Little Women (1933)

107 or 115 mins | Drama | 24 November 1933

Directors:

George Cukor, John Lodge

Cinematographer:

Henry Gerrard

Editor:

Jack Kitchin

Production Designer:

Van Nest Polglase

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Full page view
HISTORY

An Oct 1932 FD news item stated that RKO production head David O. Selznick had first assigned John S. Robertson to direct this picture. Both Selznick and director George Cukor left RKO for M-G-M in early 1933. However, Cukor, who had directed Hepburn in A Bill of Divorcement , "owed" RKO a picture, and returned to the studio to work on Little Women . In an early pre-production news item, HR claimed that production associate Del Andrews and Cukor were writing the script. Although Andrews is credited in studio production files as a contributing writer, no source confirms Cukor's contribution. Production budget records list actor John Davis Lodge as receiving payment for directorial services, but the exact nature of his contribution has not been determined.
       According to production files, Billie Burke, Phoebe Foster and Ann Shoemaker were tested for the role of Mrs. March; Florine McKinney, Connie Jones, Helen Mack, Jennie Dark and Adelyne Doyle tested for Beth; Howard Wilson and Richard Houghton were tested for Laurie; and Leonard Mudie was tested for Mr. March. In addition, Betty Furness was tested for an unknown role. Jennie Dark and Howard Wilson appear in the film in small parts. According to various pre-production HR news items, Dorothy Wilson, Anita Louise, Phyllis Fraser, Florence Enright and Dorothy Jordan were also considered for parts in the film. Of these actresses, only Enright appears in the film. Three-year-old Lily Lodge was the daugther of John Davis Lodge, and Joan Macgowan was producer Kenneth Macgowan's eighteen-year-old daughter. Both made their screen debuts in the film. According to production files, the ... More Less

An Oct 1932 FD news item stated that RKO production head David O. Selznick had first assigned John S. Robertson to direct this picture. Both Selznick and director George Cukor left RKO for M-G-M in early 1933. However, Cukor, who had directed Hepburn in A Bill of Divorcement , "owed" RKO a picture, and returned to the studio to work on Little Women . In an early pre-production news item, HR claimed that production associate Del Andrews and Cukor were writing the script. Although Andrews is credited in studio production files as a contributing writer, no source confirms Cukor's contribution. Production budget records list actor John Davis Lodge as receiving payment for directorial services, but the exact nature of his contribution has not been determined.
       According to production files, Billie Burke, Phoebe Foster and Ann Shoemaker were tested for the role of Mrs. March; Florine McKinney, Connie Jones, Helen Mack, Jennie Dark and Adelyne Doyle tested for Beth; Howard Wilson and Richard Houghton were tested for Laurie; and Leonard Mudie was tested for Mr. March. In addition, Betty Furness was tested for an unknown role. Jennie Dark and Howard Wilson appear in the film in small parts. According to various pre-production HR news items, Dorothy Wilson, Anita Louise, Phyllis Fraser, Florence Enright and Dorothy Jordan were also considered for parts in the film. Of these actresses, only Enright appears in the film. Three-year-old Lily Lodge was the daugther of John Davis Lodge, and Joan Macgowan was producer Kenneth Macgowan's eighteen-year-old daughter. Both made their screen debuts in the film. According to production files, the role of Aunt March was first performed by Louise Closser Hale, but after her death on 26 Jul 1933, Edna May Oliver took over the role. Production files also indicate that Douglass Montgomery replaced Eric Linden in the role of Laurie. HR announced that Conrad Nagel had completed a part in the picture, but his appearance in the final film is doubtful. In a modern interview, Cukor states that he decided to cast Joan Bennett as Amy after he saw her "a little tight" at a party.
       A contemporary article in LAT claimed that the film's budget was $1,000,000 and that 4,000 people were employed over a one-year production schedule. Several months were spent duplicating the book's "locales and incidents," and 3,000 separate items, such as "costumes, furniture and household appliances," were "authenticated" by research, according to the same article. RKO borrowed Hobe Erwin, a former New York artist and interior decorator, from M-G-M for the production. According to the modern interview with Cukor, Erwin modeled the interior of the film's "March house" after Louisa May Alcott's actual Massachusetts house. Cukor also states that the actresses playing the March sisters shared costumes to increase the film's realism. A news item in HR announced that RKO was borrowing cinematographer James Wong Howe from Fox to shoot the film. Production files confirm that Cukor requested Howe as his cinematographer, but no evidence that he actually worked on the picture has been found. Exterior scenes were shot at the Warner Bros. Ranch, in Pasadena, CA, and at Lancaster's Lake in Sunland, CA. In addition, the exterior of the March home was shot at the Providencia Ranch, Universal City, CA. Although temperatures during production exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit, real snow was used for the winter scenes, according to studio files.
       During its first week at Radio City Music Hall, Little Women broke theater attendance records and collected over $100,000 in receipts. According to modern sources, the film made RKO a total of $800,000 in profits. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture but lost to Fox's Calvacade . Cukor was also nominated as Best Director but lost to Frank Lloyd, who directed Calvacade . Mason and Heerman won Academy Awards in the Best Adaptation category. FD 's annual poll of critics honored the film as one of the ten best pictures of 1934. Little Women also won first prize at the Austrian/Vienna film festival, and Hepburn won the 1934 Best Actress award at Cannes.
       Modern sources give the following additional information about the production: At the start of the project, Selznick persuaded his executive superiors to maintain the novel's period setting and not update the story. New England-bred Hepburn had costumer Walter Plunkett make a copy of a dress that her late maternal grandmother had worn in a photographic tintype. During the filming of Beth's death scene with Jo, amateur sound men, who had been brought in to replace the regular sound men who were out on strike, were used. Because of their lack of experience, the substitute sound men had to re-record the difficult, emotional scene many times before an acceptable take was achieved. Several scenes with Joan Bennett, who was pregnant during the entire production, had to be re-blocked by Cukor so that her condition was not obvious to viewers. Modern sources credit Harry Redmond with special effects.
       Little Women was re-issued by RKO on 8 Jul 1938. In 1934, Mascot Pictures filmed Alcott's 1871 sequel to Little Women , Little Men (see above entry), as did RKO in 1940 (see above entry). The first motion picture adaptation of Alcott's novel was the 1917 British film directed by Alexander Butler and starring G. B. Samuelson. In 1919, William Brady produced and Harley Knoles directed the first American film version of Alcott's novel, which starred Isabel Lamon and Dorothy Barnard (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.2566). In 1949, M-G-M made a third version, directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring June Allyson and Elizabeth Taylor. Modern sources state that Selznick, who initiated but did not complete the 1949 production, tried to persuade Cukor to take over directing the film from LeRoy, but that Cukor turned down his offer because he felt that Hepburn, not Jennifer Jones, Selznick's wife and the originally cast star of the re-make, was the definitive Jo March. A "made-for-television" version of Alcott's story, starring Meredith Baxter Birney and Susan Dey, was broadcast in 1978. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
31 Oct 33
p. 3.
Film Daily
8 Oct 32
p. 8.
Film Daily
15 Jul 33
p. 4.
Film Daily
27 Jul 33
p. 4.
Film Daily
28 Jul 33
p. 2.
Film Daily
2 Aug 33
p. 6.
Film Daily
4 Aug 33
p. 1, 6
Film Daily
16 Nov 33
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 33
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 33
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 33
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 33
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 33
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 33
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 33
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 33
p. 58.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 33
p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jul 33
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Aug 33
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Oct 33
p. 7.
International Photographer
1 Aug 33
p. 35.
Los Angeles Times
7 Jan 34
Pt. II, p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald
2 Sep 33
p. 43.
Motion Picture Herald
11 Nov 33
p. 27, 30
Motion Picture Herald
25 Nov 33
p. 46.
New York Times
17 Nov 33
p. 22.
Variety
21 Nov 33
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
Prod assoc
WRITERS
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Asst cam
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Settings
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Asst propman
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
Rec asst
Rec asst
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr clerk
Chief elec
Chief grip
Asst grip
Prod sec
Best boy
Still photog
Dir advertising and publicity
Advertising mgr
STAND INS
Double
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Boston, 1868).
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 November 1933
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 16 November 1933
Production Date:
28 June--2 September 1933
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 November 1933
Copyright Number:
LP4333
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Victor System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
107 or 115
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

In Concord, Massachusetts, at the height of the Civil War, sisters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy March struggle to keep their spirits high in spite of their poverty and the absence of their father, who is fighting with the Union Army. While pretty but selfish Amy finishes her schooling, and timid, sensitive Beth practices on her broken-down clavichord, envious Meg works as a seamstress, and spirited, tomboyish Jo, who dreams of becoming a famous author, panders to the whims of her gruff but well-to-do Aunt March. As a Christmas present, Aunt March gives each of the girls one dollar, which they then decide to spend on presents for their mother, whom they call Marmee. On Christmas morning, Marmee is pleasantly surprised by her daughters' impetuous generosity, particularly that of Amy, and asks them to donate their holiday breakfast to the Hummels, an impoverished local family. Later, after the sisters have performed one of Jo's original "dramas" before a crowd of appreciative children, Jo boldly introduces herself to Laurie Laurence, her wealthy next-door neighbor whose grandfather has terrified her for years. Jo immediately ingratiates herself to Laurie, and even impresses the inscrutable Mr. Laurence. To cement their new friendship, the Laurences invite the March girls to a lavish party, at which Meg meets Laurie's tutor, John Brooke. Over the next few months, while Meg is being romanced by John, Jo has her first short story published and Beth overcomes some of her shyness so that she can practice on Mr. Laurence's fine piano. After Marmee is alerted that Mr. March has been wounded and is convalescing in a Washington, D.C. hospital, she ... +


In Concord, Massachusetts, at the height of the Civil War, sisters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy March struggle to keep their spirits high in spite of their poverty and the absence of their father, who is fighting with the Union Army. While pretty but selfish Amy finishes her schooling, and timid, sensitive Beth practices on her broken-down clavichord, envious Meg works as a seamstress, and spirited, tomboyish Jo, who dreams of becoming a famous author, panders to the whims of her gruff but well-to-do Aunt March. As a Christmas present, Aunt March gives each of the girls one dollar, which they then decide to spend on presents for their mother, whom they call Marmee. On Christmas morning, Marmee is pleasantly surprised by her daughters' impetuous generosity, particularly that of Amy, and asks them to donate their holiday breakfast to the Hummels, an impoverished local family. Later, after the sisters have performed one of Jo's original "dramas" before a crowd of appreciative children, Jo boldly introduces herself to Laurie Laurence, her wealthy next-door neighbor whose grandfather has terrified her for years. Jo immediately ingratiates herself to Laurie, and even impresses the inscrutable Mr. Laurence. To cement their new friendship, the Laurences invite the March girls to a lavish party, at which Meg meets Laurie's tutor, John Brooke. Over the next few months, while Meg is being romanced by John, Jo has her first short story published and Beth overcomes some of her shyness so that she can practice on Mr. Laurence's fine piano. After Marmee is alerted that Mr. March has been wounded and is convalescing in a Washington, D.C. hospital, she leaves her daughters to go to her husband's side. While she is away, Beth contracts scarlet fever from Mrs. Hummel's baby. As Beth's fever worsens, Jo prays that Marmee will return before she dies and tearfully reveals her deepest fears to Laurie. Beth survives, however, and is reunited with both Marmee and her father. Then, in spite of Jo's objections that the happy March family will be forever torn apart by her romantic "defection," Meg marries John. Inspired by the wedding, Laurie confesses his love to Jo, who reluctantly rejects him as a suitor. Laurie's subsequent snubbing causes Jo to move to a New York boardinghouse, where she meets Professor Bhaer, a poor German linguist. Helped by the professor, Jo greatly improves her writing and overcomes her confused hurt about Laurie. When Beth, who never fully recovered from her fever, nears death, Jo abandons Bhaer and returns to Concord. After Beth dies, Jo learns that Amy, whom Aunt March had taken to Europe, has fallen in love with Laurie. Eventually, Amy and Laurie marry, and Jo, who readily blesses the union, accepts the proposal of her sincere professor. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.