Little Women (1949)

Movie review by
Nancy Davis Kho, Common Sense Media
Little Women (1949) Movie Poster Image
Adaptation of Alcott's story livened by superstar cast.
  • NR
  • 1949
  • 121 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Sisters model exemplary degree of sacrifice, caring, and love for their families and the less fortunate around them. In this idealization of Louisa May Alcott’s own story, family is foremost and loyalty among the sisters is on display throughout. Much is made of proper behavior, particularly as per the standards of the day set for girls and women. Jo stands as a contrarian in her rejection of ladylike primness, elegance, and decorum. Themes include compassion, gratitude, and humility.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The March family exemplifies generosity as they struggle with their own poverty yet still manage to share what they have with others who are needier. Facing a tight Christmas, the girls use money from their aunt to give gifts to their mother. Their wealthy neighbor also is kind and generous, giving Beth a piano. Marmee is a supportive parent who accepts her children and all their strengths and flaws. Jo's passion for her writing and her lack of interest in traditionally girlish concerns require she believe in herself as she bucks social norms.

Violence

Constant worry for the safety of the girls' father, serving in the Union army during the Civil War, provides the backdrop for most of the movie's action. Marmee sets off to tend to the father when a telegram reports that he's in hospital, presumably wounded. The death of an infant is mentioned. Beth comes down with life-threatening scarlet fever and dies offscreen.

Sex

Chaste kisses and much discussion of marriage. When young men stare at Meg and Jo, Meg objects to the tacitly sexual meaning of such staring. Fifteen-year-old tomboyish Jo disdains romance and rebuffs the respectful advances of her best friend Laurie. She rants when her older sister becomes engaged.

Language

Jo's use of "Christopher Columbus!"and "bilge" is as vulgar as it gets.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Little Women is adapted from Louisa May Alcott's classic story of family love and boasts a top-notch cast. The father of the main characters is off fighting in the Civil War. One of the main characters dies from illness, though it's handled offscreen in such a way that younger children may not understand what happened. The March family exemplifies generosity as they struggle with their own poverty yet still manage to share what they have with others who are needier. Family is foremost, and loyalty among the sisters is on display throughout.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywonder dove September 21, 2012

BEST version by far!!

This is the best version of Little Women out of most I've seen. The cast is excellent, and Amy played by Elizabeth Taylor was my favorite character! I saw... Continue reading
Parent Written byStepMomSterToo June 26, 2010

Great Coming of Age Story

Great movie for the whole family. Some coming of age stuff, but nothing really to make anyone uncomfortable.
Kid, 12 years old September 14, 2011

good movie :)

I think that is movie is great for family's. It has good role models and positive messages. If you loved the book you will love the movies.

What's the story?

LITTLE WOMEN, adapted from Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, tells the tale of four sisters as they face deprivation and the absence of their father during the Civil War years through their maturation into accomplished young women. This 1949 version's cast includes Mary Astor as gentle mother Marmee, Janet Leigh as responsible Meg, June Allyson as tomboy Jo, Elizabeth Taylor as artistic Amy, and Margaret O'Brien as shy Beth. True to the novel, each girl is portrayed as an individual with flaws and strengths. Protagonist Jo dreams of becoming a writer and traveling the world. Her evolution from a feisty girl who wants to run away to fight alongside her father in the war to the reluctant love interest of next door neighbor Laurie (Peter Lawford) to a published author who can selflessly celebrate her sisters' choices is the narrative anchor of the story.

Is it any good?

This delightful classic treats the Civil War at a distance, but the sisters are depicted pitching in on the home front. The movie also acknowledges the fears that come with change, as Jo longs for things to stay the same rather than having the sisters grow up and move away.

Stylistically, the movie is a product of its era, with pastel-colored skies and heavily made up actresses. Additionally, the sight of the "little women" at the beginning of the movie being played by grown-up actresses is a bit jarring and really only is dispelled when the story moves to their adult lives and decisions. Because major plot elements of the book are left out entirely, interested viewers might want to read the original novel.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the March sisters and how each is a unique character in Little Women. How does that make things easier for them as a family, and how does it make it more difficult? Do you and your siblings have complementary strengths?

  • The first part of the movie is set during the Civil War. What sacrifices did the girls make to honor the soldiers, and what sacrifices can your family make to honor soldiers now?

  • Compare this version to the book. Which do you prefer, and why? How does this movie compare to other film versions?

  • Why is this story considered a classic? Do you think it's still relevant? Why, or why not?

  • How do the characters in Little Women demonstrate compassion, gratitude, and humility? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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