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The Mothers Of All Videos

May 05, 1991|JOE SALTZMAN

Whatever your preference for getting into the Mother's Day mood, home video has just the mom for you: devoted mothers, mean mothers, selfish mothers, grasping mothers, loving mothers, self-sacrificing mothers, bitter mothers, liberated mothers, bad mothers, eccentric mothers, perverted mothers, monster mothers, ambitious mothers, perfect mothers.

Consider spending next Sunday with with any of the following cinema moms:

There's Irene Dunne as everyone's favorite mother in I Remember Mama, the story of the indomitable Norwegian matriarch who will do anything for her family, no matter what the cost (RKO tape, Image Entertainment laser video disc).

There's the mother who sacrifices everything for her daughter in the 1937 soap opera Stella Dallas. Barbara Stanwyck is the most woeful mother in the history of cinema (Nelson-Orion tape and disc). Skip the remake, Stella, with Bette Midler (Touchstone tape and disc). That's too much mother for anyone.

There are even two mothers in the same film who will do anything to save their children. In Aliens (CBS-Fox tape; special letterbox edition on CBS-Fox laser video disc), Sigourney Weaver's Ripley is the surrogate mother to a terrified little girl, the lone survivor of planet LB426. She battles the alien mother protecting her offspring in a 20-minute final confrontation that updates "Stella Dallas" in the scariest way possible. Hell hath no fury like a mother protecting her kids.

Two different mothers with troubled daughters fill up Imitation of Life (MCA tape), a 1959 melodrama starring Lana Turner as the affluent white widow, and Juanita Moore as her black counterpart, who becomes a kind of surrogate mom to Turner's mixed-up daughter (Sandra Dee). Meanwhile, Moore's mixed-up daughter (Susan Kohner) wants to pass for white and suffers accordingly (in a particularly harsh sequence with Troy Donahue). It's a three-handkerchief tear-jerker.

The ultimate stage mother has to be Rose in the musical Gypsy (Warner), the 1962 film version of the Broadway show. Rosalind Russell is the ambitious mother who exploits her two kids, Baby June and the girl who would grow up to be Gypsy Rose Lee (played by Natalie Wood). Russell's final, angry song (lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, music by Jules Styne) neatly sums up the dark side of motherhood.

The ultimate movie star mother has to be Joan Crawford, immortalized in her adopted daughter Christina's bitter memoir Mommie Dearest (Paramount tape and disc). Faye Dunaway eats up more scenery than the original Crawford as she gives motherhood a bad name.

Probably the most liberated mother in film history is Glenn Close's Jennie Fields in The World According to Garp (Warner tape and disc). Jennie, unmarried and a man-hater, decides to have a child in one of the most bizarre sequences of conception put on film. She then raises T.S. Garp (Robin Williams) by her own rules and philosophy.

Other modern moms include Mary Tyler Moore as a sorrow-stricken mother who cannot love her younger son (Timothy Hutton) as she mourns the death of her oldest in Ordinary People (Paramount tape and disc); Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger essay the relationship of a mother and daughter over the years in the weepy Terms of Endearment (Paramount tape and disc); Ellen Burstyn is the young widow who turns waitress to support her 12-year-old in the one-woman odyssey called Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (Warner tape and disc); Cher is a loving, if untraditional mother, who fights to give her disfigured son, Rocky (Eric Stoltz), the confidence to live a productive life in Mask (MCA tape and disc); Meryl Streep is a young mother who gives up career for family and suffers as only a wronged woman can in Heartburn (Paramount tape and disc).

The sexiest mother in film history is the young Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus (MCA tape). In one of the most convoluted plots ever, Dietrich is forced to flee with her son (Dickie Moore) because of a vengeful husband. It's 1932 and "Stella Dallas" time again as Dietrich sacrifices all for her son and finally gives up Cary Grant for redemption with Herbert Marshall.

Bette Davis and Gena Rowlands offer a penetrating look at a mother-daughter relationship in Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter (Lightning tape). Davis, in an Emmy-winning performance, is a lonely widow who resents her estranged daughter's unexpected homecoming after 21 years. The sparks fly in this perfect Mother's Day video.

Unfit mothers have filled the screen throughout history.

There's Katharine Hepburn's drug-addicted matriarch in Long Day's Journey Into Night (Republic tape), the film version of Eugene O'Neill's haunting play with Jason Robards as the oldest alcoholic son, Dean Stockwell as the younger son dying of tuberculosis and Ralph Richardson as the actor-husband.

There's the maligned, vicious mother in John Steinbeck's East of Eden (portrayed sympathetically by Jo Van Fleet in her Oscar-winning role, Warner tape and disc) and given a stinging portrayal in the more complete 1980 television version by Jane Seymour (USA tape).

Probably the most famous mother in cinema history is played by her son--Norman Bates' crotchety, old mother who starred in the original Alfred Hitchcock Psycho (the ultimate put-down of maternal love) and two sequels--Psycho II and Psycho III (all on MCA tapes and discs). The 1960 classic and the two updates (in 1983 and 1986) all feature Anthony Perkins.

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