Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973): Mother-Daughter Melodrama, Starring Joanne Woodward and Sylvia Sidney in Oscar Nominated Performances

Columbia (Rastar Pictures Production)

Much in the vein of “Rachel, Rachel,” which was also written by Stewart Stern, “Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams” is a femme-driven melodrama, centering on a middle-aged housewife (Joanne Woodward) who goes to pieces after the death of her tyrannical mother (Sylvia Sidney).

The film is poorly directed by Gilbert Cates, but the acting is good. Woodward plays Rita Walden, a fortysomething ordinary woman, married to a well-to-do husband-ophthalmologist. As an upper-middle class woman, she is well-kept, walking around in her house in a full-length fur coat.

But, alas, getting old respectfully and respectably is hard to do (witness the adjustment to reading glasses), especially when her mother is around since the old woman antagonizes her daughter by her sheer presence.

Though her husband (Martin Balsam) is utterly sympathetic and understanding, Rita is unfulfilled in her marriage, and she seems incapable of lending support to her son (Ron Rickards), when she finds out he’s homosexual, and to her overweight daughter (Dori Brenner).

Rita lives in the past, with wishes of her youth unfulfilled, and now in the winter of her life, she lives in her dreams. Thus, she refuses to sell the family farm after her mother’s death because of the sacred memories the place holds for her.

Stewart Stern wrote it specifically as a vehicle for Joanne Woodward, who gave a shining performance in his 1968 adaptation, “Rachel, Rachel,” which was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

Woodward excels as a neurotic housewife, who goes to pieces, when her mother dies. The sudden death of her brassy old mother precipitates a major family crisis, bringing out to the surface her guilt and regrets and she breaks down. But in the end, finds some kind of better understanding of her husband and herself, when she accompanies him on a trip to WW II battlefield

Sylvia Sidney, in her first and only Oscar-nomination, is terrific too as the feisty, proud, strong-willed prepossessing mother.

Oscar Alert:

Oscar Nominations: 2

Actress: Joanne Woodward
Supporting Actress: Sylvia Sidney

Oscar Context:

In 1973, the winner of the Best Actress Oscar was Glenda Jackson for the comedy, “A Touch of Class,” and the recipient of the Supporting Actress was child actor Tatum O’Neal for “Paper Moon,” in which she plays the daughter of her real-life father, Ryan O’Neal.