Little Women (1933)
Sunday September, 22 2019 at 06:00 AM
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Nominated for three Academy Awards - Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, Little Women (1933), won only the latter for the writing team of Sarah Y. Mason and Victor Heerman. It was adapted from the classic Louisa May Alcott novel about four sisters growing up in New England during the Civil War. There had been a silent version, and there would be several more, but the 1933 film is considered by most critics to be the best, and the most faithful to the book.
Victor Heerman was a director in the teens and twenties. He turned to writing, usually with his wife, Sarah Y. Mason - after directing his best-known film, the Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers (1930). Many of the couple's scripts were adaptations of novels, such as The Age of Innocence (1934), Magnificent Obsession (1935), and Stella Dallas (1937). The first of these was Little Women.
According to Director George Cukor and star Katharine Hepburn, there were several earlier versions of the screenplay by various writers, and none of them worked. The reason Heerman and Mason's script worked so well, Hepburn recalled in her autobiography, was that it was "simple and true and naive but really believable. Mason and Heerman believed the book. So did I. The others didn't." Cukor called the script "something quite original for the time. It wasn't slicked up. The construction was very loose, very episodic, like the novel. Things happen, but they're not all tied together...the writers believed in the book, they understood its vitality, which is not namby-pamby in any way."
Little Women was the final film David O. Selznick supervised as head of production at RKO, and it had his usual superb production values: authentic period sets by Hobe Erwin; costumes by Walter Plunkett, who would later design costumes for Gone With the Wind; sensitive direction by George Cukor; and a first-rate cast, headed by Katharine Hepburn in one of her best performances as the tomboy Jo. Little Women was a hit, out-grossing most of the films in release at the time. Its success vindicated Selznick's belief that classics could be made into commercial and artistic films.
Producer: Merian C. Cooper
Director: George Cukor
Screenplay: Victor Heerman; Sarah Y. Mason
Cinematography: Henry W. Gerrard
Costume Design: Walter PLunkett
Film Editing: Jack Kitchin
Original Music: Max Steiner
Principal Cast: Katharine Hepburn (Jo), Joan Bennett (Amy March), Paul Lukas (Professor Fritz Bhaer), Frances Dee (Meg), Jean Parker (Beth), Edna May Oliver (Aunt March), Henry Stephenson (Mr. Laurence), Spring Byington (Marmee March), Samuel S. Hinds (Mr. March), John Lodge (John Brooke).
BW-116m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.
by Margarita Landazuri