A Tree Grows in Brooklyn began as a play entitled Francie Nolan and a short story, “Death of a Singing Waiter.” Smith eventually transformed the works into novel form in 1943, but this was not to be the story’s final incarnation. The novel was made into a musical co-authored by George Abbot in 1951, a radio series that began in 1947, and a very successful film produced by Twentieth Century-Fox in 1945 and directed by Elia Kazan. James Dunn won an Oscar for best supporting actor in his film role as Johnny Nolan. Also included in the film’s fine cast were Peggy Ann Garner, Dorothy McGuire, and Lloyd Nolan. A 1974 film version of the novel was directed by Joseph Hardy and stars Cliff Robertson, Diane Baker, and James Olsen.
Readers desiring to find sequels to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in Smith’s later work will be frustrated. Both Tomorrow Will Be Better and Maggie-Now are less expansive and more reminiscent than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and the heroines of both books are more beaten than victorious. Joy in the Morning, a story of married love set at a midwestern university, is more in the optimistic spirit of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.