's married to Johnny Nolan (James Dunn), an alcoholic and waiter who is a happy man and good father but unable to earn a living to support his family. The Nolans have two children, 13-year-old Francie (Peggy Ann Garner) and 12-year-old Neeley (Cornelius) (Ted Donaldson).

Katie's sister, Sissy (Joan Blondell), is a sassy, free-spirited woman who arrives in the late fall and announces she has married for the third time. This scandalizes Katie and ruptures her relationship with Sissy, but thrills the children (who love their wild and wacky aunt). Francie is worried that the landlord has cut too many branches off the tree which grows in the tenement's courtyard, and it may die. But her father says that the cutting is necessary, and the tree will grow again. A police officer new to the neighborhood, Officer McShane (Lloyd Nolan), encounters Aunt Sissy and the children one afternoon and is enchanted by the beautiful Katie. A few days later, however, he realizes that the drunken Johnny is Katie's husband and is devastated to learn Katie is married.

Francie wants to go to a nicer school in a nearby neighborhood, but it means lying about where the Nolans live. Katie is opposed, but Johnny convinces her to lie. Katie moves the family into a cheaper apartment in the building, angering her husband. Johnny believes she is merely being stingy, but then learns Katie is pregnant. Determined to get a job to support the family and keep Francie in school, Johnny leaves during a snowstorm to find work. Sissy, too, becomes pregnant, and she and Katie reconcile shortly before Christmas.

Johnny goes missing for a week. Officer McShane then delivers the bad news that Johnny has died from pneumonia looking for a job in Manhattan. Francie blames her mother for her father's death, but the birth of Sissy's baby and then Katie's daughter (whom Katie names Annie Laurie) help ease tensions in the household. Come spring, Sissy uses money that Johnny gave her back in December to buy Francie a bouquet of flowers for graduation day. Francie, who has bottled up her grief for months, finally breaks down. Officer McShane proposes to Katie, offering to adopt Annie Laurie and give her his last name, and Francie has her first date. Francie and Neeley think that Annie Laurie's life with McShane as a father will be much easier, but not nearly as much fun. The film ends as Francie sees the courtyard tree begin to grow again, just as her father said it would.

The book is much lengthier than the film, and covers the time from before Francie is born until after she turns 16.


Awards and nominations

James Dunn won the 1945 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Frank Davis and Tess Slesinger were nominated for Writing, Adapted Screenplay, and Peggy Ann Garner won the 1945 Academy Juvenile Award.

In 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[2][3]


  1. ^ "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  2. ^ Empire Strikes Back' among 25 film registry picks"'". Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  3. ^ Barnes, Mike (28 December 2010). Empire Strikes Back,' 'Airplane!' Among 25 Movies Named to National Film Registry"'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 30 December 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 

External links

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