Yesterday, February 27, marked the birthday of two excellent classic actresses: the glamorous Elizabeth Taylor and the enigmatic Joan Bennett. But this is not the only common point these two ladies share. Indeed, they starred together in today’s birthday boy, Vincente Minnelli’s classics Father of the Brideand its sequel, Father’s Little Dividend as mother and daughter. They also both played the role of Amy March in two different adaptations of Little Women: the 1933’s George Cukor one for Joan Bennett and the 1949’s Mervyn Leroy one for Elizabeth Taylor.
My friend Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting, for the first time, the Elizabeth Taylor Blogathon. I’ll be precisely comparing Liz and Joan’s portrayals of Amy March for the occasion. This, I believe, would be a brilliant way to celebrate both actresses. And, to tell you the truth, when I subscribed with this subject, I actually didn’t remember they were born on the same day! Well, coincidences like that are always fun.
Little Women is an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s 19th century literary classic of the same name. The story takes place in Concord, Massachusetts during the American Civil War. Dr. March is at the front while his wife and four daughters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are staying home and live their everyday life, dealing with the difficulties brought by the war. The sister all have very different personalities, but they complete each other perfectly and share a beautiful friendship.
Amy March is the youngest sibling. She is very coquette and has a strong personality, just like her sister Jo, but in a very different way. Amy’s passion is art and she loves to draw and paint. She is the artist of the family. Amy March is always dressed pretty and has curly golden hair.
I must admit, to me, Joan Bennett was the perfect Amy March. Her delicate figure and porcelain doll face embodied the ideal look for the role. She also gives her character the right personality, the one we should imagine while reading the books. But Liz turned out to be an agreeable surprise! I don’t think blonde hair suits her as well as it does to Joan, but that’s just a detail. Her facial features and bone structure, however, seemed right. It might seem irrelevant to judge an casting choice base on the physical appearance, but the March sisters are characters that we want to picture perfectly in our head and that sees more credible if they are faithful to Louisa May Alcott’s description.
I think both Joan and Elizabeth shows different strenghts in their interpretations of Amy March. The postitive aspect of this is that they aren’t simple pale copies of each other. Amy March is young and well-mannered. Joan Bennett emodies the youthfullness of Amy to perfection and his credibe. Elizabeth Taylor, has a way of speaking that gives Amy this almost charicatural elegance. Indeed, her voice is clear and her words are perfectly calculated.
Despite her flaws and selfishness, Amy March is able of compassion, especially in times of crisis. By watching the two films, I feel like Joan Bennett embodied this emotion in a better way than Elizabeth Taylor. Or maybe not in a better way, but in a more obvious way. But, when I think about it, this maybe isn’t really the actress fault. It’s due to the way the book adaptation was made, despite the two movies being very similar. On another side, I felt her flaws were better embodied by Elizabeth Taylor. I read the book once when I was 11 or 12. So, that was 10 years ago and I obviously don’t remember everything about it. But, on the internet, Amy March is always described as “the sister that we love to hate.” Honestly, Joan Bennett didn’t really make me feel that. I don’t hate Amy March’s Liz Taylor either, far from it, but, in connection to what we previously said, her portrayal of Amy March is maybe more accurate.
So yes, both actresses bring out different traits of Amy March’s personality.
Amy March is the sister that makes me laugh the most after Jo. In the 1933’s version, I always have to watch, at least twice, the scene where Amy and Jo practice Jo’s play. Joan Bennett makes me laugh SO MUCH in this scene. I think Liz Taylor’s Amy March finds her funny side in her mannerisms and the way she pronounces those complicated made-up words. The sight of her sleeping with a clothespin on her nose in pretty comical too! Amy March has a complex with her nose and this is obviously better illustrated by Liz’s March.
Lastly, in this scene where Amy March comes back from Europe and is now married to Laurie Laurence, both Liz and Joan gives the right elegance to their character. Indeed, in both films, we know perfectly that Amy March is now a new person and, most of all, a better one. Both actresses are at the top of their elegance!
My favourite Amy March is still Joan Bennett’s one, but both she and Liz Taylor give beautiful justice to Louisa May Alcott’s character!
Many thanks to Crystal for hosting this blogathon!
When Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films announced that she’ll be hosting a blogathon dedicated to the world of television, I had the idea to discuss one of Quebec’s most famous tv show: Les Filles de Caleb. The direct translation would be Caleb’s Daughters.
Les Filles de Caleb was a mini-series of 20 episodes that was based on Arlette Cousture’s bestseller Les Filles de Caleb: le chant du coq. Émilie Bordeleau (Marina Orsini) is the central character. She comes from the village of St-Stanislas-de-Champlain in Mauricie, Quebec. Her father is Caleb Bordeleau and her mother, Celina Bordeleau. She has numerous brothers and sisters, like most people living in the countryside at the time. In her late teens, Émilie becomes a teacher at the little school “l’école du Bourdais” in the near village of St-Tite. She has to impose her authority since some of the students are barely younger than her. There, Émilie meets the handsome Oliva Pronovost (Roy Dupuis) who doesn’t seem very motivated by the school but who turns out to be quite interesting and you can guess what happens… Yes, they fall in love with each other! The Bordeleau family and the Pronovost family become close and Émilie and Ovila eventually marry. The young woman has to give up her teaching job to consecrate her life to motherhood. Hey, that was life at the time! She and Ovila have numerous children together including Blanche, born in a snowstorm. Ovila and Émilie’s relationship is difficult since Ovila is someone who needs a lot of liberty, who doesn’t like farm work and has some problems with alcohol. Les Filles de Caleb is a series full of adventures and misadventures. Yes, it shows you how life could be hard during the late 19th century and the early 20th century, but it also shows you how people from the countryside could be friendly with each other and supportive. Even today it’s still like this!
Les Filles de Caleb was broadcast on Radio-Canada television between 1990 and 1991, and on CBC television under the name of Emilie. In France, it was a huge success as well and was known as Émilie, la passion d’une vie.
Les Filles de Caleb is not a purely fictional movie as it tells the real life-story of these characters. The author of the book, Arlette Cousture, was herself the daughter of Blanche Pronovost and the granddaughter of Émilie Bordeleau. If the first book of the series, “Le chant du coq”, turns around the life of Émilie, her second one “Le cri de l’oie blanche” is mostly focused on Blanche’s life. This one was also adapted into a television show called Blanche, but I believe it didn’t have as much success as Les Filles de Caleb. I myself have watched the first episode and didn’t continue as I didn’t really get into it. Maybe I’ll give it another chance eventually. The book was good tho, but not as exciting as the first one!
Now, you might wonder why I’ll talk about my family. Well, as you might know, my last name is Pronovost… and all the Pronovost are related! It’s a big family coming from the region of Mauricie. And because of this, a few anecdotes concerning the link between me and the tv show are worth mentioning.
1- As much as I can remember, I think Ovila Pronovost was the cousin of my great-grandfather, which will also make him a distant cousin of mine. I guess that’s because of him if we love outdoors in our family haha! The man loved nature.
2- My late grandfather was born in the village of St-Tite (like Ovila and his family) in 1910 and went to the little school where Emily taught. Well, at the time, she wasn’t teaching there anymore as she was already married. There even is a Pronovost Road in St-Tite! Today, the village is also famous for its Western Festival.
3- We have a country house at St-Stanislas-de-Champlain where Émilie was born. This is a centenary old house that was given to us by my grandfather’s cousin, Stella Brunelle, who was a nurse and died at the very young age of 104! We have good genes. The house where Émilie was born and where her family lived is on the other side of the Batiscan river. Émilie died in the house that is just in front of ours, on the other side of the street! Surely Stella knew her, despite being younger. She is buried in the village’s cemetery.
As I’ve mentioned in my article on Buster Keaton’sThe Blacksmith, Stella Brunelle was the daughter of St-Stanislas’s blacksmith and we still have one of the account books where Caleb’s name is written! In the television show, we don’t see any scenes of Caleb or his family going to the smithy, but I believe it was mentioned in the novel.
Émilie and Olivia married each other at St-Stanislas’s church.
The television show wasn’t shot on location, however. It’s in the village of St-Jean-des-Piles in Mauricie that is was filmed. After the shooting, the set was moved in the sector of Grand-Mère and what was known as Émilies’s Village was recreated and became a popular attraction for people to visit the sets. Unfortunately, the recreated village doesn’t exist anymore BUT you can still come to St-Stanislas or St-Tite to see the real locations! And people at the time knew it. Actually, a lot of tourists came in “St-Stan” in the 90s (before I was born) and would stop at our house to see the smithy. We even had people from France! Well, it’s true that our house with the blacksmith, the barn, and the large site is a beautiful location. 😉
Emilie’s Village, a touristic attraction in the 90s
If La Petite Vie was Quebec’s most successful sitcom, Les Filles de Caleb was the most successful television drama. And, as mentioned on imdb, it was one of the highest rated show in Quebec when it was broadcast. I think the main quality of it is that it aged well. Even today, it appeals to a lot of people. It tells the story of rural Quebec but, as it is more a love story more than a historical drama, it’s the kind of television show that can be appreciated and understood anywhere. The story of Émilie and Ovila marked the imaginary of Quebec and, still today, people remember them well. And having Pronovost as a last name can create fun situations! For example, in my last year of high school, my French teacher was a huge fan of actor Roy Dupuis who portrays Ovila in the television show. It was the beginning of the year and I asked her a question which she answered, but she couldn’t remember my last name.
Me: “Ah, Pronovost”
My teacher: Ah! Like Ovila Pronovost!”
And this is far from being the only time it happened to me. By the way, you don’t pronounce the “s” and the “t” at the end of Pronovost!
The cast of Les Filles de Caleb was composed of Marina Orsini (Émilie), Roy Dupuis (Ovila), Germain Houde (Caleb Bordeleau), Johanne-Marie Tremblay (Célina Bordeleau), Véronique Le Flaguais (Félicité Pronovost), Pierre Curzi (Dosithée Pronovost), and Patrick Goyette (Ovide Pronovost – one of Ovila’s brothers). As they were very young when the series was made, that’s pretty much what put Marina Orsini and Roy Dupuis on the map. And with the success it had, it certainly gave them a name. I believe the whole cast was great in their respective roles. Marina Orsini gave the necessary strength of character to Émilie. Roy Dupuis was perfect to incarnate the mysterious and seducer Ovila Pronovost. The two actors looked beautiful together and made that passionate love story highly believable. Pierre Curzi and Germain Houde both played fathers with a lot of humour and always had a great chemistry with the other characters. Veronique Le Flaguais and Johanne-Marie Tremblay knew how to be maternal, but strong women, which I think was necessary when you lived the hard life of the countryside and had to raise a bunch of kids! And Patrick Goyette as Ovide made an interesting contrast with Roy Dupuis as the jealous but more down to earth brother. Of course, there are many more actors and characters in the show, but these are the main ones.
Marina Orsini as Émilie Bordeleau
The real Émilie Bordeleau
Roy Dupuis as Ovila Pronovost
The real Ovila Pronovost
The real Dosithée Pronovost
The real Félicitée Pronovost
Germain Houde as Caleb Bordeleau
Johanne-Marie Tremblay as Célina Bordeleau
Actually, I think the only problem with the cast is that Roy Dupuis was much more handsome than the real Ovila Pronovost! But who cares? It is so agreeable for the eyes to watch the sexy (and talented Roy Dupuis! 😉 One of our most praised actors here in Quebec!
Even if Les Filles de Caleb lasted only 20 episodes, a lot is going on and definitely makes us wish it would last longer. It is a real adventure truffled with breathtaking, heartbreaking and overall beautiful moments. I don’t know if you can find it with English subtitles somewhere, but if yes, I highly recommend you to watch it! It’s that kind of tv show that, once you started it, you can stop! It’s addictive like that.
You know what? Now I truly feel like watching it again! I think a little Filles de Caleb marathon is in order!
This article was written for The Small Screen Blogathon hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. It was a pleasure for me to participate! Thanks Maddy!
You know, to love classic films is a thing, but to love classic films as a Millennial is another. It’s a situation that has both its bright and dark sides, the brightest one being that you feel unique with your distinct passion that only a few people of your generation share with you. Because yes, most Millennials don’t watch classic films or only the obvious one, or the not-so-old ones. I mean, who hasn’t seen The Wizard of Oz (the obvious) or Forrest Gump (the not so old one)?
But I want to focus on the dark side. Actually, if Millennials don’t have the tendency to watch classic films, I believe it’s because they are “unconsciously” discouraged by the older generations to do so. I say “unconsciously” because if those people are like “ah Millennials should watch more classics.” They actually don’t do much about it. Maybe it is easier to say than to do…
Take my example. If I started watching classic films, it’s not because of my parents or anyone older than me. Anyway, my parents don’t watch a lot of classics and I know more about them than they do. It’s a fact. No, I pretty much discovered them by my own and this articleexplains more precisely how I discovered them. Basically, just buying a book with beautiful movie star photos helped a lot. And, of course, when you are a Millennial watching classic films, you want to spread the love among people of your age because they are so wonderful (the films), right? My best friend has now seen a few classic films that she truly enjoyed thanks to who? To ME, a Millennial. My mother saw a lot of classic films that she’d loved because I wanted her to watch them with me.
I have to admit my parents made me discover a few classics such a Thelma & Louise, The Birds, Cinema Paradiso, and more. But there aren’t 30s classics either.
Now, I just probably sound like I’m overpraising myself, but it’s just a way to show you that Millennials know about classics, perhaps more than some older generations. And I’m talking about me because I’m my best judge, but I know I’m not the only one. When I go see classics at the movies I see a lot of young people.
And just look at the classic film blogging community. Many Millennials here:
Go read their blogs. These are Mellinnial’s passion for classics is contagious.
Moral of the story, don’t draw conclusions too fast. Don’t put us all it the same bag. Some Millennials do watch and love classic films. More than you might think!
But why?Why writing such an article right now when it’s like 11 pm. I just came across a post in a Facebook movie group where someone was asking which classics we should show to Millennials. At first, I had a very normal reaction and thought it was a common classic film group question. Then, I thought ‘hey are you assuming there are only non-Millennials in the group?” After all, Facebook is a Generation Y thing…
Me in my head: “Eh, I’m sure you haven’t seen Give Us the Moon!” Ok, major weird obsession with this film.
And there was this person assuming that they (we) should just stick to Marry Poppins as if we were hopless cases. Ugh. We’re not.
And it seems that, recently, I’ve encountered a lot of similar situations, so I guess my patience has limits!
While I was writing this text, I came across this article that pretty much sums up my thought on the situation but in a more orderly way. I particularly agree when the author says “Shaming young people for not doing something is the sure fire way to make them not do it.” Go read it: