There’s very few Louisa May Alcott stories that make a greater impression than that of her easily most heralded work, Little Women. I will admit that most will argue against this being a “romance,” and though I see the merit in that, this is my space and I’m going to call it that. *smile* Because we all do love some aspect of Alcott’s words that is a love story, right? Whether it be the angsty romance of Laurie and Amy, or the could-have-been romance or the eventual grown-up romance between the fiery Jo and the man who captures her heart, there’s one story we root for. This is why I’m adding this to our romance adaptation Little Women edition series.
FILM REVIEW | Is ‘Little Women’ (2019) Better than the Fan Favorites?
I’m not sure how many adaptations there are of this in total but for the purposes of today’s publication, we’re looking at five, four of which are feature films, and the fifth is a Masterpiece adaptation.
Just in case you don’t know what the story is about, Little Women follows four very different sisters in the Civil War era. The March family isn’t wealthy and knows loss and sacrifice. Eldest daughter Meg is a romantic who loves pretty things; then follows the fiercely independent Josephine aka Jo who’s fanciful imagination leads her to be a determined writer; Beth has her own talent, but unlike her sister’s she’s happiest as she is; and youngest Amy has a defiant streak that gets her into trouble. The plot follows these four ‘little women’ as they grow, change and become women of strength.
Let’s get to looking at the differing faces of this adaptation and how I rank them!
FACES OF A ROMANCE ADAPTATION LITTLE WOMEN
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1: LITTLE WOMEN (1933)
Of the two older titles I feature on this list, in my mind this is perhaps the more famous, though I have zero evidence of this. Just seeing the cast list (Katherine Hepburn) suggests this; plus it does have an Academy Award! That said, while I don’t think I’d seen this one until just this week. Hepburn plays such a “brash” Jo, and I just cannot get behind this, plus if you’re a fan of Bhaer, he’s barely in this. That said, I do feel like I didn’t love this one as I’m a “the remake is better” kind of girl. Also fun movie fact, this is actually the third adaptation of this story (at the time) and was the ninth most popular film in its release year. Find Little Women (1933) digitally on Amazon Video
2: LITTLE WOMEN (1949)
Despite the ’33 adaptation having the star power of Hepburn, this film also has some SUPER recognizable names as well, which is making me re-think my earlier statement. This includes June Allyson (who again, “feels” too harsh), Margaret O’Brien, Janet Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor. Needless to say, this has more familiar faces, and also has an award for best costume. Since Margaret O’Brien was so young, the script re-writes ages, and places Beth as the youngest rather than Amy; and this script is essentially based off 1933’s. Find Little Women (1949) digitally on Amazon Video
3: LITTLE WOMEN (1994)
Ahh, my personal favorite. I adore this adaptation for nostalgia’s sake. Is it the most faithful? Perhaps not, but this one gets me each time. I like the cast and appreciate the balance Ryder gives Jo; she’s fierce, but as is befitting of the time frame she lives in, she’s not “over the top” as our favorite Josephine March. Just writing about this one makes me sad I didn’t sneak in a re-watch prior to creating this, but perhaps I will now. There’s just something so lovely about this version, and one thing each adaptation seems to have in common is the now iconic moment of the girls gathered about as Marmee reads a letter. This one does it well, and I… really like everything about this period drama. You can find Little Women (1994) digitally on Amazon Video
4: LITTLE WOMEN (2018)
“Sometimes we simply have to do the bravest thing.” – Little Women
When first reading about this Masterpiece adaptation I cannot tell you how excited I was! Being a mini-series made things all the better because I had this feeling it’d take more time to look at the things features skimp on. Alas, it doesn’t. There’s no more Bhaer, no more Jo/Laurie, and really, all around, it doesn’t feel “fuller” than its immediate predecessor (1994). With that said, I still enjoy this version because it IS Little Women, and there’s just something timeless about the story. You can find Little Women (2018) digitally on Amazon Video (with Prime at publication)
5: LITTLE WOMEN (2019)
The most recent of the big-screen adaptations, this is highly praised. While I admire the production and think the cast is good, I just cannot fully get behind this film. I understand its message, and understand that people believe it to be the truest to Alcott’s vision, but I also think she had more in mind to the story than this. This script, because of how its filmed, ruins some of the prettiest, best loved moments in this story, and for me, that’s just a no-win situation. That said, as I say, I do admire much about this film, and have even watched it twice. It just doesn’t rise to the expectation I wanted it to. You can find Little Women (2019) digitally on Amazon Video
There are other adaptations of Little Women including a televised 1958 version, and a 1978 adaptation with Meredith Baxter (Meg) and William Shatner (Bhaer), but I’ve never seen it and simply didn’t have the time to watch all the things while prepping this. Plus, Lea Thompson leads the cast in a 2018 adaptation set in modern times; and there is also the contemporary version from Lifetime called The March Sisters at Christmas (Amazon).
Which of these have you seen? Do you have a favorite? How would you rank them? Who do you like best in the roles of these famous siblings? Comment all of your thoughts below!
THE FACES OF A ROMANCE ADAPTATION: ‘Little Women.’ Looking at another [faces of a] romance adaptation Little Women edition. Which is YOUR favorite? #LittleWomen #Adaptation #PeriodDrama Click To Tweet
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