The not so Little Women of MGM
With their father away at War the March women; Marmee (Mary Astor), Amy (Elizabeth Taylor), Meg (Janet Leigh), Beth (Margaret O'Brien) and the tomboyish Jo (June Allyson) have to make do compared to the life they once lived but it doesn't stop them from enjoying life or thinking of others before themselves. And it makes the family so much closer as each of the March girls go from being girls to women and venturing out in to the world for themselves with neighbour Laurie (Peter Lawford) ever present.
This 1949 version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" is only the third version I have seen and I say only because this was the 8th adaptation and there have been others since. One of those more recent adaptations was the 1994 version with Winona Ryder which still remains my favourite but with a love of old MGM musicals and movies I have to say this 1949 version has its charms. And it puts them charms out there for everyone to see with a picture perfect opening scene with the most beautiful of snow covered sets which have that old picture postcard quality. Not only that it tosses in some playfulness with the tomboyish Jo taking a tumble in the snow as she tries to vault the fence.
That is the thing about this 1949 version of "Little Women" it is a movie all about the look rather than the depth and I don't just mean the stunningly gorgeous sets. Nope the performances are all about the look rather than depth with June Allyson having more energy than the energizer bunny as Jo and that quick talking confidence which made her entertaining in so many movies. It is the same throughout with Janet Leigh making her version of Meg clearly more self centred than her sisters whilst Elizabeth Taylor as Amy being a lot more sensitive than her sisters. And it is not just the women as C. Aubrey Smith in what would be his last movie makes a fantastic Mr. Laurence with that look of someone who is grumpy but having a comical nice side.
The thing is that when you get past the enjoyable look and the enjoyable performances the actual storyline for me is not as well told as in other versions because the emphasis is on the look and the stars. But still the charm of Louisa May Alcott's story is still there for all to see and to see an MGM and Mervyn LeRoy's take on the story with more emphasis on the comedy gives it a very different tone even if some aspects have been altered.
What this all boils down to is this 1949 version of "Little Women" has its own charm which comes from being an MGM movie and having that picture postcard look which they were so great at. But when it comes to actually telling the story my favourite still remains the 1994 version.