Alice Adams (1935)

Alice Adams
Katharine Hepburn and Fred MacMurray

'Alice Adams' is a romantic film made in 1935, directed by George Stevens and starring Katharine Hepburn, Fred MacMurray, Fred Stone and Evelyn Venable. The film was adapted from the novel of the same name by Booth Tarkington. The role of Alice was one of Katharine Hepburn's personal favorites and she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for it. It was one of only a small number of her early films to be a success at the box-office and it also received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. It was George Stevens's first major movie and he used the opportunity well.


'Alice Adams' is a touching film about social aspirations, rejection and romance in small-town America of the 1920's.On the surface it is a light romantic comedy, though it contains some biting satire and is an indictment of the social attitudes of the time.

The plot concerns Alice Adams, played by Katharine Hepburn and her attempts to move out of her lowly social position after meeting Arthur Russell, played by Fred MacMurray, a handsome young member of one of the town's richer families. We meet her own family, and we share her shame and awkwardness in the family dinner given to introduce her beau to them, and which turns into a real disaster. But does it mean the end of Alice's romance?


The movie was based on the 1921 novel of the same name by Booth Tarkington, whose novels were to serve as source material for a number of Hollywood films, including 'The Magnificent Ambersons' in 1942 and 'By the Light of the Silvery Moon' in 1953 . The detailed study of a socially ambitious young woman in small town America received the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1922.

Shooting began in the spring of 1935, even before the final screenplay was completed. As a result, new pages of script were brought on set each day, giving a spontaneous feel to the action.

The interior of the Adams' house on the set was inspired by a house that George Stevens had seen in Los Angeles.


This is very much Hepburn's film and it came at a time when her career had stalled. Her previous movie appearances were in 'Spitfire' and 'The Little Minister' in 1934 and 'Break of Hearts' earlier in 1935 and all had flopped badly. She gives an excellent performance in the title role and was recognised with her second Best Actress Oscar nomination, losing out to Bette Davis in 'Dangerous'.

Fred MacMurray was borrowed by RKO from Paramount after offering the role to Randolph Scott, who was committed to another Paramount production, 'So Red the Rose'.

Hepburn and MacMurray are backed up by a strong cast including Fred Stone and Ann Shoemaker as Alice's father and mother, and Frank Albertson who plays her loud brother. There are useful performances also from Hedda Hopper, the future gossip columnist, as a snobbish townswoman and Hattie McDaniel, pre-'Gone With The Wind', as the hilariously slovenly, drunken maid.


This was one of George Stevens's first feature movies after a long apprenticeship making comedy shorts. At first RKO were keen on using a young William Wyler as director but Hepburn was attracted by Stevens's comedy background and he was chosen. It was the start of a distinguished career. He and Hepburn argued often during the shoot but they maintained a healthy respect for each other and worked together twice more, in 'Quality Street' in 1937 and 'Woman of the Year' in 1942.

The ending of the movie is different from the novel, but at least the audience go away happy. And so they should - 'Alice Adams' is a wonderful film

Main Cast

Katharine Hepburn ... Alice Adams
Fred MacMurray ... Arthur Russell
Fred Stone ... Mr. Adams
Evelyn Venable ... Mildred Palmer
Frank Albertson ... Walter Adams
Ann Shoemaker ... Mrs. Adams
Charles Grapewin ... Mr. Lamb
Grady Sutton ... Frank Dowling
Hedda Hopper ... Mrs. Palmer
Hattie McDaniel ... Malena
Jonathan Hale ... Mr. Palmer
Janet McLeod ... Henrietta Lamb
Virginia Howell ... Mrs. Dowling
Zeffie Tilbury ... Mrs. Dresser
Ella McKenzie ... Ella Dowlingbr>


Director ... George Stevens
Producer ... Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay ... Dorothy Yost, Mortimer Offner, and Jane Murfin
Music ... Max Steiner and Roy Webb
Cinematography ... Robert De Grasse
Distribution Company ... RKO Radio Pictures
Release date ... August 15, 1935
Running time ... 99 minutes

Academy Awards

No Wins:
Two Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... RKO Radio Pictures
Best Actress ... Katharine Hepburn