Little Women

I spent the day inside the office grading some papers and preparing for the last final exam of the semester.  I watched the TV movie version of “Little Women” from 1978.  It was a television all-star program with Susan Dey, Meredith Baxter Birney, Eve Plumb, William Shatner, William Schallert, and Joyce Bulifant.  There was a Partridge Family connection with Meredith Baxter Birney and William Schallert, who were guests in episode, and a Brady Bunch connection with Joyce Bulifant close to being cast as Carol Brady.  The story began in 1861, and I thought the women in the cast were too old to play such youngsters.  I thought it was funny how Jo said “Christopher Columbus” instead of “Jesus Christ.”  I sympathized with her angry at her sister for throwing her manuscript into the fire.  Susan Dey was just four years removed from being Laurie Partridge, and she did still have that youthful beauty.  I didn’t see her as a young woman with a terrible temper.  Her behavior gave no indication, but the other characters and she herself kept mentioning her inability to control her temper.  Eve Plumb was Beth, and she had the rather thankless role of the sister who caught scarlet fever.  She did play some piano, but otherwise she was sick throughout the story.  Meredith Baxter Birney was Meg, the sister who wanted to shine with a pretty dress.  I found it hard to accept her as so young in light of “Bridget Loves Birney,” and what she would be later in “Family Ties.”  Jo was supposed to be able to climb trees, but it looked like a stuntwoman did one scene.  She was not too convincing in throwing a snowball.  She had to ice skate and ride a horse.  Jo was an aspiring writer who was not interested in the young man who was interested in her.  There was something of “My Brilliant Career” in her story.  Dorothy McGuire and Greer Garson were in the cast, as was Robert Young, who didn’t act like Marcus Welby.  People like Edith Head and Elmer Bernstein were involved in this production, and it did look pretty good for television.  It aired on two nights in October of 1978.  I thought there was a flaw in the casting, which was William Shatner and the German professor.  His accent was not too good, and it seemed that the producers should have hired someone who was really German.  The chemistry between him and Jo was not too good.  I found it hard to think of him as a love match for Susan Dey.  Over the three hours of this picture, the one scene that stood out as memorable to me was the afternoon at the beach with Jo and Beth.  It was the moment that Beth talked to her sister about dying.  I got a bit choked up as I thought about my own brother dying of cancer.  The last conversation I had with him as in a parking lot as we walked our mother’s dog.  I suppose Susan Dey worked on this movie instead of being in “Grease,” which could have raised her stardom to a higher level.  This was a respectable movie, however, and good family entertainment, even if the acting wasn’t always great.  Susan Dey was better as a troubled person who internalizes emotion rather than the angry young woman.  I thought there were a few moments that would make young women of today cringe, with the readiness of the young women to get married.  Everything is headed for a Christmas Eve climax that didn’t figure to be as beautiful as “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Jo commented about the beauty of the Christmas tree when it didn’t look so impressive.  I felt like crying when I was done seeing this movie, not because the drama was so fantastic, but because the better days of the past are long gone.  Susan Dey turned 64 last week.  Those days when she was a brunette was the days when she had the most appeal.  William Schallert died earlier this year, although William Shatner seems to be going strong.  I don’t recall what I was doing when this movie was shown on television.  I thought maybe I was still listening to the Rolling Stones’ “Some Girls” album.  I hadn’t seen “Superman” or “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or “The Deer Hunter” yet.  One of my students handed me a Christmas card.  The students don’t have to be sentimental.  I will probably see several of them next semester, as I hang around the same office during almost the same hours.  I was hungry and tired when I got home.  I wanted to get some sleep to be fresh for “Rogue One.”  I heard the news that the Warriors won a game against the Knicks.  The Rams lost to the Seahawks.  I wondered if I could get Hamilton tickets someday.  I watched the beginning of the Jimmy Kimmel show.  He said it was his last new show of 2016.  He had some funny Trump video clips for This Week in Unnecessary Censorship.  Trump certainly will say almost anything.  I hope the rain doesn’t come back for a while.  I am also glad that I don’t have to teach another class for a while.  Some of the people who died on December 16 include Camille Saint-Saëns (1921), Colonel Sanders (1980), Lee Van Cleef (1989), Nicolette Larson (1997), Sam Bottoms (2008), Nicol Williamson (2011), and Ray Price (2013).  Today is a birthday for Benny Andersson (70).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for December 16, the Jerry Lewis movie “The Disorderly Orderly,” with a theme song by Sammy Davis, Jr., was released in 1964.  In 1965, “The Battle of the Bulge” was released.  In 1973, “Papillon,” with Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen, was released.

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