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12 November 2012

Poll: Great Adaptations of LITTLE WOMEN

A previous post on this blog mentions the various "Great Adaptations" of films based on novels Turner Classic Movies will be featuring this month. Possibly the most quintessential American novel, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, has also been made into a number of popular films, two of which will be airing this month. My personal favorite is George Cukor's LITTLE WOMEN (1933) starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo. My friend Megan, on the other hand, much prefers the June Allyson version, which also stars Elizabeth Taylor and Margaret O'Brien (1949). The most recent adaptation of the classic is the 1994 Winona Ryder version. 
Which is your favorite?

Jo: Katharine Hepburn
Meg: Frances Dee
Beth: Jean Parker
Amy: Joan Bennett
Marmee: Spring Byington
Laurie: Douglas Montgomery
Professor Bhaer: Paul Lukas
Aunt March: Edna May Oliver 

Pros: Katharine Hepburn is Jo March - tomboy, Yankee, headstrong, devoted to family. The music and the gentleness of the black and white picture captures the warm feel of Alcott's original story.
Cons: Overall, the film can seem a bit melodramatic. Spring Byington, as much as I love her, does not give her best performance here. They also completely omit the exchange between Jo and Amy when Amy burns Jo's writing and they quarrel and then Jo saves Amy when she falls through the ice. I don't actually know if Cukor actually read the whole book, despite Hepburn's prodding.... 

Jo: June Allyson
Meg: Janet Leigh
Beth: Margaret O'Brien
Amy: Elizabeth Taylor
Marmee: Mary Astor
Laurie: Peter Lawford
Professor Bhaer: Rossano Brazzi
Aunt March: Lucille Watson
Mr. Laurence: C. Aubrey Smith 

Pros: Fairly well cast with vibrant color. Good energy.
Cons: For some strange reason I have never understood, Beth (O'Brien) is younger than Amy (Taylor). Amy isn't even blonde! The feeling is also a bit too sissy - too 1950s housewife, if you know what I mean. Too Betty Crocker.

Jo: Winona Ryder
Meg: Trini Alvarado
Beth: Claire Danes
Amy: Kirsten Dunst/Samantha Mathis
Marmee: Susan Sarandon
Laurie: Christian Bale
Professor Bhaer: Gabriel Byrne
Aunt March: Mary Wickes 

Pros: Mary Wickes is Aunt March! Also: a woman's story about women directed by a woman? Get out of town - what a novel idea! This version feels the most historically accurate and is generally the most realistic. It also contains the most autobiographical aspects of Alcott's story.
Cons: The acting can seem rather modern at times. The sisters' relationships with each other  are certainly not as sugary as the former versions.


  1. I think I need to see the Katherine Hepburn version! I'm sad that I haven't yet, given how much I like both the LeRoy and Armstrong ones. I think it's a story that, no matter how much you mess with it, still resonates, particularly with women. :)

    1. Agreed. I need to read the book again. One million times just isn't enough!

  2. I think I like all the versions, but for different reasons. I have to say, though, that I love Elizabeth Taylor's performance in the 1949 version. Honestly, I think it's one of my fave Taylor roles!

    1. I guess that's fair. Of course, the book will always be best. Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Believe it or not, I might love the 1994 version best (but that's almost blasphemy because I was raised on the 1949 version!). I love the most modern version for what you noted-- the historical accuracy and the portrayal of a deeper relationship between the sisters. I also love it for that gorgeous Thomas Newman score! However, the original Max Steiner score is playful and heart-warming. I think the beauty of all three versions is that they are each wonderful in their own way-- I think we can credit Louisa May Alcott for that. Any film based on a timeless and beautiful story is bound to be good! Thanks for the post, Margaret! I enjoyed reading it!

    1. Thanks, Megan! You are so right. It's a beautiful story, a timeless classic. Thanks for stopping by! Love you!

  4. I had no idea there were TWO other adaptations of Little Women. I've only seen the latest one which I like very much. Wow, both the classic versions have amazing cast. I do like Christian Bale as Laurie, one of his rare 'light-hearted' roles where he's not so dour, ahah.

    1. They're all really good, probably because the original book is such a classic. Christian Bale is such a cutie-patootie as Laurie, isn't he?

  5. I love the 1994 adaptation of Little Women. I watch it when I feel sad or unwell and it always makes me feel warm and cosy. I watch at Chirstmas as well. I also love all the characters too. x

    1. I do the same thing with the Katharine Hepburn version. The characters feel just like family, don't they?

    2. I have never seen the Katharine Hepburn version. I have only ever seen the 1949 and 1994 versions. I always want to become a member of the March family when I watch Little Women.

  6. Beautiful film and beautiful people and great artists.


Can't wait to hear your thoughts!