I wrote a pretty thorough review of this movie last year on my other blog -- you can read it here. But for this read-along, I did want to post about it because I feel it's a very cool adaptation, and I wish more people knew about it. So today, I'm going to post about each of the main characters and how I think they work or don't work.
This is a TV miniseries that aired in 1978, and it's available to watch for free on Hulu here (if you live in the US, anyway). You can also buy it on DVD, which I did because I liked it so well. I've taken a bunch of screencaps for this post -- I'm sorry they aren't clearer, but the DVD is not exactly HD.
Okay, on to the characters :-)
Jo March (Susan Dey)
I like Dey's portrayal of Jo a lot. She's impulsive, full of a sort of uncontainable energy, and fiercely intelligent.
She's not traditionally beautiful, which I appreciate, since Jo's hair is supposed to be her greatest physical beauty. But she has a clear, forthright face, and all together, she very much fits my idea of Jo.
Meg March (Meredith Baxter)
Baxter makes a suitable Meg. She's proper and ladylike, and gives the impression she's wishing for something she hasn't quite defined yet.
Meg is kind of a thankless role, I think, because she doesn't have a lot to do. Aside from allowing herself to get dressed up like a society girl and drinking champagne one time, she's a very good girl, and good characters are hard to add depth to, I think. Meredith Baxter does make Meg fairly likeable, rather than turning her into a goody-two-shoes or a rebellious shrew.
Beth March (Eve Plumb)
Speaking of goody-two-shoes... Plumb doesn't play Beth as one, either. She's patient and kind and thoughtful and altogether nice, but I get the impression she has to work at being those things. I like that.
If she looks familiar, that's because Plumb played Jan Brady on The Brady Bunch. I find her less effective as the younger Beth than as an older, ailing Beth who has resigned herself to her fate. The scenes between her and Jo later on are especially sweet.
Amy March (Ann Dusenberry)
I feel like Dusenberry is the one jarring note in the cast. She looks and acts way too old to be young Amy. When she grows up and meets Laurie again in Europe, she works better, but I never quite buy her as Amy, alas.
Marmee March (Dorothy McGuire)
I love Dorothy McGuire. She's like the ultimate movie mom, isn't she? From Friendly Persuasion to Old Yeller to The Swiss Family Robinson to The Greatest Story Ever Told, she has played so many of my favorite movie moms. Add her turn as Marmee to that collection! She's firm, but not stern; kind, but not soft; tender, but not mushy; intelligent, but not unladylike. I love her portrayal, and I think she may be my favorite Marmee ever.
Laurie/Teddy (Richard Gilliland)
Okay, Gilliland is not especially handsome. And I had a Ken doll with that exact same hair style back in the '80s. But I actually quite like him as Laurie. He's earnest and mischievous and fun.
By the time he and Jo have finished getting acquainted at the Christmas dance, I have no problem believing him as Laurie.
Professor Friederich Bhaer (William Shatner)
Yes. Shatner plays Professor Bhaer. And I really like him in this role, though he's probably much more handsome and charming than necessary.
His German accent is tolerable, and he's so earnest and helpful, alternately bombastic and shy... I can't help but like him.
Mr. Laurence (Robert Young)
Young sports an impressive mustache as Mr. Laurence. He growls and rants, but is also kind and thoughtful, and I find him perfectly acceptable.
EDIT: I forgot Aunt March! You know she's never going to forgive me. What shall I ever do to make amends? I'm so very fond of her, and I can't believe I forgot to include her here.
Aunt March (Greer Garson)
As you might expect, Greer Garson is absolutely superb as Aunt March. Querulous, commanding, didactic, soft-hearted, and with a sly sense of humor that peeps out now and then.
Okay, that's all I've got, folks. If you like the looks of this adaptation, do try it! Because it's a three-hour miniseries, it can go into more detail than a feature film, and overall, it's a very faithful and enjoyable adaptation.