Alice Adams (1935)

Alice Adams (1935)
6.9
  • 3633
  • Passed
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release year: 1935 ()
  • Running time: 99 min
  • Original Title: Alice Adams
  • Voted: 3633

In the small town of South Renford, Alice Adams comes from a working class background, although she aspires to be among the upper class. Alice's mother blames her husband for their low social standing, despite his working hard and Alice not blaming him for anything. Regardless, Alice tries to do whatever necessary to put on appearances of wealth and social standing, despite everyone in that class in town knowing who she is, and thus largely ignoring her because of her false airs. First meeting at a society ball, Alice surprisingly catches the eye of Arthur Russell, surprisingly as he purportedly is engaged to débutante Mildred Palmer. As Alice continues to hide her true social standing from Arthur as he courts her, Mrs. Adams pressures Mr. Adams into doing something he doesn't want to do in an effort truly to become part of the business class, that measure which entails sinking all his money into a business venture. Beyond the time when Arthur finds out the true nature behind Alice's ...

#PersonCharacters
1Katharine HepburnAlice Adams
2Fred MacMurrayArthur Russell
3Fred StoneVirgil Adams
4Evelyn VenableMildred Palmer
  • Just wonderful - a wonderfully true story of class and embarrassment by 7

    I had heard of the famous Tarkington novel (but not read it) and had known that Katherine Hepburn won the Best Actress Oscar for this. So, I rented it.

    It's just so moving. What I think some of the negative reviewers forget is just how much a girl's prospects in a small town in the 1920s are determined by whom she marries. For the intelligent, lively, vibrant, charming, warm-hearted Alice Adams - with a pitifully weak (but very sympathetic) and rather poor father, Alice's chance to "make anything" of her life is determined socially.

    My heart ached with the snubs Alice receives - the routine unthinking cuts she receives at the hands of those from "better" families. Wearing a two year old dress with a corsage of violets illegally picked from the park, her loutish brother in his old beaten-up borrowed car as her date, she tries SO HARD to fit in - and doesn't because no one will let her. It's the most opaque of glass ceilings.

    If you've ever felt (at a job, a party, a family gathering) that there was nothing you could do - no matter how hard you tried - to fit in - yet it was important that you did, you'll feel so much for this charming girl.

    I do agree with others that the Arthur Russell part is underwritten.

    But the movie boring? Not on your life. The painful moments are more difficult to watch than most war movies in which the protagonist is killed - because it is so well-done -

    -- the pains of humiliation borne within, the disability one cannot hide, the old dress, the rude and outrageous relation, the thwarted eagerness - these are far more likely to be the painful moments in one's life (that one does not wish to remember) than any actual bullet wounds.

    I love how the movie does not show a saintly Alice - she would love to snub others (e.g., the chubby boy at the dance), would love to parade before others in finery. yet her warmth toward her family - her essential sweetness, her strong frustrated yearning - are completely captivating.

    We love this girl - and because of that, we love the movie.

  • Hepburn sparkles as small-town girl in clunky social drama by 7

    ALICE ADAMS, played by the late, great Katharine Hepburn, is quintessentially the beautiful, ambitious small-town girl put upon by circumstance. She wants desperately to be accepted, to be something other than just a poor "nobody"... to hide the fact that she doesn't come from 'money' and 'background'. This is painfully obvious in the first few scenes, when Alice steals out of the nickel-and-dime store but pauses meaningfully before the classy Vogue shopfront: trying to fool the world and possibly herself into thinking that that was where she was shopping all afternoon. She plans and preens for the high-society Palmer party, even though she has to wear her two-year-old dress, pick flowers for her own corsage, and go with her brother Walter (Frank Albertson) as her date. As everyone at the party ignores Alice, save another social reject Frank Dowling (bit-player Grady Sutton), she spots and is attracted to the rich, handsome Arthur Russell (Fred MacMurray, in a woefully underwritten role). Of course, Mr. Russell is meant to marry party hostess Mildred Palmer. This doesn't last long though--he quickly makes clear his attraction to the magnetic, gracefully awkward Alice, and begins to court her with serious intent. But Alice, in her eagerness to hide her social status, papers over their growing love with lies, which leads to a disastrous dinner party at the Adams abode... even as her family slowly disintegrates around them, partly due to Alice's father Virgil (Fred Stone) wanting to earn more money for his daughter.

    The film is generally okay--that's the best word for it. Not great, not even really *good*, but just... okay. It's interesting, and hints at something better than it is. But ultimately, it's a social drama that comes off a bit stilted, with very few fully-fledged characters. The key role of Arthur Russell is remarkably free of a personality, and it's even hard to really put a finger on what Arthur finds so enchanting about Alice... aside from her being fortuitously Katharine Hepburn's identical twin. Oh, Alice is an interesting character, certainly. But so much of her being is concentrated on her social ambitions that it leaves you wondering what Arthur sees in her since these are the very things she hides from him when they are together. Alice's brother and father fare better, but even towards the end, Walter becomes little more than a plot device in an ending that appears to want to serve as a muddled sort of come-uppance for Alice. Sutton as bumbling gentleman and his sister's dance partner is actually a stand-out in his... what? Five minutes of screen time? Intriguing though the message of the film may be (social class does not matter and attempts to rise above it will only keep you from your true self and happiness), the blandness of the characters keeps one from really developing sympathy for the characters.

    As for Alice, the film almost seems designed to have the audience keep her at arm's length. When she recognises that she is the one who will drive Arthur away, not because of what he has heard about her but because she cannot bear to confront her own reality head on, she keeps pressing on. The one truly brilliant scene in the film is that of the disastrous dinner party--this is possibly the first film I've seen where the atmosphere is one of muffled horror, both on the part of the participants as well as the audience. As Alice flounders through the dinner, chatting constantly, gaily, desperately, I found myself just wanting her to please, please keep quiet. To stop making things worse. It was very effectively staged, and a wry, clever commentary on Alice's inability to just relax and be herself. But by the end of the film, when Alice realises her foolishness and finally lets her guard down, there just isn't time to muster much sympathy for her character. It doesn't help that her suitor is so terminally boring that the love story is charming at best, but certainly does not come anywhere near to the unadulterated magic of the best classic film couples.

    However--and this is a pretty darn big however--although this is probably not one of Hepburn's better 1930s films (she starred in a whole run of those, including LITTLE WOMEN, STAGE DOOR, HOLIDAY and BRINGING UP BABY), this is without a doubt one of the best of her 1930s performances. Never was there a lovelier, more quietly desperate wallflower than Hepburn's Alice. Hepburn is not squarely in her prime here--not yet. For that, I point you to her unparalleled, radiant turn in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. But in ALICE ADAMS, she is all fresh, awkward beauty. Her performance gives a strong hint of what she will be well capable of in the future--an almost intuitive ability to harness those 'mannerisms' of hers, as her critics call them, to serve the performance and flesh out her character... but also to shed them in an instant and truly, genuinely surprise her audience with beautiful understatement and a remarkable lack of histrionics in her performance. (This would only be refined in her future roles with Spencer Tracy.) As Alice floats through the Palmer party, pretending she is in demand and only waiting for her date, or as she chats with a desperate light in her eyes to Arthur at the Adams' dinner party, Hepburn suffuses the role with the kind of quiet, frantic desire which is simply perfect for her character. It is Hepburn that gives ALICE ADAMS the spark of life it needs to keep from being a mediocre, even bad, film. Her performance is the cornerstone and, quite frankly, the most interesting part of the film.

    7.5, largely on the basis of Hepburn's performance which gives this film the extra edge it needs.

  • Glimpses of Katharine Hepburn at her most luminous by 9

    This is an often under-rated film, and nowadays would certainly have been completely forgotten but for Katharine Hepburn's presence. As a satirical view of the 1920s filmed in the mid 1930s it feels somewhat dated. But not Hepburn's performance. This is is among the best of her RKO contract movies. Her innocence, her (modest) social pretension, her search for love, they all ring verosimilar - if not entirely true to life. And the celebrated window scene with tears and rain and sobs being one with Alice's feelings is far more than just 'clever'. Hepburn fans will like it. Others might very well follow along.

  • Gee Whiz! by 7

    I am NOT a fan of Katharine Hepburn....but I really like her in this film. I don't think she ever looked cuter and was more appealing. One often forgets the fresh face and beauty she had when she was young.

    This film starts off wonderfully for 20 minutes, then bogs down a bit for an hour and then rallies brilliantly in the last 20 minutes. That last part is so good that made the film not only worthwhile to view but one to keep and watch every few years.

    It bogs down when Hepburn starts her deceiving scheme and nervously yaks and yaks and yaks trying to impress her boyfriend (Fred MacMurray). The deceit involves her trying to hide her social status, something that must have meant a lot more back in the early '30s than it does today.

    Critics comment about how the dinner scene is a "classic" and the highlight of the film, but I didn't think it was all that great, although Hattie McDaniel is funny. It's what happened afterward that made it a memorable film to me.

    Although Hepburn and Fred MacMurray are the stars of this romance-comedy, Fred Stone almost steals the show. Playing Hepburn's dad in the film, he was both hilarious at times and very sad....and always interesting. He gives an unbelievably powerful speech to his boss near the end of this film.

    Another plus for "Alice Adams" is the direction. This is early George Stevens, but just about any film that man directed is top-notch, including this one.

    Without giving away what happens in the story, the film does present a nice message of forgiveness and reconciliation and sports one of the stronger feel-good endings I've ever seen on film. Hepburn's last words in the movie are "Gee Whiz!!" That bygone innocent reaction to MacMurray's comment that he loved her says a lot about how movies and times have changed.

  • I was blindsided and enamored by 8

    Have you ever picked up what you thought was a glass of water, but when you took a long sip you ended up with a mouthful of Sprite? A surprising feeling, but then you have to figure out if it's pleasant or not. I felt similarly about my experience watching "Alice Adams", George Stevens' 1935 film starring Katherine Hepburn as the title character. Expecting a wily romantic comedy, possibly a precursor to Hepburn's screwball comedies, I instead witnessed a beautiful, touching and sad film about rejection and romance in small-town America.

    Alice is the daughter of a bookkeeper who is sick, and therefore temporarily out of work. Even before his unemployment, his job did not provide as much money for his family as many of Alice's contemporaries. This causes Alice to not be accepted in society, and makes it harder to find a boyfriend, though she tries to keep cheerful in front of her family. Unfortunately Mrs. Adams doesn't make things easier, by constantly harping on Mr. Adams to quit his job and be more ambitious. When the Palmers have their annual dance, Alice asks her brother Walter to take her, and there she first sees Arthur Russell MacMurray) a wealthy young man who is practically engaged to Mildred Palmer, probably the richest and most socially prominent young woman in the town. He notices Alice, and after a dance together, finds her a couple of days later and they begin a romance, but it becomes obvious that Alice is not going to be able to put up a fa?ade of wealth and social acceptance for long, as their relationship becomes more serious.

    There were so many times that I found myself just aching for Alice during this film. Booth Tarkington is so good at capturing the darker side of small town life without being obvious, that it is understandable that this film could be mistaken for a light romantic comedy, though in reality it was anything but. Alice's low self-esteem, mainly due to society's views on her more than her family's lack of money makes her such a fragile character that she becomes immediately sympathetic, and this is mainly due to Hepburn's performance. This was early in her career, and after seeing many of her later films it is easy to forget just how radiant and luminous she once was. She has always been one of my favorite actresses, but it was generally because of the strength she gave the characters she played throughout the years, not her fragility. "Alice Adams" was an extremely pleasant surprise, and I ended up absolutely loving it. A very solid 8/10.

    --Shelly

#PersonCrew
1Robert De Grassecinematographer
2George Stevensdirector
3Booth Tarkingtonwriter
4Dorothy Yostwriter
5Mortimer Offnerwriter
6Jane Murfinwriter