Monday, 14 November 2011

Little Women (1933)

I seriously love "Little Women". I really enjoyed reading the book and I refuse to watch any other adaptation of it other than George Cukor's 1933 adaptation starring Katharine Hepburn, Paul Lukas, Joan Bennet and Spring Byington. It's pretty much this film that really made me want to read the book. Some people did this thing on their blogs maybe last year or early this year where they did a "Character Soup" full of the characters from films that they think are like them. I think that Jo March would be pretty high up on my list of soup ingredients. She was such a tomboy and pretty hyper and LOUD. I swear that my entire family has the loudest voices in the UK. Wow we're pretty loud, and as of yet I have never had problems with voice projection in productions (touch wood). I just get up there and speak only a little louder than when I talk... Is that good or bad? And I actually physically refused to wear a skirt until I was 10/11 so that's something to relate to! I was (and probably still am a little) a real tomboy (who occasionally played with hamsters, Star Wars toys and Barbies at the same time)! A-N-Y-W-A-Y. Moving on, here's my review of this charming film :-)

{My GIF}

Little Women (1933) Directed by George Cukor, based of the book by Louisa May Alcott


Plot (if you've been living on mars these past 100 years :-D):

The Marches are a happy and on-the-whole contented family living in Concord, Massachusetts compiled of four daughters, (in age order, eldest to youngest) Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and their parents. They try to get along as well as they can with their father away at The Civil War and each of the daughters contributes to the family and works hard at their own personal goals too. Meg works as a governess to two rich children, Jo as a companion to her Great Aunt March, Beth keeps house and helps her mother with house-hold duties (being shy and a little frail), Amy goes to school and works hard - though she is constantly being reminded to think of others as well as herself. Meg had no particular passion, neither did Beth except looking after her cats and her dolls, but Jo adored writing and Amy loved to paint and sculpt.

Rehearsing for their Christmas play (written by Jo)

One christmas the orphaned grandson of their rich neighbour, Mr Lawrence comes to stay and Jo wants to meet him stating that "he looks like a capital fellow".

That kitten though...

His name is Laurie and she goes over to meet him and give him some "get well soon" gifts as he had a cold and it turns out that they get on very well, and she even finds she likes Mr. Lawrence elder, whom they'd all found a little creepy.

They get older and more mature and Jo Publishes several stories, Meg marries Laurie's tutor,


and Amy has remained Amy, only a little more sophisticated.


But Beth had a bad case of Scarlett Fever which scared everyone. Especially as Marmee had just been called out to Washington to meet her husband who had become ill in a hospital there... But Beth pulls through, though she is weaker than ever, and the family again goes about their busy lives.

But Jo starts to realise that Laurie is getting fonder and fonder of her and one day he finally asks her to marry him, but she refuses, saying that he will always be a brother to her, but not a husband. So she goes away to New York and stays in a boarding house, earning her keep by governing two children at the house. She goes hoping to improve her writing, but comes away with valuable advice from her new friend, the German professor at the boarding house, Mr Bhaer instead. She is called away by news that Beth is again very ill, but this time she doesn't struggle through and dies peacefully.

With Mr. Bhaer

All the while, Aunt March has taken Amy on the trip to Europe that Jo had longed to go on her whole life, so she hasn't even been back to see Beth before she died. But Laurie also happens to be out in Europe at the same time, so they meet up and become very good friends...

The Verdict:

This film is just lovely. I can't really pick any holes in it. The direction from George Cukor is great as usual and every character is cast to perfection. I've recently read the book, and no, not everything is there. Most of Amy's trip to Europe is gone, and there is no argument between Jo and Amy about going to the theatre or anything, but it doesn't matter. I probably would have chosen the same parts of the book to include. There are so many little episodes in the book that they couldn't all be included. But what is there is very true to the book, often using the dialogue from Louisa May Alcott's novel which was a great idea. That doesn't always happen when books are adapted for the screen, and I really like it, personally.

Katharine Hepburn with George Cukor

Katharine Hepburn is perfect in the role of Jo. George Cukor said that she "was born to play Jo" and she does a fantastic characterisation which would have been hard to imagine any other actress at that time doing. I love the play scene at the begging where she is teaching Amy how to scream "RODERIGO" and faint - so funny. My mum always starts crying when Marmee reads the letter to the girls and then they start singing Christmas carols... It is really touching!

Joan Bennet is great as Amy, perfect for all of her snooty affectedness, but still sweet enough to show the emotion that Amy has, because although she is overtly the least likeable of the foursome, she has feelings too and Joan Bennet showed them just as I thought she should. Interesting fact, Joan Bennet was in fact pregnant during filming and grew more and more pregnant as production went on. She hadn't told David O Selznick this when he cast her in the role, and she put everyone in a very interesting situation - the woman playing the 12 year old sister is actually about to have a baby. Awkward. But they redesigned her costumes, and all was well.

I also quite liked the guy playing Laurie, Douglas Montgomery. But will someone tell me please... Who is he? He is just there and I actually don't know who he really is. I've never seen him in anything else and I would be grateful if someone could tell me... WHO ACTUALLY IS THIS MAN??? The internet says nothing, as usual, so no help there.

The music is gorgeous. Max Steiner is up there with my favourite film composers, like Bernard Herrman and all that jazz. The music is so catchy and sweet. My whole family automatically know that when we see Max Steiner on the credits the music will be great.

This can't be the usual set up for a publicity shot...

Spring Byington is adorable as Marmee March. A nicer actress will never be seen to grace the screen (hey! I'm a poet and I didn't even know it :-D). My whole family love her in this and as Penny Sycamore in You Can't Take It With You (1938). She's one of those really reliable actresses you know will always deliver.

If you haven't seen this movie, go and watch it now! You'll feel really happy and want to go out and climb trees, I assure you.



Caftan Woman said...

By the time I was 12 years old I lost count of how many times I had read "Little Women". I didn't see the 1933 movie until sometime in my 20s and it went straight to my heart. It was just as I imagined the March clan. Other versions are good, but they don't come close to the feeling I have for Cukor's movie.

Libby said...

So I've only seen the more recent version with Winona Ryder & Christian Bale. Dude--what is up with his hair? Anyway, this Laurie seems to have better hair. But, still, Katharine & Winona have the same mental 'do.

Patti said...

Hi, I found your blog through the For the Boys Blogathon. I can't believe I've never visited before.

I love Little Women...the book and the movie. I've never seen this one, though. While I have seen the Wynona Ryder version, I totally love the June Allyson version. In fact, I can't even hear June Allyson in any other movie and not hear her saying "Christopher Columbus!"

Anyhow, all that to say, I've never even given this one a try. I really should do so. Thanks for sharing about it.

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