Little Women (1949)

121 mins | Drama | April 1949

Director:

Mervyn LeRoy

Producer:

Mervyn LeRoy

Cinematographers:

Charles Schoenbaum, Robert Planck

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

This film is a remake of the 1933 RKO adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's novel. Sarah Y. Mason and her husband, Victor Heerman, wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay for the RKO film, and their adaptation provided the basis for the M-G-M film. A contemporary news item in DV notes that in Mar 1948 M-G-M acquired the film rights to Alcott's novel, along with a completed screenplay, from producer David O. Selznick. Contemporary news items in HR indicate that Selznick began deveoping his version of the film in late 1946, with Jennifer Jones set to star as "Jo." To direct the picture, Selznick had hired Mervyn LeRoy, who was quoted in a Apr 1949 LAT article as having said, "Ever since I have been in pictures I wanted to direct Little Women ...my fondest hope would have been to produce it 17 years ago when it was previously made at RKO." Selznick's adaptation was later canceled because of a studio strike, but M-G-M retained LeRoy as the director. Modern sources note that M-G-M used some of the completed sets that were constructed for Selznick's aborted production.
       An Aug 1948 HR news item lists Ginger Hatrick in the cast but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The film marked the screen debut of English stage actor Richard Stapely, who, according to a Jun 1948 M-G-M News item, was discovered by LeRoy. The film also marked the American film debut of Italian actor Rossano Brazzi. Sir C. Aubrey Smith, whose acting career had spanned four decades, died in 1948; Little Women was his final ... More Less

This film is a remake of the 1933 RKO adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's novel. Sarah Y. Mason and her husband, Victor Heerman, wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay for the RKO film, and their adaptation provided the basis for the M-G-M film. A contemporary news item in DV notes that in Mar 1948 M-G-M acquired the film rights to Alcott's novel, along with a completed screenplay, from producer David O. Selznick. Contemporary news items in HR indicate that Selznick began deveoping his version of the film in late 1946, with Jennifer Jones set to star as "Jo." To direct the picture, Selznick had hired Mervyn LeRoy, who was quoted in a Apr 1949 LAT article as having said, "Ever since I have been in pictures I wanted to direct Little Women ...my fondest hope would have been to produce it 17 years ago when it was previously made at RKO." Selznick's adaptation was later canceled because of a studio strike, but M-G-M retained LeRoy as the director. Modern sources note that M-G-M used some of the completed sets that were constructed for Selznick's aborted production.
       An Aug 1948 HR news item lists Ginger Hatrick in the cast but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The film marked the screen debut of English stage actor Richard Stapely, who, according to a Jun 1948 M-G-M News item, was discovered by LeRoy. The film also marked the American film debut of Italian actor Rossano Brazzi. Sir C. Aubrey Smith, whose acting career had spanned four decades, died in 1948; Little Women was his final film. In his autobiography, LeRoy noted that M-G-M substituted ground-up ice for the fake snow that was usually used to create snowy settings in films. LeRoy called the experiment a success and credited the substitution with making the actors in those scenes appear genuinely cold. M-G-M chose Little Women to inaugurate its 25th anniversary program. The film received an Academy Award for Best Art Direction and Set Decoration, and was also nominated for Best Color Cinematography.
       Alcott's novel has been adapted many times for the stage, motion pictures, radio and television. The first stage adaptation of Little Women , which opened in New York on 14 Oct 1912, was written by Marian DeForest and starred Marie Pavey and Alice Brady. The play was revived on numerous occasions, including a 1916 run featuring Paul Kelly, and a 1919 version starring Katherine Cornell. Motion picture adaptations of Alcott's novel include a 1917 British film produced by Moss Pictures, directed by Alexander Butler and G. B. Samuelson and starring Ruby Miller and Mary Lincoln; the 1919 Paramount film directed by Harley Knoles and starring Isabel Lamon and Dorothy Barnard (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.2566); the 1933 RKO film directed by George Cukor and starring Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Paul Lukas and Edna May Oliver (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.2536); and the 1994 Columbia Pictures film directed by Gillian Armstrong and starring Winona Ryder, Gabriel Byrne, Claire Danes, Trini Alvarado and Susan Sarandon.
       June Allyson and Peter Lawford reprised their 1949 film roles for a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the novel, which aired on 13 Mar 1949. The first televised presentation of the novel was broadcast on 16 Dec 1949 as part of the CBS network's Ford Theatre program and was directed by Marc Daniels, with Meg Mundy and Patricia Kirkland in leading roles. A television-movie version of Little Women , produced in 1978, starred Meredith Baxter Birney and Susan Dey. Alcott's sequel to Little Women , entitled Little Men , was first filmed in 1934 by Mascot Pictures Corp., directed by Phil Rosen, with Ralph Morgan and Erin O'Brien-Moore in leading roles. RKO produced an adaptation of Little Men in 1940, directed by Norman Z. McLeod and starred Kay Francis and Jack Oakie (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.2519 and F3.2520). More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
26 Feb 1949.
---
Daily Variety
19 Mar 1948.
---
Daily Variety
17 Sep 48
p. 11.
Daily Variety
23 Feb 49
p. 3.
Film Daily
25 Feb 49
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
26 Feb 49
p. 34.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 48
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 48
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 48
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Feb 49
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Mar 49
p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
10 Apr 1949.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
26 Feb 49
p. 4514.
New York Times
4 Mar 1945.
---
New York Times
11 Mar 49
p. 33.
Variety
23 Feb 49
p. 10.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Mervyn LeRoy Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Contr to scr constr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Cam op
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hair styles des by
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Grip
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
Assoc
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Boston, 1868).
DETAILS
Release Date:
April 1949
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 10 March 1949
Production Date:
29 June--late September 1948
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 February 1949
Copyright Number:
LP2131
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
121
Country:
United States
PCA No:
13422
SYNOPSIS

In the small town of Concord, Massachusetts during the Civil War, the March sisters--Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth--live with their mother in a state of genteel poverty, their father having lost the family's fortune to an unscrupulous businessman several years earlier. While Mr. March serves in the Union Army, Mrs. March, affectionately referred to as "Marmee" by her daughters, holds the family together and teaches the girls the importance of giving to those less fortunate than themselves, especially during the upcoming Christmas season. Though the spoiled and vain Amy often bemoans the family's lack of material wealth and social status, Jo, an aspiring writer, keeps everyone entertained with her stories and plays, while the youngest March, the shy and sensitive Beth, accompanies Jo's productions on an out-of-tune piano. The spirited Jo, a tomboy in search of male companionship, strikes up a friendship with Theodore "Laurie" Laurence, the grandson of the March's wealthy, but cantankerous neighbor, James Laurence. Later that winter, Jo so impresses Mr. Laurence with her forthrightness and her beneficial effect on the brooding Laurie, that he invites the March sisters to a fancy dress ball at his sumptuous home. At the ball, Meg is courted by John Brooke, Laurie's tutor, and Jo consents to dance with Laurie while Amy and Beth breathlessly view the scene from their perch atop the staircase. Mr. Laurence's gruff demeanor is softened upon meeting Beth, who reminds him of the beloved granddaughter he lost, and when he learns of her musical talent, he offers her the use of his grand piano. The beautiful evening ends on a sour note, however, when Amy and Beth overhear the snobbish Mrs. ... +


In the small town of Concord, Massachusetts during the Civil War, the March sisters--Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth--live with their mother in a state of genteel poverty, their father having lost the family's fortune to an unscrupulous businessman several years earlier. While Mr. March serves in the Union Army, Mrs. March, affectionately referred to as "Marmee" by her daughters, holds the family together and teaches the girls the importance of giving to those less fortunate than themselves, especially during the upcoming Christmas season. Though the spoiled and vain Amy often bemoans the family's lack of material wealth and social status, Jo, an aspiring writer, keeps everyone entertained with her stories and plays, while the youngest March, the shy and sensitive Beth, accompanies Jo's productions on an out-of-tune piano. The spirited Jo, a tomboy in search of male companionship, strikes up a friendship with Theodore "Laurie" Laurence, the grandson of the March's wealthy, but cantankerous neighbor, James Laurence. Later that winter, Jo so impresses Mr. Laurence with her forthrightness and her beneficial effect on the brooding Laurie, that he invites the March sisters to a fancy dress ball at his sumptuous home. At the ball, Meg is courted by John Brooke, Laurie's tutor, and Jo consents to dance with Laurie while Amy and Beth breathlessly view the scene from their perch atop the staircase. Mr. Laurence's gruff demeanor is softened upon meeting Beth, who reminds him of the beloved granddaughter he lost, and when he learns of her musical talent, he offers her the use of his grand piano. The beautiful evening ends on a sour note, however, when Amy and Beth overhear the snobbish Mrs. Gardiner and her daughter gossiping about Marmee. As the weeks pass, Laurie's affection for Jo grows, but Jo rebuffs him as a suitor, claiming that although she loves him as a friend, she will never marry. Meanwhile, Jo attempts to discourage Meg's deepening feelings for Mr. Brooke, fearing that a marriage will break the bond between the sisters. Spring arrives, and Marmee receives word that Mr. March has been wounded and sent to an Army hospital in Washington, D.C. Jo asks her wealthy Aunt March for Marmee's train fare, but the two have a heated argument when the impatient Jo refuses to address Aunt March with the decorum the proud woman demands. As usual, Aunt March comes through for the family, but not before Jo has had her beautiful chestnut locks cut off and sold in order to pay for Marmee's trip. While carrying out Marmee's work for the poor in her absence, Beth contracts scarlet fever, and the distressed and frightened sisters realize how much they depend upon Marmee. Just as Marmee returns, however, Beth's fever breaks, and the entire family is reunited when Laurie arranges for the surprise return of Mr. March. A few months later, Meg marries Mr. Brooke and Laurie asks Jo to marry him, but she turns him down, explaining that she is uncomfortable in high society and wishes to devote her life to writing. Greatly disappointed, Laurie leaves for Europe, and Jo, saddened by the seeming loss of both Meg and Laurie, who she considers to be her best friend, moves to New York to pursue her career. While boarding at the home of the Kirke family, Jo meets Prof. Bhaer, the Kirke children's German tutor, who introduces her to art museums and the opera. Prof. Bhaer agrees to read Jo's stories, but Jo is devastated when he later criticizes her work, dismissing it as sensationalistic. Bursting into tears, Jo reveals that she feels abandoned by Laurie and hurt that Aunt March, who had long promised her a trip to Europe, has taken Amy instead. After consoling Jo, with whom he has fallen in love, Prof. Bhaer advises her to write from her heart, and Jo decides to return home where she is needed, for Beth is again very ill. Upon her return to the now nearly empty March household, Jo learns that her beloved Beth is dying and spends the next few weeks caring for the courageous girl, who bears her suffering without complaint. After Beth's death, Jo assuages her grief by writing a novel entitled My Beth , which she sends to Prof. Bhaer for his opinion. Later, Meg, now the mother of twins, gently informs Jo that Laurie and Amy have fallen in love in Europe and are to be married. Although Jo is happy for the couple, she realizes for the first time how lonely she is and how much she wishes to be loved. A few weeks later, Laurie and Amy return as husband and wife, and the Marchs's joyfully celebrate the family's reunion. The festivities are interrupted when Prof. Bhaer arrives with Jo's novel, which he has had published. However, when Laurie answers the door, Prof. Bhaer mistakenly assumes that Jo has married her friend and politely declines Laurie's invitation to join the party. After Jo catches up to her departing suitor, the two embrace and Prof. Bhaer proposes marriage. Jo happily accepts, then leads her future husband back to the warmth of the house, where her family awaits them. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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