Cinema: Smotherhood

"A boy's best friend is his mother." In pre-Freudian times, that sentiment was a shibboleth; it even served as the title of a straight-faced song. But as the principle of a 1971 film? Surely Scenarist-Director Jules Dassin jests. Or does he?

Promise at Dawn, based on Romain Gary's dutiful autobiography, takes little Romain from his boyhood in Russia to his early manhood in Paris. Beside him at every step is Mama (Melina Mercouri), who could give Sophie Portnoy lessons in classic and popular momism. Denied recognition as an actress, she seeks vicarious glory...

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