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Directed by Elia Kazan
USA 1945

 

Director Elia Kazan's first film, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn shows that the filmmaker's great empathy for his characters was already quite evident at this early juncture, and this endures as one of the most moving Hollywood dramas of the 1940s. Based on Betty Smith's novel a bestseller in the U.S. but also one of the most popular books among American soldiers overseas in WWII Kazan's debut is a sensitive, masterful adaptation.

Set among Brooklyn tenements circa 1912, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a portrait of the Nolans, an Irish-American family living in financially challenging circumstances, often made worse by father Johnny's drinking and employment problems. But matriarch Katie keeps the family together during all of the obstacles, caring for son Neeley and daughter Francie, as well as Katie's outspoken, oft-married sister Sissy. But just as Francie's gift for writing opens up new avenues, more tragic developments test the family's resolve.

Winning Academy Awards for actors James Dunn (as Johnny) and Peggy Ann Garner (as Francie), and featuring splendid work by Dorothy McGuire and Joan Blondell, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a heartfelt testament to the strength of family, and offers an early indication of Kazan's unrivalled proficiency with actors.

***

One-time movie song-and-dance man James Dunn won an Academy Award for his "comeback" performance in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Based on the best-selling novel by Betty Smith, the film relates the trials and tribulations of a turn-of-the-century Brooklyn tenement family. The father, Dunn, is a likable but irresponsible alcoholic whose dreams of improving his family's lot are invariably doomed to disappointment. The mother, Dorothy McGuire, is the true head of the household, steadfastly holding the family together no matter what crisis arises. The story is told from the point of view of daughter Peggy Ann Garner, a clear-eyed realist who nonetheless would like to believe in her pie-in-the-sky father, whom she dearly loves. Joan Blondell co-stars as the family's brash, freewheeling aunt, whose means of financial support is a never-ending source of neighborhood gossip. This first film directorial effort of Elia Kazan earned a special Oscar for "Most Promising Juvenile Performer" Peggy Ann Garner. A Tree Grows From Brooklyn was remade for TV in 1974, and also served as the basis of a Broadway musical.

Excerpt from B+N located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: February 28th, 1945

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Review: Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

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Distribution Masters of Cinema - Spine #206 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:08:51.724        
Video

1.33:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,486,505,513 bytes

Feature: 40,574,720,832 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.40 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate Blu-ray:

Audio

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit)

Subtitles English (SDH), None
Features Release Information:
Studio:
Masters of Cinema

 

1.33:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,486,505,513 bytes

Feature: 40,574,720,832 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.40 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

Feature-length commentary by Richard Schickel with Elia Kazan, Ted Donaldson, and Normal Lloyd
The Making of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (15:24)
An Appreciation of Dorothy McGuire (9:56)
vA 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 (30:09)
PLUS: a collector's booklet featuring new essays by Kat Ellinger, Phil Hoad, and Philip Kemp, alongside rare archival imagery


Blu-ray Release Date:
July 22nd, 2019
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 10

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Masters of Cinema Blu-ray (June 2019): Masters of Cinema have transferred Elia Kazan's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to Blu-ray cited as a "1080p transfer of the film on Blu-ray from a 2K restoration completed from a 4K scan of the original film elements". The image quality has some striking moments of crispness but also can look very waxy, devoid of grain texture and has unusual contrast shifts (see, and click on, the two captures at the bottom or click HERE) in the middle of scenes. It gets darker and has a moire-ish quality but, thankfully, it only happens a minor few times. It didn't deter my viewing of this marvelous film - but it was noticeable. This is a dual-layered max'ed out bitrate 1080P transfer. So, while I would like more film texture and suspect DNR - without pulling out the magnifying glass, identifying digitization - the image has pleasing moments but the weaknesses can be... unfortunate. I would like to compare it to the one in the "Kazan at Fox Volume 2" Blu-ray set, although I honestly don't know anyone who ever got a hold of it. My strong suspicion is that it probably has the same inherent flaws on Fox's D1 digital rendering.

NOTE: We have added 20 more large resolution Masters of Cinema Blu-ray captures for DVDBeaver Patrons HERE.

On their Blu-ray, Masters of Cinema use a linear PCM 2.0 channel mono track (24-bit) in the original English language. There are few effects and the dialogue is flat but clean and effective. There is a touching score by Alfred Newman (No Way Out, Panic in the StreetsMan Hunt, Cry of the City, The Diary of Anne Frank, Bus Stop, Blood and Sand, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Song of Bernadette) sounding consistent and supportive. There is also music appropriate to the era such bas a calliope playing I've Got Rings on My Fingers, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Ciribiribin, Funiculi Funicula etc. Masters of Cinema offer optional English subtitles on their Region 'B' Blu-ray.

Extras include a feature-length commentary by Richard Schickel with Elia Kazan, Ted Donaldson, and Normal Lloyd divided into individual inputs - the Kazan parts are very interesting and each are 'introduced' by a woman's voice announcing them (on my screener anyway). I enjoyed it very much and suspect it was also on the "Kazan at Fox Volume 2" Blu-ray set. Also included is the 1/4 hour The Making of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn with Ted Donaldson, Richard Schickel and others. I recall seeing it on YouTube HERE. I enjoyed the 10-minute An Appreciation of Dorothy McGuire, and there is also, the audio only, 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. It runs just over 1/2 hour. The package has a collector's booklet featuring new essays by Kat Ellinger, Phil Hoad, and Philip Kemp, alongside rare archival imagery.

One of the more beloved vintage era films, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a masterwork of warmth, family, survival, street-smart children and romance. It's a beautiful film experience. I enjoyed the Blu-ray despite my reservations on the image quality. It is unfortunate. A definite 'keeper' of a film with indelible performances.

Gary Tooze

 


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Image quality shift within the same scene (click and compare)

 

  


 

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Distribution Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray


 

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