LES MISERABLES

Les Mis'rables is an epic tale of love, honor and obsession played out against the dramatic backdrop of early 19th century France.

It tells the story of Jean Valjean, whose theft of a loaf of bread condemns him to an unjust prison sentence and a life on the run. An act of forgiveness, however, changes the course of his life forever. He becomes the respected mayor of the poor town of Vigau and transforms it into a thriving community. He also falls in love with one of Vigau's most pitiful, poverty-stricken residents, the beautiful Fantine, and devotes himself to her care.

Fantine's untimely death signals a new chapter in Valjean's life, during which he raises her daughter Cosette, whom he desperately attempts to shield from the dangers of the world. As she matures, she falls passionately in love with Marius, a charismatic young Parisian revolutionary.

All the while, Valjean is hunted by Javert, a policeman whose lifelong search for Valjean has turned into an obsession. The film culminates in a final, fated confrontation between Valjean and Javert on the banks of the Seine at the explosive height of the July Revolution in 1832.

     

LIFE WITH FATHER

Based on the record-setting Broadway play by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, the film focuses on Clarence Day, Sr. (William Powell), a wealthy stockbroker who lives with his wife, Lavinia (Irene Dunne), and four sons in 1890's Manhattan.

Clarence, a cantankerous sort given to swearing, admits to Lavinia one evening that he was never baptized. She then initiates a series of tricks and ploys designed to lead him to baptism.

the film also features a very young Elizabeth Taylor.

THE LITTLE PRINCESS

In Victorian England, the widowed father of little Sara Crewe (Shirley Temple) is sent to the Boer War. When he is reported killed, the evil head mistress at her boarding school turns Sara into a servant. She suffers with dignity until her shell-shocked father returns.

LITTLE WOMEN

Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, derived from her own family life, tells the story of the March family, four daughters and their mother who are living in New England during the Civil War years. Their father is away in the Union Army as chaplain.

The movie follows the March sisters, Meg (16), Jo (15), Beth (13) and Amy (12), as they grow up during and after the Civil War. The family is faced with major and minor problems that they confront head on sharing laughter, tears, and some awkward moments. The girls are led by their strong-willed mother, whom they affectionately call Marmee. One of the ways the girls find to deal with all that is going on is to create their own attic theater company, the Pickwick Society, where they write and perform in their own plays.

Next door to them is a wealthy elderly man named Mr. Laurence, who at first keeps his distance from the March family. When his grandson Theodore (nicknamed "Laurie") moves in with him, Laurie becomes the girls' friend. Jo invites Laurie to join their troupe. Over time, Mr. Laurence also becomes a kind friend, especially toward Beth, who plays the piano and reminds him of his late daughter.

Meg falls in love with Laurie's tutor, John Brooke, causing Jo to realize their childhood is coming to an end. When Beth comes down with scarlet fever, Amy, who, unlike her sisters, never had the sickness, is sent away to live with grumpy wealthy old Aunt March. Laurie, who accompanies her on the trip, vows to come and take Amy away if Aunt March is unkind to her; he also promises to kiss her before she dies, in response to one of her pathetically romantic speeches.

Prior to Beth's illness, Jo had been Aunt March's companion for years and hated every minute of it; the only reason she continued was knowing that one day Aunt March would go to Europe and would have to take Jo with her. Amy, as the sister most obsessed with money and good-looks, thrives as Aunt March's new companion.

As the girls grow up, they learn in their own time about life, loss and most importantly, love. When their father gets hurt in the war and Marmee can't afford a train ticket, Jo sells off her hair to a wig shop to pay for it. Mr. March finally returns home just in time for Christmas. Four years pass before Meg and John Brooke are married. Meanwhile, Beth's health is growing steadily worse. Laurie graduates from college and admits his love for Jo, begging her to marry him and go away to London with him. Jo realizes, however, that she could never love Laurie more than as a wonderful big brother, so she refuses him. Heartbroken, Laurie flees to England.

Jo later deals with the added disappointment that Aunt March has decided to take Amy, who is now sixteen, with her to Europe. Crushed, she resolves to leave Concord for New York City to pursue her dream of writing and experiencing life. She meets Friedrich Bhaer, a German professor who lives at the boarding house where she stays. Friedrich challenges and stimulates Jo intellectually, introducing her to opera and philosophy, and spurs her to become an even better writer.

The trip to Europe serves Amy well: she improves her painting and runs into her old childhood friend, Laurie. Finding that he has become dissolute and irresponsible, Amy refuses to having anything more to do with him until he pulls himself together. The two become close and to everyone's shock - especially Jo's - return home married. Although she bears no hard feelings over the marriage, Jo admits to being momentarily shaken as Laurie walks into the March home with her sister Amy as his new bride. This leads Jo to fear that she will never find love and will die alone. In more heartache in her drama-filled life, Jo rushes home to Beth, who finally succumbs to the lingering effects of the scarlet fever she suffered from for the past four years. Grieving for her sister, Jo retreats to the safety of her writing garret in the attic and begins to write out her life story. By morning she is finished, and sends it off to be published.

When Aunt March dies, she leaves Jo her home of Plumfield. Jo soon comes up with the idea of making it a school. In the meantime, Meg gives birth to twins John "Demi" and Daisy. And when Jo returns from the garden one day, she finds her published manuscript, that has now been titled "Little Women". Freiderich brought it, and Jo rushes to find him, his umbrella in hand.

She finds Friederich at the end of the March's driveway, and thanks him for her book. At that moment, Friederich proposes and Jo accepts. The film ends with the two lovers kissing in the rain.

       

Robin Swicord's Little Women is a delightful film adaptation of Alcott's novel about the joys and struggles of a family of four sisters set in Victorian New England. The film celebrates the cherished bonds of family relationships, as well as explores the confining social mores for women in the post-Civil War America. Winona Ryder delivers a charming performance as Jo March, the high-spirited and imaginative protagonist who dreams of becoming a writer. Supporting performances by Claire Danes as the sweet Beth March, Kirsten Dunst and Samantha Mathis as the young, romantic Amy March, and Christian Bale as Theodore "Laurie" Lawrence are also excellent. This is the perfect family film for the Christmas holidays!

Actress Winona Ryder was instrumental in turning the Louisa May Alcott novel into its film version. The actress, who read the book when was twelve years old, first discussed the possibility of remaking the film with producer Denise Di Novi, with whom she'd worked on "Edward Scissorhands." Di Novi has since remarked: "I don't know if we could have made 'Little Women' if not for her interest."

Ryder, who believes that young women need upstanding female role models, wanted the film to be "a gift for girls": "I really wanted to give something to girls who are sick of the stupid movies that are coming out now." Ryder also remarks that more positive portrayals of teenagers like the March sisters are much needed today: "I think we could use a movie like this, especially in this time where it's so hip to be violent, and everyone is trying so hard to be cool. Look at those new Calvin Klein ads. The models look so skinny and upset, as opposed to the poster for 'Little Women' where everyone looks fat and happy. I'd much rather spend time with those fat, happy people... I know this is a well-made movie and a classic story. It's so nice to see a movie where the people talk to each other, and where people fall in love and triumph over life's problems."

THE LODGER

In late Victorian London, Jack the Ripper has been killing and maiming actresses in the night. The Burtons are forced to take in a lodger due to financial hardship. He seems like a nice young man, but Mrs. Burton suspects him of being the ripper because of some mysterious and suspicious habits, and fears for her beautiful actress niece who lives with them.

This 1944 classic stars Merle Oberon and George Sanders.


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