From the opening titles displaying a snow covered Curier and Ives - like print underscored by a melody played on a tinkling spinet, this 1933 version of Louisa Alcott's beloved novel holds one in thrall. A Civil War era tale of a New England family's joys and tribulations centers on the March household : mother "Marmee" and her four daughters; Meg, Amy, Beth and Jo. The screenplay centers on each girl's commitment to "showing her father proud", father being a minister gone of f to war to meet the spiritual needs of the Yankee soldiers. Buoyed by their mother [ the ever perfect Spring Byington ] the girls learn the meaning of giving and sacrifice with a jollity that may be off-putting to 21st century viewers; but stick with it, for what this picture offers is nothing less than real life at its most joyful and painful. After a series of seemingly inconsequential events, the girls' placid lives are disrupted when a sibling takes ill. This section of the movie is riveting, due to the superb direction of George Cukor and Katherine Hepburn as the tomboyish Jo. The scene where Jo retreats to the attic, worried sick over the fate of her ill sister, is gut wrenching. Hepburn was just hitting her stride as a movie actress when this film came out. Not the typical glamour girl of the time, her odd beauty and diction translated into a strange alchemy when projected on a movie screen : she is unforgettable. The other actresses acquit themselves beautifully but the picture belongs to Hepburn. Lest you think all is dour and dull, this movie offers so much that is truly entertaining : a heartwarming homecoming scene; the March girls presenting a "play" in their living room to the consternation and delight of invited neighbors and several moments involving a cantankerous but lovable aunt [ the ubiquitous Edna May Oliver ]. The movie is properly accoutered with lovely interiors and authentic production design and costumes [ gabled houses and ivy covered porches; hoop skirts and muffs ]. The entire production is like a gift wrapped edition of the novel turned to celluloid! The icing on the cake, so to speak, is Max Steiner's spare, evocative music score, employing Beth's piano playing for family get togethers, parties etc., and orchestral "commentary" for dramatic, comic and action sequences. Only six years had passed since sound recording had revolutionized the film industry, but this "early talkie" uses the new technology very adeptly; although camera movement is minimal, the editing is very fluid. The sound, courtesy of old Western Electric, is fine, especially on the recent DVD release, where both aural and visual elements have been restored, assuring a great presentation. When a movie has the power to reach out over a span of seven decades and touch jaded hearts in another century, that is a sign of a classic. LITTLE WOMEN is a great American film.
Drama / Family / Romance / War
Drama / Family / Romance / War
Keywords: coming of ageholidayamerican civil war
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Little Women is a "coming of age" drama tracing the lives of four sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. During the American Civil War, the girls' father is away serving as a minister to the troops. The family, headed by their beloved Marmee, must struggle to make ends meet, with the help of their kind and wealthy neighbor Mr. Laurence, and his high-spirited grandson Laurie.
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A Timeless Piece Of Americana
It's Concord, Massachusetts in the American Civil War. Marmee (Spring Byington) waits for the return of her husband. She has four daughters; tomboy Jo (Katharine Hepburn),beauty Amy (Joan Bennett),Meg (Frances Dee),and Beth (Jean Parker). This is the first talkie adaptation of the classic novel. It's a literary classic, an American classic, and a Hollywood classic. The production is impeccable. Hepburn and Bennett act the heck out of the roles although they are the best roles. The one major issue is the age of the actors. They are too old to play teenagers but the characters do get older over time. It is a problem when the women aren't so little. Otherwise, Hepburn is full Hepburn. It's a perfect role for her if only talkies had come along five years earlier.
What a truly lovely film!
I will always have a soft spot for this film, and to me it is the best version of the three versions I've seen so far of Little Women(1994 and 1949 were the others, and I liked both of them very much). The sound here is a little too tinny, and the Laurie of Douglass Montgommery is too fey for my tastes. However, it still looks beautiful, the costumes and hairstyles are well suited to the period, the sets are sumptuous and the film is very handsomely shot. There is also a stirring score from Max Steiner, making it sound appropriately nostalgic, the script is faithful and warm-toned, it is directed with great taste by George Cukor and the story has all the warmth and poignancy of the book, which is one of my favourites of all time. Apart from Montgommery I loved the acting, Edna May Oliver here does what she did best, more than convincingly play sharp-tongued spinsters, and Henry Stephenson is a dear Mr Laurence. Paul Lukas is an unexceptional but romantic Professor Bhaer, an improvement on the wooden and too-Italianate Rosanno Brazzi in the 1949 film, and Spring Byington a Marmee of real sincerity. The four March girls Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy(aka the Little Women of the title) are what drive the story, and all four really shone here. Joan Bennett is appealing as Amy and leaves room for character growth from a vain little girl to an elegant young lady. Jean Parker is a very sweet and moving Beth, and Frances Dee is beautiful as Meg should be. Best of all is the Jo of Katharine Hepburn, who is perfectly cast in a role she was born to play. All in all, truly lovely and the best version to me. 9/10 Bethany Cox