Tuesday, December 25, 2001


I've never read the book; my only knowledge of the material comes from seeing the 90's remake with Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon. I'd always heard good things about this version, and as a Katharine Hepburn fan, I knew I'd have to see this someday, so TCM's Christmas Eve showing was a must for me. Unfortunately, I was let down. Part of it may have been the tinny soundtrack, which made the frequent shrieking of the March girls almost unbearable. Sadly, part of it is also Hepburn's performance. She seems too old for the part, and she overacts every chance she gets. Granted, the part calls for some larger-than-life presence now and then, but Hepburn never seems to settle into the part. Even the much touted scenes involving the sickly Beth didn't touch me. The episodic plot, set during and after the Civil War, involves a few years in the lives of the March girls (Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Jean Parker, and Frances Dee) as they find their separate identities, fall in love, dabble in careers, etc. People get sick, people die, people get married. The first 15 minutes are set at Christmas and that is probably the best part of the movie. Spring Byington is good as their mother and Edna May Oliver solidified her screen persona as the crusty old aunt. Paul Lukas is quite good in the small part of the German professor who falls for Hepburn--they don't make a likely match, but his performance is one of the more modulated and subtle ones in the film. Even though the 40's version with June Allyson doesn't seem well regarded these days, it couldn't be much drabber than this one.