ALICE ADAMS (1935), starring Katharine Hepburn in the title role, was released on DVD over a decade ago but has been out of print. This key Hepburn film has just been reissued by the Warner Archive.
The film is based on a novel by Booth Tarkington, which was just published in a new edition in the Vintage Movie Classics series.
Alice is a girl almost from the wrong side of the tracks, or at least that's how she sees herself -- she has enough of a social "in" to be invited to a party by wealthy Mildred Palmer (the lovely Evelyn Venable), yet she can't afford things like a new dress for a dance or even a small corsage. Alice's family home is comfortable, yet it can't compare to Mildred's mansion.
However, Alice is also an awkward social misfit in ways which go beyond money and class differences. In her anxiety to fit in she acts like a phony, yet despite her flighty chattering, wealthy young Arthur Russell (Fred MacMurray) is completely smitten with her. Arthur is Alice's dream come true -- he's not only handsome and interested in her, but he has the money which would allow her to rise above her family's humble lifestyle.
Film Experience, which said that "One of the peculiar charms of the movie and of Kate & Fred's scenes together is that Alice is so busy trying to impress him that she never notices her own success; he's besotted from the start."
Indeed, Alice seems to almost sabotage her success with Arthur. In the few moments when she's quiet and "real," one can understand what Arthur sees in her. Hepburn nails the character in a multilayered performance, but much of the time Alice is so afraid to be herself that it's painful to watch. I found myself alternating between sympathetic pity and outright embarrassment for her, wanting to avert my eyes or tell her to calm down.
ALICE ADAMS was directed by George Stevens, his first major "A" level film after years of work on lesser projects. It was filmed by Robert De Grasse and scored by longtime RKO composer Roy Webb. It runs 99 minutes.
The Warner Archive DVD is a fine print, and as an added bonus it includes an excerpt from the documentary GEORGE STEVENS: A FILMMAKER'S JOURNEY which was on the original DVD release. The DVD also includes the original DVD's menu of scene selections.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.