Blu-Ray Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

There are very few, if any, directors who have worked in Hollywood with a record of success equal to or better than Elia Kazan. The émigré had a reputation of getting the best out of his actors. In a career spanning only nineteen films he was rewarded with five Academy Award nominations, as well as an honorary Oscar. With films such as On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden and Gentleman’s Agreement he helped re-shape the cinematic landscape in post-war America. Kazan released his first film, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, in 1945 and it captures the struggles of a family living in poverty.

The Nolans are an Irish-American family living in Brooklyn at the beginning of the twentieth century. Katie (Dorothy McGuire) works her fingers to the bone, scrimping and saving to feed her daughter Francie (Peggy Ann Garner) and son Needley (Ted Donaldson). Her husband, Johnny (James Dunn), is a happy-go-lucky charmer who lives in the moment, dreaming of success and drowning his sorrows in equal measure.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a sweet, powerful and heart-warming drama about a family’s fight to escape poverty. Johnny is popular local character but his grand ambitions turn to dust by the time he’s sobered up the next day. Katie used to share his hopes and dreams but life has hardened her heart and the children rely on her. Whilst Francie is extremely gifted and hard-working, she‘s held back by her gender and class. Despite being the eldest, her future always comes second. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a wonderful and poignant drama.

Special features:

  • 1080p transfer of the film on Blu-ray from a 2K restoration completed from a 4K scan of the original film elements
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Feature-length commentary by Richard Schickel with Elia Kazan, Ted Donaldson, and Normal Lloyd
  • The Making of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • An Appreciation of Dorothy McGuire
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Hollywood Star Time: Original radio broadcast version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn from 1946, starring Peggy Ann Garner, James Dunn and Joseph Kearns
  • A collector’s booklet featuring new essays by Kat Ellinger, Phil Hoad, and Philip Kemp, alongside rare archival imagery

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is released on Blu-Ray by Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema collection on 22 July.

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