Based upon Louisa May Alcott's beloved book of the same name, this black and white film lovingly captures its charm. It is also a pretty faithful adaptation of Ms. Alcott's classic. Though there may be a half dozen adaptations, of the three that I have seen this one is, undoubtedly, the best. Its writing deservedly won the Academy Award in 1933 for Best Screenplay Adaptation. It is unfortunate, however, that although the film was also nominated for the Best Picture Award, it lost to "Cavalcade", a largely forgotten, lesser film.
Deftly directed by George Cukor, the film tells the story of the March family, whose patriarch has gone off to fight in the Union Army during the Civil War. Mrs. March is left to raise her four daughters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, in nineteenth century New England. The film focuses on the personal interactions family members have with each other, as well as with their friends and neighbors, in order to create a portrait of an idealized, loving family held together during trying times. It is also a very poignant coming of age film.
The film primarily revolves around the March sisters, with the focus on independent and headstrong Jo, an aspiring writer, as well as a tomboy and second oldest of the four sisters. In addition to the March family, a wealthy neighbor's nephew, Laurie, plays a prominent role in the life of the March family, with a lesser one played by the family's wealthy Aunt March.
This film is beautifully cast, with a luminous Katherine Hepburn perfect in the lead role. As Jo March, Ms. Hepburn captures the essence of this beloved character. Feisty, independent, loving, and intelligent, her characterization of Jo is inspired, though Ms. Hepburn may not have strayed too far from her own persona.
Spring Byington is wonderful as mother to the March daughters, while Frances Dee, Jean Parker, and Joan Bennett are uniformly excellent in the respective roles of Meg, Beth, and Amy, the sisters whom Jo so dearly loves. Douglass Montgomery is superb as Laurie, Jo's best friend, though his painted lips and shadowed eyelids are a bit anachronistic and a style holdover from the silent screen era.
Paul Lukas is endearing as the Professor, Jo's mature love interest. Henry Stephensen is effective as the generous, elderly neighbor, Mr. James Lawrence, uncle to Laurie. Veteran character actress, Edna Mae Oliver, rounds out this superlative cast as cantankerous Aunt March and shamelessly steals every scene in which she appears.
This is a wonderful vintage film that would be a welcome addition to the personal collection of those who love beautifully made, classic films. Bravo!