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Little Women (1949)

Approved | | Drama, Family, Romance | April 1949 (USA)
The March sisters -- Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy -- struggle to make ends meet in their New England household while their father is away fighting in the Civil War. Despite harsh times, they cling... See full summary »

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(screen play), (screen play) | 2 more credits »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Jo
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Amy
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Meg
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Lucile Watson ...
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Mr. Laurence (as Sir C. Aubrey Smith)
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Hannah
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Richard Wyler ...
John Brooke (as Richard Stapley)
Connie Gilchrist ...
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Sophie
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Storyline

The March sisters -- Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy -- struggle to make ends meet in their New England household while their father is away fighting in the Civil War. Despite harsh times, they cling to optimism, often with neighbor Laurie (Peter Lawford) as a companion. As they mature, they face burgeoning ambitions and relationships, as well as tragedy, all the while maintaining their unbreakable bond. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

THRILLS OF YOUNG LOVE! (original print ad - all caps)

Genres:

Drama | Family | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

April 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mujercitas  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The snow in this movie was actually cornflakes. See more »

Goofs

At breakfast with popovers, they are served coffee. The actress holds the handle with a pot holder, yet holds the spout end with her bare hand. Is one hand numb to heat and the other is not? See more »

Quotes

Jo March: [repeated several times] Christopher Columbus!
See more »

Connections

Version of Quattro piccole donne (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

Josephine
(1933) (uncredited)
from Little Women (1933)
Music by Max Steiner
used as a main theme in the score
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Eccentric Casting
25 April 2014 | by (Tunbridge Wells, England) – See all my reviews

Louisa May Alcott's novel is not only a beloved American classic but is also well-known in Britain, so I need not repeat the plot here. Suffice it to say that it concerns the adventures of four sisters growing up in a small New England town during the Civil War, in which their father is fighting. The novel has been filmed a number of times but I have not seen any of the other films apart from the 1994 version starring Susan Sarandon and Winona Ryder, and as that was many years ago I will not attempt a direct comparison.

During the forties and early fifties, many films set in the Victorian period were made in black- and-white, "Dragonwyck" being an example. MGM, however, decided to make "Little Women" in Technicolor, and I think that this decision paid off. Like the British "An Ideal Husband", also from the late forties, the film can be seen as an early example of the "heritage cinema" style of film-making. Although it was filmed in a studio rather than on location, there are loving recreations of Victorian interiors and costumes, all shot in warm, rich colour. There is an emphasis on dark reds and greens, possibly because these colours were felt to be particularly appropriate to Christmas, the season during which much of the action in the first half takes place.

My main complaint about the film would be its often eccentric casting. I never thought it would be possible to make the gorgeous teenage Elizabeth Taylor look unattractive, but here as Amy, in a blonde wig and too much make-up, she looks very odd indeed. As in some of her other early films the London-born Taylor struggles with an American accent, but at least she does make an effort, unlike the former England cricket captain Sir C. Aubrey Smith, who makes no effort at all and simply plays his character, old Mr. Laurence, as an upper-class British gentleman. (This was Smith's final film; he died before it was released. Professor Bhaer is played by the Italian actor Rossano Brazzi, which explains why this German professor speaks not only English but also his native language with an Italian accent and believes that his country's greatest poet had the surname "Getta". Lucile Watson makes Aunt March seem too unpleasant, and the kind heart which Aunt March is supposed to hide beneath her gruff exterior remains too well-hidden.

The worst piece of miscasting, however, is that of June Allyson as Jo, probably the most important character in the story. Jo is supposed to be a teenager- her date of birth is given as 1846- so why was the 32-year- old Allyson cast in the role? Allyson was a decade older than Janet Leigh, who plays Jo's supposedly older sister Meg, and only eleven years younger than Mary Astor, who plays her mother. Jo, an independent and free-spirited girl, is often hot-tempered and impetuous, but we can forgive her because these are the sins of youth and because we admire her spirit. At least, we can forgive the Jo of the novel. Allyson's Jo is much less forgivable, if only because it is all too obvious that she is no longer in her first flush of youth, and she can come across as petulant and sharp-tongued, and also rather cruel in her treatment of her admirer Laurie. Allyson's harsh accent didn't help matters either. Taylor seemed rather weak as the vain, self-obsessed Amy, but I felt she might have made a better Jo.

Leigh is better as Meg, but she is not given a very big role in this film; the best of the sisters is Margaret O'Brien who makes an endearing Beth, here played as a child although in the novel she is older than Amy. Astor is also good as "Marmee", as is Smith if one can overlook his accent.

The film keeps reasonably close to Alcott's plot although there are a few minor changes. Although there are references to the Civil War, for example, the causes of that war are never mentioned. I suspect that this change would not have pleased Alcott, who held strongly anti-slavery opinions, but Hollywood producers, with an eye on the Southern box- office, were always wary of making films which might be seen as advocating the Northern cause too strongly. Overall, the film should please lovers of the novel, but I felt that it would have been improved by more appropriate casting. 6/10

An odd coincidence. When I read the book, many years ago, I was amused that Jo's first boyfriend (whose real name is Theodore Laurence) was called "Teddy" and her second "Bear", which is how Professor Bhaer's surname is pronounced, and what it means, in German. As the expression "Teddy Bear" did not exist in Alcott's lifetime this would not have struck her original readers as odd in any way, but I wonder if this was why Theodore is never referred to as "Teddy" in the film.


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