“The world was hers for the reading.”*

by chuckofish

Today is the birthday of Betty Smith (December 15, 1896 – January 17, 1972), who wrote A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a classic about a sensitive young girl who escapes the grim realities of her tenement life through reading.

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I always thought the author was Irish-American, but she was born Elisabeth Wehner, the daughter of German immigrants. I guess I am thinking of the movie based on her famous book–the characters are all so Irish. It is a good movie and Peggy Ann Garner as Francie Nolan is quite affecting. James Dunn won an Academy Award for best supporting actor as Francie’s pathetic drunk of a father (whom she loves very much nevertheless.) He deserved the award, although I always had the feeling he was playing himself.

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The characters are very real and the movie does not gloss over the hard realities of the book. This is probably due to the fact that the film is directed by the great Elia Kazan–in his directorial debut.

Anyway, a good book, a good movie–hat’s off and happy birthday to Betty Smith!

“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing,” thought Francie, “something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains – a cup of strong hot coffee when you’re blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you’re alone – just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.”

I should also mention that yesterday was the birthday of one of my most favorite writers, Shirley Jackson (December 14, 1916 – August 8, 1965). I will happily toast both ladies. How about you?

*A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith