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Little Women (1933)

Not Rated | | Drama, Family, Romance | 24 November 1933 (USA)
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A chronicle of the lives of a group of sisters growing up in nineteenth-century America.

Director:

George Cukor

Writers:

Louisa May Alcott (by) (as Louisa M. Alcott), Sarah Y. Mason (screen play) | 1 more credit »
Won 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Katharine Hepburn ... Jo
Joan Bennett ... Amy
Paul Lukas ... Prof. Bhaer
Edna May Oliver ... Aunt March
Jean Parker ... Beth
Frances Dee ... Meg
Henry Stephenson ... Mr. Laurence
Douglass Montgomery ... Laurie
John Lodge ... Brooke (as John Davis Lodge)
Spring Byington ... Marmee
Samuel S. Hinds ... Mr. March (as Samuel Hinds)
Mabel Colcord Mabel Colcord ... Hannah
Marion Ballou Marion Ballou ... Mrs. Kirke
Nydia Westman ... Mamie
Harry Beresford ... Doctor Bangs
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Storyline

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 thier 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. Written by Liza Esser <essereli@student.msu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Acclaimed Universally as One of the Finest Pictures in History of the Screen! (Print Ad- Buffalo Courier-Express, ((Buffalo, NY)) 8 December 1933)

Genres:

Drama | Family | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

24 November 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Little Women See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$424,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Color:

Black and White (hand-colored)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Katharine Hepburn wrote in her autobiography, "This picture was heaven to do - George Cukor perfect. He really caught the atmosphere. It was to me my youth!" See more »

Goofs

In the Christmas play when the prop tower falls down Jo says everything is all right, her lips aren't moving. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Marmee March: So you're going to Washington?
Elderly man: Yes, ma'am; my son is sick in the hospital there.
Marmee March: Oh, this will be an anxious Christmas for you.
Marmee March: [finding him a coat] I think this one will do; let's try this. Is it your only son?
Elderly man: No, ma'am. I had four; two were killed, one is a prisoner.
Marmee March: [deeply moved] You've done a great deal for your country, sir.
Elderly man: Oh, not a mite more than I ought, ma'am. I'd go myself if I was any use. Thank you for the overcoat.
Marmee March: Wait a minute...
Marmee March: [giving him some money] I hope you ...
[...]
See more »

Alternate Versions

Older video and television prints remove the original RKO logo in the opening and replace it with the one from Selznick International. See more »

Connections

Version of Little Women (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

Marching Through Georgia
(1865) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Henry Clay Work
Sung a bit, a cappella, by Paul Lukas
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Wonderful film with a glorious performance from Hepburn
3 September 2002 | by gaityrSee all my reviews

LITTLE WOMEN is quite possibly the one book written post-Shakespeare that has the most number of film adaptations to its credit. Louisa May Alcott's novel, after all, offers a fine host of roles, particularly for women--of the March girls alone, there's the eldest sister Meg; the frail but saintly Beth; spoilt baby of the family Amy; and last but most certainly not least, spunky tomboy Jo. (This is not to forget the smaller, but still integral, supporting roles of Laurie, Mr Lawrence, Professor Bhaer, and of course, Marmee March.) The story is an engaging one too, following the lives of the March sisters--in particular Jo--as they grow and deal with change, with love, and even with death. Even though the story itself is tied to a particular setting in the 1860s (and even then the historical setting is almost peripheral), the characters and their relationships with one another--siblings, parent/children, friends and lovers--are simply timeless. That's probably why the novel has seen as many attempts to have it committed to film as it has.

I hate to make a snap judgement, having not seen any more versions of Little Women than the 1994 one, but I believe that this version, made by RKO studios and starring a delightful Katharine Hepburn as Jo March, has every right to be considered the definitive film version of the Alcott novel. The writing, for one thing, is exceptional. Although never quite the novel's substitute, it condenses the book marvellously, sketching the characters and relationships of the girls quickly and efficiently, and never skipping over the best parts of the book (for example, Laurie's profession of love for Jo). Of course the screenplay will never measure up to the book--it is rare that a film could surpass the wealth of detail and beauty of description available from the written word. But nothing's perfect, and this screenplay, by Sarah Y. Mason and Victor Heerman, is as close as an adaptation can get while retaining its own distinct flavour as a film.

As for the casting, I have very few complaints about it, since Hepburn--all angles and attitude, all loud-voiced and tomboyish--is perfect as Jo and is ably supported by Frances Dee as Meg, Henry Stephenson as the sweetly paternal Mr. Laurence and Douglass Montgomery as Laurie (though he plays the role a tad too fey for my liking). Special praise must be reserved for both Jean Parker (Beth March) and Paul Lukas (Professor Fritz Bhaer): Parker for bringing an impossibly sweet and lovely character to life, and making the audience genuinely grieve for Beth when she takes her leave of her family; Lukas for managing to avoid making Professor Bhaer a hard, frightening man with whom the audience simply cannot imagine Jo being in love (as is *my* impression from the book). I was rather disappointed with Joan Bennett as Amy, and that is of course partly attributable to the fact that the character isn't particularly sympathetic in the novel either, so it isn't really fair to expect a miracle from Bennett. Still, Bennett seemed to me to be the most lifeless of the sisters--one might think this an unfair judgement, since anyone acting opposite the powder keg that is Katharine Hepburn could easily be deemed lifeless if he or she weren't able to hold his/her own against her. Still, the arguably less well-known Frances Dee and Jean Parker had no problem with it.

In the final analysis though, there is no doubt that this film, however 'ensemble' the cast, belongs only to Hepburn. Her performance, although somewhat mannered and brassy at times (not necessarily simultaneously, thank goodness!), is nothing short of brilliant. She's sad, she's funny, she's touching, and as she does in her best roles, she transcends her own (pretty formidable!) character to breathe life into Jo as only she can. Witness the simple scene in which Jo breaks down, alone, at night, after having sold her hair for her mother's travel expenses... or the scene when Jo truly believes that scarlet fever is going to take Beth from her, and she trudges up into her own attic, the weight of the world on her shoulders, and collapses into tears. There is also nothing more charming than Hepburn as she gallops down the stairs in a frock which she burnt by leaning against the fireplace, or when she runs like a free, untamed spirit through the woods when chased by Laurie. Strange, sweet, funny Jo--this complex combination of jealous child and strong woman, stubbornly refusing to relinquish the familiar while adamantly placing her family above her own interests always... it really is a role that seems to have been written for Hepburn, just as she seems to have been born to play it. It is perhaps for LITTLE WOMEN as much as for MORNING GLORY (released in the same year) that Hepburn won her first Oscar in 1933. Nobody photographs Hepburn as flatteringly as her good friend and director George Cukor either, so some of the close-up shots of her in LITTLE WOMEN are simply breathtaking in having managed to capture her beauty, her youth and her personality all at once.

Nothing about this film is perfect; after all, perfection is too high a standard to be applied to adaptations (and most other films!). But LITTLE WOMEN really does have a little something to offer everybody--a sweet, timeless story about love and growing up and family. It's something that everyone can relate to, and that's probably more than enough.


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