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.
by Hal Erickson synopsis