Surely the definitive version of Louisa May Alcott's novel, sweet, funny, perfectly cast, and exquisitely evocative in its New England period reconstruction. Cukor rightly emphasises the seasons, starting with a winter of discontent as, with father serving in the Civil War, the four March girls face the prospect of growing up in reduced circumstances. But as the seasons change, so do joys return, and the film offers an endlessly pleasurable series of vignettes: the breaching of the ogre's castle next door (to find it inhabited by a very kind old man and a very personable young one); the disastrous performance of Jo's play; the business of Beth's piano, and the fluttering alarms of her bout with scarlet fever; the first stirrings of romantic interests. The cement that holds all this together is Hepburn's miraculous performance as the tomboy Jo, angrily resisting the approach of womanhood ('Why can't we stay as we are?'). Cukor mines a rich vein of sentiment, never over-stepping the mark into slush, but it is Hepburn's Jo, making a subversive choice of what she wants her life to be, who ensures that the cosiness isn't everything.