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 Bride and 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!
Don’t forget to read the other entries:
Happy heavenly birthday again Liz and Joan!
PS: If you wish to read a more complete review of 1933’s Little Women, please click here!