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Film / Little Women (1933)

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Little Women is a 1933 film directed by George Cukor.

It is one of many, many adaptations of Louisa May Alcott's School Study Media novel, Little Women. The time setting is The American Civil War and after. The story centers on the March family of Concord, Massachusetts. As the film opens, man of the house Mr. March is off fighting in the war, leaving his wife "Marmee" March to look after their four daughters. Their daughters are:

  • Meg, the oldest, very responsible and a sort of backup mother to the others.
  • Jo (Katharine Hepburn), headstrong, tomboyish, a would-be writer.
  • Beth, the nicest, gentlest sister, beloved by all the others even as they snipe at each other.
  • Amy (Joan Bennett), the youngest, and quite the opposite of Jo, as she is very feminine and something of a spoiled brat.

The family tries to make ends meet while worrying about Mr. March off in the war. Their neighbor Mr. Laurence welcomes home his grandson Laurie, who soon falls for Jo. Jo finds herself having to resolve her feelings for Laurie and how they conflict with her hope for a career. Meanwhile, Beth falls ill.

Max Steiner composed the music.

Provides examples of:

  • As You Know: In the opening scene Marmee tells a friend that "I have my four girls to comfort me," establishing for the audience that she has four daughters.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Seen briefly when, as part of Prof. Bhaer and Jo's discourse, they attend the opera.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": The sisters act out Jo's play. Jo is overwhelmingly hammy while Amy varies between Large Ham and Dull Surprise.
  • Banister Slide: Jo slides down Aunt March's banister after Aunt March ordered her to dust and polish it. It's an Establishing Character Moment showing Jo as active and free-spirited.
  • Better as Friends: Jo rejects Laurie's proposal. She lets him down as easily as she can but he's still offended.
  • Dances and Balls: Mr. Laurence hosts a fancy dress ball. Jo is embarrassed and reluctant to dance because her skirt once caught fire from the fireplace and now has a large patch in the back.
  • Establishing Character Moment
    • Meg’s goodbye to her charges, showing her maternal nature.
    • Jo's Banister Slide at her aunt's house and her "Christopher Columbus!" oath establishes her as energetic and tomboyish.
    • Amy gets in trouble for goofing off in class, then insults all of the other girls at their school. She is established as a snob.
  • The Film of the Book: Just one of several.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: An adaptation of the Trope Maker. Meg is the responsible woman who becomes the perfect Housewife, Jo is the tomboyish career girl, Beth is the sweet and kindly heart of the ensemble, and Amy is the spoiled girly-girl who becomes more mature over time.
  • Killed Offscreen: The moment of Beth's death is represented by two birds flying away from her windowsill, and when the camera cuts back to her bed afterwards, her body is blocked from sight by Marmee and Jo as they mourn over her.
  • Maiden Aunt: Aunt March (Edna May Oliver), fussy maiden aunt to the March sisters. She bosses Jo around but can be generous, like when she gives each of them $1 (not too bad for the 1860s) for Christmas.
  • Match Cut: From Mr. Laurence, to the doctor, to Jo all pacing restlessly, as Beth lies ill with scarlet fever.
  • Meet Cute: Jo arrives at the house of the rich family in New York, where she's to be governess. She meets a man in a convincing bear costume goofing around with the children. It's Professor Bhaer, who will be her love interest in the third act.
  • Mustache Twirling Villain: Jo twirls a fake mustache as she acts out the part of the villain in her play.
  • Right Behind Me: When Jo is looking at the picture of Laurie's grandfather, she tells Laurie that she likes his grandfather, even though he looks stern and ready to bark at them. Of course, Laurie's grandfather is right behind Jo when she says this, and chooses that moment to make his presence known.
  • Romantic Rain: Jo and Prof. Bhaer's final embrace, in which she accepts his proposal, takes place in the pouring rain.
  • Settle for Sibling: After being rejected by Jo, Laurie marries Amy. Subverted to an extent in that Jo tells Laurie that he really was meant for Amy to begin with.
  • Sibling Triangle: Laurie, rejected by Jo, eventually finds himself with Amy.
  • Title Drop: Marmee reads a letter from her husband which ends with him saying that he's "prouder than ever of my little women."
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Jo slides down banisters and says "Christopher Columbus!" and wants to be a professional writer. Amy, her sister, is proper and feminine and buys perfume and criticizes her tomboy sister by saying "I detest rude and unladylike girls!"