Parents Just Don't Understand - 5/29
"You're--tearing--me--apart!" James Dean's anguished teenager Jim Stark cries to his possessive mother (Ann Doran) and passive father (Jim Backus) in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), a seminal film about the conflicts between parents and their offspring. TCM considers this and a handful of other movies in a daytime theme about the complicated business of parenting and how parent-child relationships can be tested and sometimes estranged. Here are the other films:
The Old Maid (1939) stars Bette Davis as a woman of the Civil War era sharing a complex relationship with a daughter who was born out of wedlock and adopted by Davis's cousin (Miriam Hopkins). The daughter (played as a teenager by Jane Bryan) admires Hopkins as her mother and dismisses Davis as, well, an old maid.
Seven Sweethearts (1942) is an MGM musical in which S.Z. Sakall plays a Michigan innkeeper who has seven lovely daughters and is determined that they should marry in the same order in which they were born. Kathryn Grayson is the youngest daughter who brings her father grief by planning to wed a reporter (Van Heflin) while her sisters are still single.
Twice Blessed (1945) foreshadows The Parent Trap with its story of identical twins (played in this case by real-life twins Lee and Lyn Wilde) who switch identities and try to reunite their estranged parents (Preston Foster and Gail Patrick). Matters are complicated by the fact that the father, much to the girls' displeasure, is involved with another woman (Gloria Hope).
Cynthia (1947) was a transitional film for the young Elizabeth Taylor, who was moving from child star to leading lady. She has the title role as a teenager with chronic health problems who clashes with her protective parents (Mary Astor and George Murphy) over her desire to lead a normal life. This is the movie where Taylor received her first screen kiss from Jimmy Lydon as Cynthia's beau.
Child of Divorce (1947) tells of a young girl (Sharyn Moffett) who becomes upset when her mother (Madge Meredith) divorces her father (Regis Toomey) and marries another man (Walter Reed). The girl, who refuses to get along with her stepfather and also clashes with her father over his new romance, ends up in a boarding school. RKO had hopes that Moffett might become another Shirley Temple, but the dream was unrealized.
Deep Valley (1947) features a strong performance from Ida Lupino as Libby, a young woman who mediates between her estranged parents (Fay Bainter and Henry Hull) on a farm near the California coast. The emotional pressure rises when Libby rejects a suitor her parents approve of (Wayne Morris), and she instead falls for a convict (Dane Clark) who is working nearby on a chain gang.
On the Loose (1951) stars Joan Evans as a high schooler who becomes suicidal after clashes with her self-absorbed parents (Melvyn Douglas and Lynn Bari) over a boyfriend (Robert Arthur) whose carousing ways are ruining the girl's reputation. Interestingly, the screenplay is by Evans' real-life parents, Dale Eunson and Katherine Albert.
by Roger Fristoe