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Movie Mothers

Posted July 12, 2010 to photo album "Movie Mothers"

To coincide with the release of The Kids Are All Right, Nick Dawson looks at the trials, tribulations and triumphs of mothers on the big screen over the course of film history.

Slide 1: Introduction
Slide 2: Mother (1926)
Slide 3: Imitation of Life (1934)
Slide 4: Stella Dallas (1937)
Slide 5: Mildred Pierce (1945)
Slide 6: Gypsy (1962)
Slide 7: Where's Poppa? (1970)
Slide 8: Murmur of the Heart (1971)
Slide 9: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
Slide 10: A Cry in the Dark (1988)
Slide 11: The Joy Luck Club (1993)
Slide 12: Coraline (2009)
Slide 10: A Cry in the Dark (1988)

Slide 10: A Cry in the Dark (1988)

The vast majority of films about mothers focus on their day-to-day relationships with their children. As a result, A Cry in the Dark stood out as it examined the trauma suffered by a real-life figure, Lindy Chamberlain (Meryl Streep), who was wrongly convicted of killing her nine-week-old daughter Azaria, after she disappeared at the Australian tourist spot of Uluru (aka Ayers Rock). While on trial, Chamberlain’s resilient denials of her guilt – she claims that a dingo carried away and then ate her child – are seen as not the actions of a loving mother. In her book High Anxiety: Catastrophe, Scandal, Age & Comedy, Patricia Mellencamp writes, “What was on trial as much as the incredulity of the event was the truth of women’s speech and Lindy’s lack of emotions – anonymous witnesses accused her of having no feelings, of being cold, heartless, unlike a woman, particularly a mother who has lost a child.” Though Lindy Chamberlain was released and exonerated two months before A Cry in the Dark opened, some still felt uneasy about the image of a mother that she presented. The Washington Post’s Rita Kempley ended her review by saying, “In this era of child abuse, baby-snatchers and inadequate day care, there's something of a dark parable here. A Cry in the Dark… isn't about apple pie. It's about culpability. These days, to Hollywood's way of thinking, the only perfect mothers are the daddies in Three Men and a Baby.”