A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog comparing the performances of the actresses in the two most recent Little Women screen adaptations. Much to my delight, the comments were evenly divided, even though my review definitely skewed toward the new, 3 hour PBS treatment. And I find it hilarious how much we all hold a grudge towards Amy for burning Jo’s manuscript!
Now we shall turn our attention to the CRUCIAL questions that remain: Which actors played Laurie and Professor Bhaer the best? Because we certainly can’t settle the age-old hang-up many have of whether Jo and Laurie should have ended up together. Can we? (Spoiler: I am Team Bhaer all the way. He had me at “Jo, I haf nothing but much love to gif you … Can you make a little place in your heart for old Fritz?”)
I just now went weak in the knees…
Let’s talk Laurie first, though, and save my cuddly German friend for later. Laurie or Teddy? Can we choose Teddy? What am I talking about? Of course, we can choose Teddy! If you want to choose Laurie you can write your own blog–and I say that with love.
Here’s what I wrote about the book’s Teddy in my blog 10 Literary Crushes and Why We Love ‘Em:
“Genteel, rich, bored and antsy (until the March sisters moved in), we adore Teddy for the way he transforms under the influence of the sisters. He pines for Jo despite her writing ambitions, smarts, and hacked off hair, which makes us adore him. We hate that Jo rejects him, but she knows her soul mate cometh soon…” (Does he EVER!)
Theodore “Laurie” Laurence is worth his own blog, at least in terms of the reactions he gets from people. Most fans of the book still cannot live with the fact that Jo spurned Teddy who then went on to hitch his wagon to that manuscript-burning wench of an Amy! Well, I completely disagree. While I love Teddy and Jo’s amazing, kindred friendship and all the support and understanding they gave one another, it was never going to work between them! The two of them were meant to be friends, and ultimately, brother and sister. They loved each other dearly, but they found their true loves in other, more compatible people.
Christian Bales, in the 1994 movie, was way too roguish and sexy for Teddy. Too much flash and too little substance. And waaay too much chemistry with the woman we all knew would end up as his sister-in-law! I would not want my husband to have that much chemistry with my sister, would you?
The PBS version’s Jonah Hauer-King, on the other hand, was perfect, a lonely orphan guy who needed a family. He was gentlemanly, dimpled, and playful, with a serious core. Actually, Hauer-King reminded me of Jonathan Crombie, aka Gilbert Blythe, and that is a very good thing. Like Gil, Teddy waits for years for the girl he loves to love him back. Unlike Gil, Teddy gets his heart handed to him.
Winner: Jonah Hauer-King (That scene where he cried after Jo rejected him! A knife to my heart!)
* PROFESSOR FRIEDRICH BHAER
(Again from the Literary Crushes blog, where I placed Teddy in 7th place and Teddy BHAER in 4th!)
“I know—I know. Simmer down there, Laurie-ans. How could I place old (39), fusty Professor Bhaer ahead of young and frisky Laurie? I could, I will, I did! In the age-old debate that asks, ‘Who is better for Jo—Laurie or Professor Bhaer’? I choose the gentle, absentminded, adorably accented Bhaer! Maybe it’s because he’s an intellectual equal to Jo; maybe it’s his golden heart. Maybe it’s Gabriel Byrne’s butter-melting portrayal in the movie (who am I kidding—that’s it!).”
Yes, that is it. I just watched some Professor Bhaer clips from 1994 and people, there are some flutters. I am very picky about my Friedrichs, and for me, Gabriel Byrne was magical–dreamy, poetic, and brilliant with a sweet German accent. That scene under the umbrella at the end? I can’t even…
BUT, just because a Byrne Bhaer works for me doesn’t mean he works completely. He was too old for Winona Ryder (he was 44 when he played the role). Now, Mark Stanley, who plays Bhaer in the PBS version, is a lot younger at age 30 (although still 11 years older than Maya Hawke as Jo). He’s kind, noble, and has a huge heart. Stanley totally had me at “There is a symposium…” I mean, what girl doesn’t want to attend a symposium on Hegel’s dialectic? Jo–Jo does. We get to know this Bhaer a little bit better, too. Apparently, director Thomas “gave the professor extra chances to prove his worth to viewers.”
Winner: I can’t decide. Both actors bring something valuable to the role of my favorite Little Women man, Professor Bhaer. But who am I really kidding? Gabriel Byrne wins the day.
This conclusion is similar to how I admired Anne with an E‘s Lucas Jade Zumann’s wonderful turn as Gilbert Blythe but could choose no other than Jonathan Crombie. NO OTHER!
(Speaking of “Anne with an E,” Season 2 drops on Netflix July 6. Check out my “Who played it best?” blogs of Anne of Green Gables, Gilbert Blythe--one of my most read blogs, of course, Marilla Cuthbert and Matthew Cuthbert.)
For more on Little Women, see 12 Little Musings on the New Little Women
Who is YOUR favorite Teddy and Professor Bhaer?
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