I had heard many wonderful praises about this 1933 adaptation of Little Women, especially about Katherine Hepburn´s performance as Jo and I must agree that these praises were accurate. Hepburn´s Jo is one of the best screen-Jo´s I have ever seen.
What it comes to Jo I felt that this film was very loyal to the books. Hepburn brought lots of physical comedy to the role and I thought it was very fitting for Jo´s character. In the book Jo is described to be a tall, bit clumsy tomboy. Hepburn is the tallest actress who has ever played Jo and I think her looks are pretty close to Jo in the book.
Comparing these different movie and tv adaptations of Little Women is one kind of research to cultural history. I have noticed that in these older film adaptations the aggressive nature of young Jo is completely missing. She is funny and determined in the movie but the book-Jo had a temper and occasionally violent impulses. This feature of Jo started to appear in film adaptations just in the 1990´s. This tells a lot how film industry reflects the position of a western woman through history. I do think that Hepburns Jo is wonderful, but the character is shown through 30s lenses and is not entirely what she is in the books.
Film is directed by American George Cukor who´s most famous film is probably My Fair Lady from 1964.
Everyone probably knows the plot of Little Women (or they should know). Book is about March sisters; bohemian Jo, artistic Amy, shy Beth and motherly Meg and their growth from girls to women. Their reverend father is in the war and mother Marmee takes care of the girls and poor folks of the neighbourhood.
This film is one of the rare adaptations of Little Women where I wish that Jo would have remained single. I was disappointed with both Laurie and Fritz. I liked Laurie in the beginning of this film, where he was shy and lonely and reminded me of Laurie in the beginning of the book, but the development of the character ended right there. For the rest of the movie he was more like apathetic prince from Snow White. Book-Laurie´s flicky and impulsive nature wasn´t there.
Kittens steal this scene <3 I actually think that this film shows the gender fluid theme in Jo/Laurie relationship. Montgomery is very pretty.
Professor Bhaer was no better. Friedrich was played by Hungarian actor Paul Lukas, but unfortunately there was no chemistry between him and Hepburn. Friedrich´s character was also very different to what he is in the books which was very disappointing for me personally because mein professor is my favorite character in all Little Women. 1933 Friedrich was complete opposite to the Friedrich in the books. In the book Friedrich respects Jo and he is only going to propose her when he is sure that she has feelings towards him but in this film it is pretty clear that he wants Jo to be his wife since the first moment he sees her (maybe it would be a good idea to get to know her first) and he even asks Jo a permission to write to her father and ask him something (I wonder what that is). I´m afraid Fritz in this film was just as possessive over Jo what Laurie was at one point.
I think this dress is insanely pretty but one thing that makes me wonder in these 30´s and 40´s adaptations of Little Women how come Friedrich who is as poor as a church mouse can afford to take Jo to opera and to best places?
I was quite pleasantly surprised that this 30´s version had such androgynous Jo and Laurie and that is also the case in the books. Sadly Fritz didn´t really looked like the way he does in the books (he has a beard and he is much younger and in away it is Friedrich´s more "masculine" look that Jo is attracted to in the books. I am not so happy that the essential natures of the characters are very different to what they are in the books. My favorite male actor in this film is John Davis Lodge who playes John Brooke.
Unfortunately I did not either like Amy played by Joan Bennet. At least in this version actors of Amy and Laurie had wonderful chemistry, but throughout the whole film Amy had the same sour expression on her face. In the book the adult Amy is spunky and a bubbly character. I thought Joan Bennet was very pretty Amy, I just wished she had smiled more. This film once again does not build any kind of base for Amy´s and Lauries relationship like the book does. Time that the two spend in Europe is a short scene that only lasts for a minute. I liked Jean Parker as ethereal Beth, I felt that she brought nearly a spiritual aspect into this film which also exists in the books. She and Hebpurn were believable as sisters. The scene in the book where Beth asks Jo to fill her place was also added into this film and Jo does try..for a while.
Positive surprise for me was that this film was pretty loyal to the book and there were also scenes that I have not seen in other movie versions. I would recommend to watch this film already because of Hepburn´s amazing breathtaking performance. It is her film from start to finish.
Check out my other articles on Little Women:
Little Women 2019 Trailer (Long Rant)
Quest of Friedrich Bhaer, Tender Masculinity In Little Women
Little Women: Equal Marriage Lost in Translation
Little Men and Tender Parenthood
Thoughts on #TeamLaurie and #TeamBhaer
Little Women: Symbolism of the Umbrella
Little Women 1970 Amy and Laurie Romance
Pronounced as Nee-na.
Artist, illustrator, writer, watercolorist and a folklorist. Gryffinclaw. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea and period dramas.
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