Tag Archives: Mary Astor

Little Women — Official Trailer

The 8th? 15th? 147th? film version of Little Women is headed right at us on Christmas Day, and can there be any doubt that this will be a hugely successful movie? From the trailer, it sounds as if Greta Gerwig has brought this staging of Louisa May Alcott’s mid-19th century novel into the 21st century, for better or worse. Probably for better.

Like (almost) all the previous film versions of Little Women, this one benefits from the talents of its superlative female cast, including Florence Pugh (English) as Amy, Saoirse Ronan (Irish) as Jo,  Eliza Scanlen (Australian) as Beth and Emma Watson (English, but born in Paris) as Meg. Laura Dern plays and Marmee and Meryl Streep plays Aunt March, because of course she does.

The male cast is equally impressive, with James Norton (English) as John Brooke,  and Louis Garrel (French) as Professor Bhaer, and Timothée Chalamet  (USA! USA!) as Laurie. It will be interesting to see what Bob Odenkirk, Saul Goodman himself, does with the role of Mr. March.


Out of the Past  —  Some Earlier Versions


Many people consider the 1933 version of Little Women the best.

The Little Women

Joan Bennett as Amy
Katharine Hepburn as Jo
Jean Parker as Beth
Frances Dee as Meg

Notes

Aunt March was played by the great Edna May Oliver who steals every scene she’s in, as she inevitably did in all her movies.
The German Professor Bhaer was played by Paul Lukas, who was Hungarian.
Joan Bennet was 23 and pregnant when she signed on to play 12-year-old Amy.


The next version came out in 1949, 16 years and one World War later.

The Little Women

Elizabeth Taylor (in a blonde wig) as Amy
June Allyson as Jo
Margaret O’Brien as Beth
Janet Leigh as Meg

Notes

Peter Lawford was Laurie.
The German Professor Bhaer was played by Rossano Brazzi, who was Italian.
Mary Astor played Marmee, but she’ll always be Brigid O’Shaughnessy to me.
June Allyson, 31 and pregnant, played 15-year-old Jo.


The 1978 miniseries was bad beyond belief. Oh, was it awful!

The Little Women

Ann Dusenberry as Amy
Susan Dey as Jo
Eve Plumb as Beth
Meredith Baxter as Meg

Notes

The senior roles were played by movie stars from the 1940s: Dorothy McGuire as Marmee, Greer Garson as “Aunt Kathryn March”, and Robert Young as “Grandpa James Laurence”.
None of the actresses playing the March girls was known to be pregnant while production was underway.
The sisters were played by television actresses who were TV-famous at the time, but are now largely forgotten. Their line readings were pure 1978 California-contemporary and their acting would have been just fine in a community theatre production, if the community was home to fewer than 500 people.
It’s impossible to ignore the cast’s ridiculous wigs.
The whole miniseries looked cheap. The sets, the costumes, and the mediocre performances all but shouted out “Low Budget”.

But there’s really only one thing you need to know to comprehend what a disaster this production was:
The German Professor Bhaer was played by—wait for it—William Shatner.
He’s Canadian, I think.


With its first-rate cast, the 1994 remake is right up there with the version made 61 years earlier, in 1933.


The Little Women

Kirsten Dunst as Younger Amy
Samantha Mathis as Older Amy
Winona Ryder as Jo
Claire Danes as Beth
Trini Alvarado as Meg

Notes

Susan Sarandon played Mrs. March and Christian Bale played Laurie.
The German Professor Bhaer was played by Gabriel Byrne, who is Irish.

Noir, Noir, and More Noir

Roger Ebert, who knew a little something about movies, called film noir “the most American film genre.”   If I had to pick just one film genre for all my entertainment for the next month, choosing film noir would be easy.  Especially right now.

Here are three reasons.


This year marks the 75th anniversary of the third and definitive film version of The Maltese Falcon, which is generally considered the first great film noir.  To celebrate, Turner Classic Movies and Warner Brothers are screening That Movie About The Bird at selected theatres nationwide on Sunday, 21 February 2016 and Wednesday, 24 February 2016.

You can buy tickets at the Fathom Events website.

Meanwhile, here’s the original 1941 trailer for The Maltese Falcon.

Look at that cast!  Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Elisha Cook Jr.

I haven’t kept count, but I’m sure I’ve seen The Maltese Falcon well over a hundred times, in theatres, on late night TV, on VCRs and DVDs, on computer monitors, and in classrooms.

It’s my favourite 20th Century movie.


Open Culture, the website that offers “[t]he best free cultural & educational media on the web,” has posted links to 60 free film noir movies on the Internet.   This is a great find, because most of them are quite obscure.  Lots of new things to discover.

Several of the films were included in TCM’s Summer of Darkness festival last year, which kept me umbilically linked to the TV for nine Fridays, starting at six in the morning and ending at dawn the next day.


Finally, there’s this.   BBC Radio 4 presents Classic Chandler, which features radio dramatisations of all eight of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels.  Toby Stephens, most recently seen in the BBC’s And Then There Were None miniseries, plays Philip Marlowe. The radio plays run 60- to 90-minutes, and cam be played online of downloaded.