Our local entertainment gem, The Barnyard Cinema, recently hosted sold-out audiences to an endearing classic “Little Women.” Who has not heard “we are so lucky” in reference to the venue? Where else do you sit back in lounge chairs with your popcorn and beverage looking out at a spectacular mountain peak? It just doesn’t happen, except here in the Methow.
As with most young women of my and my mother’s generations, “Little Women” was a cherished work of literature. We rejoiced with the heroine Jo March, laughed with the antics of Amy, admired the sensibility of Meg, and cried with the demise of Beth. An enduring, loosely autobiographical account, Louisa May Alcott wrote “Little Women” a few years after the end of the American Civil War.
Louisa had grown up in the company of such thinkers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Theodore Parker and Henry David Thorough. Her father Bronson Alcott was a transcendentalist and impractical in his attempts to provide for his family. After a utopian community that he founded failed, Louisa realized that she would experience lifelong concern and responsibility for the welfare of her mother and sisters. She taught school briefly, worked as a domestic, and finally began to write.
“Little Women” follows the life of the four sisters as they experience the challenges of employment, society and marriage in the late 19th century. The book was a success, giving Louisa encouragement to write further narratives drawn from her personal experiences.
Louisa’s health was never vigorous after having contracted typhoid fever due to the unsanitary hospital conditions she encountered as a volunteer Civil War nurse. She cared for her mother through a lengthy illness after which her own health plummeted. She died two days after her increasingly helpless father’s death. She was 55 years old.
“Little Women” was first made into a silent feature film in 1917. Scores of adaptations in film, television, stage, ballet and opera have since kept Louisa May Alcott and her writing alive. In the first “talkie,” Katherine Hepburn played Jo. June Allyson, Winona Ryder, Susan Dey and even, in 1950, Tony Soprano’s mother actor Nancy Marchand played Jo.
As a child, my absolute favorite card game was called Authors. The deck included 52 cards divided into 13 authors and four of their most famous works. The goal was to get the most sets of four to win the game. The authors were well known writers of classics such as Sir Walter Scott, James Fenimore Cooper, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson and Alfred Lord Tennyson. The only woman author in the game was my favorite: Louisa May Alcott. Her four cards were “Little Women,” “Little Men,” “Eight Cousins” and “An Old-Fashioned Girl.”
I was sure that I would never have discarded those cards because they were such a treasured memento to me. After seeing the movie at The Barnyard, I immediately went to the bookshelf to hold my copy of “Little Women,” then rummaged through my storage trunk to find the well-worn cards inside the very last box together with my collection of bronze horses. Such a delight to see them again, read the titles of the books, and remember the joy of playing Authors on a cold winter night in Montana.
Thank you to The Barnyard Cinema — Steve, Genevieve, Will and others — for the gift of the movies you bring to us. Shame on me for thinking when I heard the news of a theater being built: oh, they will probably play old movies we can get at the library. Not even.