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Little Women
Little Women 1933 Poster

Status

Film

Director

George Cukor

Writers

Louisa May Alcott
Victor Heerman
Sarah Y. Mason

Composer

Max Steiner

Cinematographers

Henry W. Gerrard

Distributor

RKO Radio Pictures

Release Date

16 November, 1933

Running Time

117 minutes

Country of Origin

United States

Original Language

English

Little Women is a film produced in 1933, directed by George Cukor. It is based on Louisa May Alcott's best-selling series of novels.

The film stars Katharine Hepburn as Josephine March.

PlotEdit

Set in Concord, Massachusetts during and after the American Civil War, the film is a series of vignettes focusing on the struggles and adventures of the four March sisters and their mother, affectionately known as Marmee, as they await the return of their father, who is fighting with the Union Army. Spirited tomboy Jo, who caters to the whims of their well-to-do Aunt March, dreams of becoming a famous author and writes plays for her sisters to perform for the local children. Amy March is pretty and artistic but a little selfish, sensible Meg works as a seamstress, and sensitive Beth practices on her clavichord, an aging instrument sorely in need of tuning.

The girls meet Laurie, who has come to live with his grandfather Mr. Laurence, the Marches' wealthy next-door neighbor. The Laurences invite them to a lavish party, where Meg meets Laurie's tutor, John Brooke. During the course of the next several months, Meg is courted by John, Jo has her first short story published, and Beth frequently takes advantage of Mr. Laurence's offer and practices on his piano.

Marmee learns her husband has been wounded and is recuperating in a Washington, DC hospital, so she leaves home to care for him. During her absence, Beth contracts scarlet fever from a neighbor's baby. She recovers but is left in a weakened state. Her parents return, and Meg marries John. Laurie confesses his love to Jo, who rejects him. When he snubs her in return, Jo moves to a New York City boarding house to pursue her writing career. There she meets Professor Bhaer, an impoverished German linguist. With his help and encouragement, Jo improves her writing and resolves her confused feelings about Laurie.

A debilitated Beth nears death, and Jo returns to Concord. After her sister dies, Jo learns that Amy, who accompanied Aunt March to Europe, has fallen in love with Laurie. Jo then accepts the proposal of marriage offered by the professor, and Amy and Laurie eventually wed as well.

CastEdit

The cast list is presented thus: actor/actress - character.

ProductionEdit

Although David O. Selznick received no screen credit, he returned to RKO from MGM to supervise the production as the last film left in his contract with the studio.

At the request of Katharine Hepburn, costume designer Walter Plunkett created a dress for her character copied from one worn by her maternal grandmother in a tintype Hepburn had. Plunkett also had to redesign several of Joan Bennett's costumes to conceal her advancing pregnancy, a condition Bennett intentionally had not mentioned to George Cukor when he cast her in the film.

Louise Closser Hale originally was scheduled to portray Aunt March, but after her death on July 26, 1933, Edna May Oliver assumed the role.

The film was budgeted at $1 million, and 4,000 people worked on it during the yearlong production schedule. 3,000 separate items, including costumes, furnishings, and household appliances, were authenticated by research. Hobe Erwin, a former artist and interior decorator, was hired to oversee the set decoration, and he modeled the interior of the March home after Louisa May Alcott's Massachusetts house.

Exteriors were filmed at Lancaster's Lake in Sunland, Providencia Ranch in the Hollywood Hills, and the Warner Bros. Ranch in Pasadena.

ReleaseEdit

The film opened on November 16, 1933 at Radio City Music Hall, where it broke attendance records and earned over $100,000 during its first week of release. It was the equal fourth most popular movie at the US box office in 1933 and, after cinema circuits deducted their percentage of exhibition boxoffice ticket sales, made an eventual profit of $800,000.

RKO's timing of release was impeccable, as Depression audiences were ripe for the film's evocation of life in a simpler, more innocent and auspicious world. In addition, the film business had come under fire in 1932 and 1933 for presenting an abundance of violent and sexually titillating material. This film was just the type that conservative people felt should be produced. They championed it, sent their children to see it, and made it part of school curricula.

Home mediaEdit

The film was released on DVD for Region 1 markets (US, Canada, and US territories) on November 6, 2001 by Warner Home Video. It is closed captioned and features an English audio track in Dolby Digital 1.0 and subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Georgian, and Chinese.

ReceptionEdit

Critical ReceptionEdit

Mourdant Hall of the New York Times observed, "The easy-going fashion in which George Cukor, the director, has set forth the beguiling incidents in pictorial form is so welcome after the stereotyped tales with stuffed shirts. It matters not that this chronicle is without a hero, or even a villain, for the absence of such worthies, usually extravagantly drawn, causes one to be quite contented to dwell for the moment with human hearts of the old-fashioned days. The film begins in a gentle fashion and slips away smoothly without any forced attempt to help the finish to linger in the minds of the audience."

TV Guide rated the film 4/5 stars, calling it "unabashedly sentimental" and "an example of Hollywood's best filmmaking." It added, "The sets, costumes, lighting, and direction by George Cukor all contribute greatly to this magnificent film, but the performances, especially Hepburn's, are what make the simple story so moving. There are laughs and tears aplenty in this movie, which presents a slice of American history in a way that children will find palatable. Released during the depths of the [Great] Depression, Little Women buoyed Americans' spirits. It still does."

AccoladesEdit

Wins

  • 1934 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (Sarah Y. Mason, Victor Heerman)

Nominations

  • 1934 Academy Award for Best Picture - lost to Cavalcade
  • 1934 Academy Award for Best Director (George Cukor) - lost to Frank Lloyd for Cavalcade

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