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Friday, June 27, 2014

'Alice Adams' DVD: Katharine Hepburn is Starting to Happen

Alice Adams
Warner Archive releasing the 1935 Katharine Hepburn drama "Alice Adams" on DVD provides a fantastic chance to see this Hollywood royalty in a role that showcases the charm, dramatic ability, and overall awesomeness that makes her an all-time great. Having wonderfully talented Fred MacMurray co-star is a spectacular bonus.

"Adams" is a terrific George Stevens adaptation of the Booth Tarkington novel of the same name. Our titular heroine, whom Hepburn plays, is the daughter of a clerk for the company of one of the movers-and-shakers in the typical small American town where they live.

The primary conflict revolves around the desire of social-climbing Alice to fit in with the elite of the community despite her lack of the assets that keeping up with the Lambs requires. Alice shows a Scarlett O'Hara style resourcefulness in keeping up appearances to the best of her ability. One spoiler alert is that Alice never resorts to making a dress out of curtains, with or without the rod still intact.

A variation of "Cinderella" near the beginning of "Adams" has Alice arriving at a society party in a jalopy, wearing last year's dress, and holding a very fragile homemade corsage. Her Prince Charming arrives in the form of MacMurray's Arthur Russell.

The courtship between Russell and Alice, who acts to deceive Russell about her financial status, coincides with Alice's mother stepping up her campaign of badgering Alice's father to actively seek to improve his station in life. The latter storyline supports the theory that behind every great man is an incessantly nagging woman.

These stories intersect when Mr. Adams succumbing to the Hyacinth Bucket level nagging of his wife causes him to act in a manner that has the reverse of the desired effect regarding the effort to have Alice climb the social ladder. Russell knowing of all this further jeopardizes the social future of our heroine.

All this leads to a classic scene in which Mrs. Adams has Russell over for a dinner that is either hilariously catastrophic or heartbreaking depending on your sensibility. Having Hattie McDaniel of "Gone With the Wind" as the help brought in for the evening is brilliant casting that adds definite humor.

The post-dinner scene is equally good and provides the proverbial happy ending in expected and less predictable ways. MacMurray's portrayal of Russell during the entire evening reinforces that Robbie, Chip, Mike (and Ernie) are all very lucky "Sons."

The final word regarding all this is that watching "Adams" definitely would have elicited a WTF response if Hepburn did not become a star in the following years.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Adams" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.