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Saturday, 12 May 2012

"Little Women" (1933)

Spotlight on Movie Mothers - Mothers Dearest and Star Birthday - Katharine Hepburn

Star Birthday - Katherine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn was born on 12 May 1907, and enjoyed a prolific career of over 50 films over 60 years. She was the first person to win three Oscar's for Best Actress.

Keeping with the spotlight on Movie Mothers throughout May, I have selected Little Woman (1933), to celebrate the life and career of Katharine Hepburn. Little Woman was one of Hepburn's first films.

Little Women (1933)

Directed by George CukorLittle Woman is the third of many screen adaptions of the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott. It was the second of ten George Cukor films to star Katharine Hepburn.

I won't go into the story, as many of you will have either read the book, or seen another film version. Instead my commentary will focus on the linkage to the Great Depression, and the girls' relationship with their mother.


The Great Depression

Something unique about this particular version of 'Little Women' is it's linkage with the Great Depression. The film was released in 1933, during the height of the depression, and was instrumental in lifting the sprits of the American people. A powerful line is given by Marmee on Christmas Day:

"I've just come from a poor woman with a little newborn baby, and six children huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. They are suffering cold and hunger. Oh, my girls, will you give them your breakfast as a Christmas present?"

In this statement, the starving family is a metaphor for the cold and hungry people of America, caught in the depression. As the film was released in November, director George Cukor is using the kindness of the March family to inspire the audience (assumed to be more fortunate if they can afford to go to the movies) to help the needy over the forthcoming Christmas period.

The girls relationship with their mother

The four March sisters share a close relationship with their mother, who they call Marmee. At the start of the film, Aunt March gives each girl $1 for Christmas. Rather than spend it on themselves, the sisters mutually agree to selflessly spend it on their mother. "I felt ashamed thinking only of myself", says Amy.

They are a close family, engaging in family activities, such as putting on plays and collectively, they work together to create a quilt.

The relationship between the girls and their mother is noticed by bystanders, such as Laurie, who says: "It's like looking at a picture, seeing you all around the table with your mother. You always seem to be having such good times."

Later in the film, Jo sacrifices her hair by having it cut, and sold to make $25, which she gives to her mother.

During Meg's wedding to John, she says "the first kiss for Marmee", and kisses her mother on the cheek, even before kissing her new husband.

Awards and nominations

  • Academy Award winner for Best Screenplay
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Picture
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Director

Closing remarks

While this is a fantastic film version of 'Little Women', I am still undecided as to whether I like this or the 1949 version more. The 1949 version features an all-star cast with MGM's best including Elizabeth Taylor, June Allyson, Janet Leigh, Margaret O'Brien, Peter Lawford & Mary Astor.

DVD release
This film was released on DVD in Australia, but is now out of print.

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