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Little Women

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RedRiver
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Little Women

Postby RedRiver » December 26th, 2012, 12:10 pm

I watched George Cukor's film of this childhood favorite of practically every female I know. (At least, those old enough to have read books and not Smart Phones.) I, myself have not read the book. I was too busy reading James Bond and Ross Macdonald to bother with girl stuff! Even the movie, I avoided until about ten years ago. Last night's was a second viewing. Guys, check your testosterone at the door. This wonderful story, this breathtaking telling of it, is for everybody!

Is it melodrama? Sentimental? Yes and yes. Unabashedly so. The tears and fears, the love and loyalty are so pure, so spiritual, it goes right to the heart. It's the story and the characters that carry the movie, but the excellent production eliminates any chance of faltering. The black and white cinematography is some of the best I've seen. Haunting, expressive shots of faces, particularly that of Miss Katharine Hepburn, tell us so much more than words ever could. Mr. Cukor's direction was never better. That's saying a lot. Every moment serves the story. Every shot has a point. Nothing happens in this movie for no reason.

One might not expect this youthful romance to be one of the great Hepburn performances. But so it is. Just as in The Philip Barry plays and the Tracy collaborations, Kate wraps her heart and soul around this character and oxygenates her. If you don't know Jo by the time she's finished, you're not paying attention!

If you're from another galaxy, this is a *********SPOILER********

Few movies are perfect. This one becomes a bit of a fairy tale in the second half. As Jo becomes a published authoress overnight (don't we all?) and meets the man of her dreams five minutes after moving to the city (eat your heart out, Carrie Bradshaw!), It loses some credibility. But it's easy to forgive a little sweetness in a story that simply bubbles with emotion. A film that begins and ends so effectively can withstand a slightly weaker element in the middle.

Come on in, gentlemen! Join me and the girls for the world's greatest chick flick. John Wayne will be there when it's over! This is a beloved story, and a beautiful movie. It's as fine an example of American Classic as you'll find. I always make this point, but I'll say it again. 1933. The sound era was in its infancy. Yet this is WAY better than anything I've seen in the last twenty years. Do contemporary filmmakers not get that?
Last edited by RedRiver on December 27th, 2012, 12:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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JackFavell
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Re: Little Women

Postby JackFavell » December 26th, 2012, 1:25 pm

Red you are a dear!

I love this version of Little Women best, though the others are all good in their own ways too. I couldn't agree more about Cukor and the choices he makes for this film. First of all, there's the house. It really exists, it's Louisa May Alcott's home and I have visited there every so often since I moved to New England. The first time I walked into Orchard House, I gasped.... here was the exact same room in which the girls in the movie performed their play..."Roderigo... Roderigo.... ahhhh!" - the curtains are there, and the settee... it's stunning how accurate the 1933 movie is. It's no accident, and because Cukor chose a small set, it makes the movie that much warmer, more homey. And it forces him to block the movement in a certain way which reinforces the intimacy.

In other words, It's beautiful looking. Cukor took a large page out of D.W. Griffith's playbook. I became very aware this time of Griffith's influence. The movement, the framing, it's all Griffith. The shots of the home, the use of doors and entryways as a framing device, the minimal use of closeups, it's all there, and done even better than Griffith, if that's possible. As you say Red, this was 1933! And Cukor leads us forward into the sound era as if there had never been a break in continuity from one era to the next. Entire scenes are framed with one character's back to the audience, and even the skirts are used to pleasing effect, making for the most beautiful tableaux. If you doubt the Griffith/Cukor connection, check out the scenes when Father comes home, and the last scene, when Prof. Baer is welcomed into the March household - compare to Birth of a Nation - the return of the Colonel to his home. You'll see it too,

Cukor just lets the girls do their thing, he lets them each have their personalities. Underlying each character is a deeper one, some don't have as much to do, but they still retain their importance to the storyline. Frances Dee as Meg has a lovely scene where she confronts Aunt March (the formidable Edna Mae Oliver) and then covers her mouth after the volcanic tirade has come out. Jean Parker, who is closer to the age that the real Beth was when she died does an admirable job, especially thanks to Cukor, who films her death scene in such a wistful manner that you can't help being moved. Amy is always a delight in this story, and one really sees how Laurie would grow to love her in this film, Joan Bennett really rocks the later scenes in Europe. And of course there is Kate, goofy and tomboyish, but so full of life and wit, too big really for her small home. She's a whirlwind who excels at gymnastics and fence jumping, but I love the quieter scenes, like the ones with Professor Baer. She really IS Jo, I can't think of another actress who fit the part as well. She really would give up everything for her work. Paul Lukas is one of my favorites, his Professor is so tender, he wants so badly for Jo to be Jo, rather than the Shakespeare she aspires to be, that we can forgive his anger at her stories, and his bumbling later on. His longing is felt but not overplayed at all, we just see a glimpse here and there. He is smitten from the first, and I think we are too, with this whole family.

RedRiver
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Re: Little Women

Postby RedRiver » December 26th, 2012, 1:32 pm

Paul Lukas is outstanding in this female dominated show. His Professor Baer comes fully alive, with all the quirks and nuance of a real man. So, what? The film was shot at Ms. Alcott's real home? Is that what you're saying? Christopher Columbus! I didn't know that.
Last edited by RedRiver on December 27th, 2012, 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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JackFavell
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Re: Little Women

Postby JackFavell » December 26th, 2012, 1:40 pm

Well, no... I am pretty sure that they created an exact replica of the home. I wouldn't be surprised if someone, perhaps Cukor himself, had been to the home, or figured it was so famous that they copied it right down to the pictures on the walls. I imagine they might have fudged a little on the scale, making it slightly bigger for filming.

kingrat
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Re: Little Women

Postby kingrat » December 27th, 2012, 12:31 pm

Red, I'm happy you discovered this gem of a film. JF, thanks for making the comparison to Griffith. It's a reason to watch the movie all over again.

When I first saw this film, I'd only seen Joan Bennett in a grande dame role on Dark Shadows. What a revelation to see her so young and funny.

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JackFavell
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Re: Little Women

Postby JackFavell » December 27th, 2012, 5:56 pm

I LOVE Joan, especially funny. It's amazing how many of us grew up watching Dark Shadows and never knew how good Bennett could be.

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CineMaven
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Re: Little Women

Postby CineMaven » December 27th, 2012, 6:06 pm

"Little Women" is not a Maven-kind of movie. But Red River, your review was fantastic. What a great engaging read!! Nicely written!!
"You build my gallows high, baby."

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JackFavell
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Re: Little Women

Postby JackFavell » December 27th, 2012, 6:14 pm

It has Samuel L. Hinds....

RedRiver
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Re: Little Women

Postby RedRiver » December 28th, 2012, 12:15 pm

What a great engaging read!! Nicely written!!

If only I could write like Jo. I'd become famous and meet a sophisticated woman!

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rohanaka
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Re: Little Women

Postby rohanaka » December 23rd, 2013, 10:20 am

OH that sweet little Beth March.. just too good for this world.... (sob.. sniff.. sigh)

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JackFavell
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Re: Little Women

Postby JackFavell » December 23rd, 2013, 11:11 am

Someone else was watching.... sniff.

I just finished this, was going to post it on Christmas day in the Candids thread... but what the heck, you guys get a sneak preview...

Image

RedRiver
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Re: Little Women

Postby RedRiver » December 23rd, 2013, 2:07 pm

Christopher Columbus! Look at that cake!

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JackFavell
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Re: Little Women

Postby JackFavell » December 23rd, 2013, 2:57 pm

(Last line of Little Women)

Not empty now! :D

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rohanaka
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Re: Little Women

Postby rohanaka » December 23rd, 2013, 6:27 pm

Ha.. sweet picture there Ms. Favell! I have to say, I always (always) look forward to watching this story.. either version.. 33 OR 49 is a-ok with me. I can't even tell you how many times I have seen either (or both) of them over the years. To be honest, there are things I like about them both.. but if I could have my "dream cast" ha.. it would likely be a combo between the two. I think I prefer Kate's Jo.. but I absolutely adore and fall to pieces over sweet little Margaret O's Beth.. and I prefer Peter Lawford as Laurie.. and C. Aubrey Smith as Mr. Laurence too.. but I want Spring Byington as Marmee.. ha.. (OH.. and I prefer my beloved Edna May as Aunt March.. but I MUST have Ellen Corby as the funny little maid, ha) And the rest of the cast I think you could mix or match and I would be just as happy one way as the other. But to be honest.. I have to say that pretty much, I just love both versions, ha.. so whatever one is on, I am a happy camper. What can I say.. I am just a "Little Women Junkie". :D

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rohanaka
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Re: Little Women

Postby rohanaka » December 23rd, 2013, 6:43 pm

Wait.. this just in.. ha. Now I am torn trying to choose my favorite "Marmee" aggh... Mary does and awfully nice job too! :D


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