Saturday, July 30, 2011

Little Women (1933)


“If wearing hair up means becoming a lady, I'll wear it down until I'm 100 years old”

            I can remember as a kid always watching the version of Little Women from 1994. I used to watch this movie a lot I can still remember some parts from the movie. Up until a few months ago I never realized that the 1994 version was the third telling of Louisa May Alcott’s story. The first time Alcott’s Civil War era story was brought to the screen was in 1933 starring Katharine Hepburn in the fourth film of her career.
            Little Women tells the story of the four March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (Frances Dee, Hepburn, Jean Parker, and Joan Bennett) and their mother Marmee (spring Byington). Their father, a preacher, is doing his duty fighting in the Civil War. The sisters are all different from each other but they all love each other very much and get along very well. Meg is the calm older sister, Jo is the spirited tomboy full of energy, Beth is shy and quiet, and Amy is outgoing and a very talented artist.
            Before the war the family had money. Without the money they used to have life is a little hard for the sisters but they are each grateful to have each other. Jo and Meg each have a job and even Marmee has one in a shop selling things to soldiers. Jo helps out an old aunt and Meg is a governess. Jo is also a writer and she sells her stories to the newspaper.
            The story of the March sisters is long but along the way they learn about life and love and loss and sacrifice. Jo is the central focus of the story. She is carefree with a great imagination. She is the rock of support for her sisters.
            There are many scenes that I liked. One scene that was very nice is when Marmee reads the girls a letter from their father. After the letter is read they each make a promise to themselves to get over their burdens except for Beth. Jo and Meg miss having the money and the leisure to do what they want and Amy is always getting into trouble but Beth is so shy and so sweet that she does not have any burdens. I loved the scene when Jo is at her aunt’s house and the aunt tells her that she has missed a spot cleaning the railing and cannot go home until the rail is cleaned. Jo takes her dress wipes away a spot and when the aunt is her room she slides the down the railing to complete the dusting!
            The cast is spectacular. The film belongs to Katharine Hepburn as Jo because she is Jo. Hepburn was the tomboy of Hollywood this is probably the only role that she played that was the closest to her in real life. Out the actresses playing the sisters Hepburn was the only one who was not stiff she really gave the role her all. I am not saying the other actresses were not great they really were but compared to Hepburn they were a bit stiff and seemed like they were holding back. I had this film downloaded because it is a Katharine Hepburn film and I had no idea that Frances Dee was in the film until I looked it up. Seeing Dee in the film was a great added bonus. I loved her as Meg… but then again when do I not like her in a film. She was very good next to Hepburn. I have never seen Joan Bennett in a film before and I greatly enjoyed her, she was adorable. Jean Parker I have never even heard of before but she was also good in her role. Apparently in the novel the girls range from sixteen to twelve but in real life Hepburn was twenty-six, Dee was twenty-four, Bennett was twenty-three, and Parker was eighteen.
            George Cukor worked his wonderful magic directing the mostly female cast. This is one of many films Cukor and Hepburn would make together. Cukor knew how to direct women well, in 1939 he excellently directed The Women with Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, and Paulette Goddard. Genius composer Max Steiner created a beautiful score. Walter Plunkett provided the period costumes to perfection.
            I have not read the novel Little Women but I would really like to. I like the story of a strong, loving, close family who through all of life’s ups and downs and heartache the sisters remained close to each other. It reminds me of me and my brothers we are all close and no matter what we all go through in life we are all there for each other. This version has the power to really reach out to the viewers and leave a powerful impression.
            Definitely do not miss out on seeing George Cukor’s version of Little Women. It is a beautiful classic film with a strong female ensemble.