Friday Flicks: Little Women

I know, I know. Stop rolling your eyes. I LOVE this movie. Really.

Every year it is required watching in my house at Christmas time. But really I’ll watch it any time.

I know there is much dissension in the ranks as to the best version because there have been so many. There are actually nine film adaptations of the story.  There was 1933 with Katharine Hepburn as Jo. In 1949 came June Allyson as Jo, Peter Lawford as Laurie, Elizabeth Taylor as Amy and Janet Leigh as Meg. Hard to argue with that cast.

The BBC had a 9 episode series in 1970 but here’s the one that is making my head spin. There was a 1978 made-for-TV miniseries with a cast that is just more than I can handle: Meredith Baxter as Meg, Susan Dey as Jo, Eve Plumb as Beth, Greer Garson as Aunt Kathryn and…William Shatner as Prof. Bhaer. I just can’t even imagine. Jan Brady as Beth is just not right.

little-women-picMy favorite though is the 1994 version and it really is because it is full of actors that I fell in love with as a kid. It is just such a sweet and warm adaptation and Winona Ryder’s narration is so endearing to me. (Oddly I watched “How to Make an American Quilt” the other day for the first time and her narration kept catching me off guard because it seemed odd she wasn’t Jo!) But really — this cast is amazing: Susan Sarandon as Marmee, Ryder as Jo, Trini Alvarado as Meg, Kirsten Dunst as young Amy, Claire Danes as Beth, Christian Bale as Laurie, Eric Stoltz as John Brooke and Gabriel Byrne as Prof. Bhaer.

“Little Women” is one of those books I’ve read dozens of times and see something new each time. (I was fairly devastated to learn that Alcott actually didn’t want to write the book  and stalled on writing it until her father convinced her; the publisher had offered him a contract if she finished.) Like so many, I grew up loving Jo’s character and her strength and curiosity and drive. I was struck recently by someone who noted that in many ways Meg should be considered the hero as she focused on doing what her family needed at all times — ensuring some financial security, helping to raise her sisters, etc. It’s an interesting perspective I need to think more about.

In a few weeks I have the good fortune of bringing one of my Girl Scout troops to Alcott’s home, Orchard House, to participate in a workshop. An actress will bring them back to 1870, helping them make and write journals and letting them act out scenes as the March girls did with their Pickwick Papers. I’m very excited to have them experience this especially as only ONE of the girls in our troop (my daughter) knew the story of “Little Women!”

Did you grow up with this book? Did you love it or hate it? What’s your favorite film adaptation or are you a book-only lover?

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