Friday, August 7, 2009

Little Women Part 2: The Movies

I've seen all the movie versions I am aware that exist. While I adore Katherine Hepburn as Jo (1933), that isn't my favorite. The acting is too close to what you would see in a silent film for my liking.

My favorite from a classic movie perspective is the one with June Allyson as Jo (1949). She does an excellent job capturing the spirit of Jo. That film also includes Elizabeth Taylor as Amy, Margaret O’Brien as Beth and Janet Leigh as Meg.

There is a television version I recently discovered and purchased on DVD. Susan Dey played Jo, and's just awful. The costuming and sets are so terrible you feel like you are watching The Brady Bunch. In fact Eve Plumb from The Brady Bunch is actually in this film, and I didn't even realize it until I paused just now to check out the year it was made. It was made in 1978 and doesn't that explain a lot.

If you watch this video you'll see what I mean. Look at the color of the walls in the bedroom at this party scene a minute or so into the clip. People just didn't paint their walls that color during the Civil War, nor would the carpet color have been that blue. In fact, I doubt if people had wall-to-wall carpeting in 1861. Susan Dey's hair pretty much looks like the way she wore it in The Partridge Family. It just has the feel of a high school production at best and if you know and love this story the way I do, this just doesn't cut it.

My true favorite thus far (and who knows if someone will attempt a movie version again) is the most recently produced version (1994). The cast includes Winona Ryder as Jo, Kirsten Dunst as young Amy, Claire Danes as Beth, Christian Bale as Laurie, and Susan Sarandon as Marmee. I had a hard time at first accepting Claire Danes as Beth. I think it is because of her role in My So-Called Life, but I got over it. There was just something about this film that made me suspend disbelief. It made me cry. I was there.

The story has always been a holiday story to me, and the movie is now also in my collection of Christmas movies I watch each year.

The only downside of any movie adaptation of a novel of this size is that things need to be cut, things that I felt were important to the story. Unfortunately, I suppose, that is necessary unless someone in the future wants to make another Gone With the Wind.

Next time….what this story has meant to me.

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