I Remember Mama (1948)
For expressing life's simple, truthful moments both grand and minuscule, there's no better portrait artist in film history than George Stevens (Woman of the Year, A Place in the Sun, The Diary of Anne Frank). Puzzlingly overlooked in considerations of the director's 40-year career, I Remember Mama features some of Stevens' most tender work. Meticulously framed and shot in breathtaking black-and-white, Mama details the everyday life of the Hansen family, immigrant Norwegians in early-20th-century San Francisco. Stirringly enacted by Irene Dunne (The Awful Truth) as Mama, Barbara Bel Geddes (Vertigo) as sensitive daughter/budding author Katrin, and a sparkling supporting cast (including Oskar Homolka, Cedric Hardwicke, and Rudy Vallee), the Hansons' little triumphs and tragedies--a spinster aunt's engagement, a well-meaning but broke lodger, a terrifying uncle, a death-defying cat--draw viewers into a world at once bygone and universal, reflecting a little bit of everyone's family in all their weird and wonderful ways.