Vital Signs

Littler Women

Little Women
Produced by Denise DiNovi
Directed by Gillian Armstrong
Based on the book by Louisa May Alcott
Screenplay by Robin Swicord
Released by Columbia Pictures

As the recent effort to remake Little Women suggests, Hollywood has remembered that an almost certain way to make a profitable film is to turn a bestselling children's classic into a movie. After all, when Hollywood makes family films, entire families buy tickets, as well as popcorn, sodas, and candy, and replacements for what the kids spill, devour, or quarrel over while the movie's running. Unlike artsy-grotesque films, movies which appeal to families also enjoy profits from movie tie-in products (try marketing a Hannibal Lecter Happy Meal). Among Hollywood's oldest traditions is modifying these classics to insure good box office sales. A 1930's version of Moby Dick, for example, has Ahab saved by the love of a good woman; and when discussing the casting of apostles for a film version of The Last Supper, Samuel Goldwyn is said to have exclaimed, "Why only twelve?—Go out and get thousands!" In the past, moviemakers modified stories to make them more entertaining; now, however, they modify plot and characterization for political purposes.

Hollywood still does not quite grasp what it is about literary classics that attracts the general...

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