Little Women (1933) Movie Review
Sure, Winona Ryder was 23 when she starred as the "little" Jo March, but Katherine Hepburn was 26, and Kate has always looked old for her age. The credibility problem is just one issue I have with the film, which isn't terribly well-acted (Hepburn's phony crying ruins many a scene) or compellingly plotted. It speaks volumes about the quality of films in the early 1930s (when the Depression made sap look good) that Little Women was nominated for Best Picture and won Best Writing at the Academy Awards.
While Little Women has always been a story about young ladies pulling themselves up without a father in their lives, this adaptation minimizes their liberation considerably. The March sisters are all boy-crazy and overemotional, and the parlor room faux sophistication of the time forces the moments of levity into an awkward place between being trite and farcical. Jo's ultimate engagement to the 46-year-old professor Bhaer (Paul Lukas, then 38) comes off as creepy instead of quaint. Even worse, the film spends too much time on bits like the girls' play, a wasted half hour of the film.
The third of nine adaptations of the film to date, the 1933 Little Women is nonetheless one of the better versions of the book, and it can be forgiven a lot due to its age and era. Now released on DVD, the film has been cleaned up considerably -- both video and audio. It's still got some roughness around the close-ups, but the DVD version movie looks like it could have been made in the 1950s. Of course, Hepburn would have been 50 by then. What would Laurie think of that?
Little women all growed up.