Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: Little Women (1978)

DVD Box Art
After The Inheritance, I finally got to watch this older version of Little Women. I wanted to watch it, but I didn't expect to like it very much. So why did I want to watch it in the first place? I wasn't all that fond of the 1994 movie of it. I've heard bad reviews of it (that it was a poor production). I even admitted that I liked The Inheritance better than Little Women. So why watch this version? One word: Shatner. That's right: Star Trek actor William Shatner is in this version of Little Women. Now I wouldn't classify William Shatner as the greatest actor, but he has such a presence that makes him enjoyable to watch. I was lucky to find this version of Little Women online at Hulu is a free site if you use it on the computer, but if you want to watch it on your tablet or TV, you have to get a subscription to Hulu Plus.

Adapted from my review of Little Women (1994)
Little Women revolves around the lives of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March, and their mother, Mrs. March [called Marmee]. Mr. March, Mrs. March's husband and Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy's father, is off fighting in the Civil War. Jo March, the main protagonist, becomes quick friends with Theodore "Laurie" Laurence who falls in love with her. 

While there is only one period drama actress that I recognized in this version of Little Women, there were plenty of recognizable Hollywood actors in there.

Actor/ActressCharacterAlso Seen In
Meredith BaxterMeg MarchThe Inheritance as Beatrice Hamilton
Susan DeyJo MarchThe Patridge Family as Laurie Partridge
Eve PlumbBeth MarchThe Brady Bunch as Jan Brady
Greer GarsonAunt MarchPride and Prejudice (1940) as Elizabeth Bennet
Robert YoungMr LawrenceFather Knows Best as Jim Anderson
William ShatnerProfessor BhaerStar Trek: The Original Series as Captain James T. Kirk
John de LancieFrank VaughnStar Trek: The Next Generation as Q

Because this miniseries had a longer run time than the 1994 movie, I felt that I got to know the characters and story better with this version of Little Women. When I watched the 1994 version, I felt like there were some gaps in the storyline, but with this version, I felt like I had a better understanding of the story.

Left to Right: Jo March, Meg March, Beth March, and Amy March
Picture from Enchanted Serenity of Period Films
While I didn't dislike Meredith Baxter as Meg, I wasn't all that fond of her either. When she first entered in the beginning, it seemed like she was a bit high strung and struggling to keep her sisters together: she was yelling up the stairs to Jo to get ready and telling Amy move from the couch. I didn't expect Meg to act like that, but other than that, Meg does show a caring side, comforting Jo when she cuts her hair. However, when she married Spoiler John Brooke, Laurie's tutor End of Spoiler, her personality shifted a bit and she didn't seem to be the same person anymore. 

Jo fared better than Meg. Susan Dey was a decent Jo. I thought she captured Jo's tomboyish nature well. I don't know if the Jo in the story made a habit of climbing out of the window and climbing down a tree to get out of the house on occasion, but it wouldn't shock me that Jo did that. Jo also served as the narrator throughout the entire story, Spoiler which sets the ground a little bit when she publishes her life story in the newspaper End of Spoiler

One of the things that irked me about this miniseries was Amy. The same actress played her from beginning to end. From the beginning she looked like she was older even though she was only supposed to be twelve (or at least in the story she's supposed to be twelve). Don't get me wrong, I liked her better than Kirsten Dunst's Amy (this Amy was less annoying, though she did still irk me every so often): I just thought that it was a stretch to have an older actress play Amy.

Theodore "Laurie" Lawrence
Now onto Laurie. There are really two sides of Laurie: there is the one side where him and Jo are friends, but before he proposes to Jo, and there is the other side where he is trying to get over Jo and falls in love with Amy. Comparing this Laurie with Christian Bale's Laurie, I thought that Christian Bale did better with the first part (but only by a little bit), but this Laurie did better with the second part. With the second side, you really see how Laurie comes around and picks himself up after Jo (with Christian Bale, I didn't see that and thought he just turned out weird).

William Shatner as Professor Bhaer
And now the reason I watched this Little Women... William Shatner as Professor Bhaer. I was never much of a fan of Professor Bhaer: not that I disliked his character, but I thought he was just too old for Jo. (I still think she should have married Laurie). William Shatner did over act as Professor Bhaer (and especially with the very fake German accent) but that's his shtick and I nevertheless liked his Professor Bhaer better than the 1994 Professor Bhaer.

You can tell that this miniseries did not have a big budget. I don't doubt that many of the scenes were on a set of some sort, but nevertheless, they were good sets. One of the things that stood out to me was the differences between the Marches' home and the Lawrence' home. They were on the same street, but were vastly different. The Marches' home was much more modest, while the Lawrence's home was more elaborate. You get to see more of the Marches' home (Jo is the narrator, after all), while you only see the main room of the Lawrence's home.

Jo covering her head with a scarf
If you watch this miniseries, don't watch it for the costumes. They're not the worst costumes that I've seen, but they definitely aren't great. And on top of all that, they are not accurate to the time period. There was a severe lack of crinolines (or hoopskirts) for the era; granted, the Marches aren't a rich family, so at home or out and about they might be able to get away without a crinoline, but not at a party at Meg's friend Sallie Gardiner's home. Everyone at that party, even fashionable Sallie, seemed to lack the crinolines that would have been worn at a party at the time. There were a couple of scenes were Jo was walking around in a split skirt, which I don't think a young lady in her situation would have done. And one of the things that irked me, at the very least during the first episode, was the lack of bonnets/hats: the March girls would cover their heads with a scarf, but no hat.

Overall: 3.5/5
I enjoyed this miniseries more than I expected... I will even admit (much to the chagrin of Louisa May Alcott fans, I'm sure) that I enjoyed this movie more than the 1994 version. Granted, the acting isn't the best, the scenery isn't great, and the costumes left much to be desire... Yet I enjoyed this movie more than the 1994 movie that seemed to do better in all of those categories. I think I might have enjoyed this movie more than the 1994 version because it was better paced. Since it was a two episode miniseries, there was more time to develop the story than the 1994 version. I can't vouch for it's accuracy to the original story, but I can say that I enjoyed this miniseries

There is virtually no content to speak of. I would rate this miniseries as TV-G.

Little Women is available on DVD and on Hulu. It runs for a total of 200 minutes that is split into two episodes.

Old-Fashioned Charm
This review is apart of the Period Drama Challenge. Come join the fun!


  1. Thanks for the review! I just stumbled across a clip from this miniseries a few weeks ago and have been wanting to watch it for the same reason (Shatner). I think I'll go hunt up the rest of it on Hulu one of these days! :-)

    I love your site and always enjoy your reviews! Thanks for all your hard work! :-)

    Love in Christ,

  2. I also love your site :-)

    I was not even aware that there was a 1978 version of LW. I had to chuckle at that cast though.... I mean especially about William Shatner as the Prof! Now I MUST watch it!

  3. I love this version, kinda cornie, but sweet!

  4. Oh, oh, oh! You delight me! I've wanted to see this version since I was like 14 and found a used copy of the book that featured pictures from this production. I was madly in love with Captain Kirk at the time, but never dreamed I'd get to see this. And now I get to. Thank you!

  5. My summer reading project is on Little Women and this post helped me visualize so much! Thank you xoxo
    xx Lia


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