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.

Which is your favorite adaptation of LITTLE WOMEN?

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