Director George Stevens wished to maintain the feel of the original play with his screen adaptation of the story which centered on a family of Norweigan immigrants living in San Francisco in 1910. Stevens also wished to preserve the sense of warmth and familial love which was such an integral part of the book which inspired the play—Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes.
The central character in the story—“Mama” or Marta Hanson—was originally played by Mady Christians on the stage. For his film, Stevens wished to cast a big-name star and asked Greta Garbo if she would be interested in the part. When Garbo declined—stating that she would not play a maternal figure—Irene Dunne was offered the part. Dunne, despite being fifty years old, didn’t look as if she could be the mother of almost-adult children. Special makeup was applied to make Dunne appear to be her age.
|Barbara Bel Geddes|