Sunday, March 2, 2014

Apparently I haven't blogged about Alice Adams before

Katharine Hepburn and Fred MacMurray in Alice Adams

A search of the blog claims I haven't done a post on Alice Adams before. It's airing tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 PM on TCM as part of their look at all of the Best Picture nominees from 1935. So now I think would be a good chance to rectify this oversight and do a full-length post on the movie.

Katharine Hepburn stars as Alice Adams, a young woman in one of those small cities in Anywhere USA that seem to be a staple of Hollywood in the years before World War II. She's from the lower middle class, maybe slightly better off than Joan Crawford's character at the beginning of Possessed, as we see her at the beginning wishing that she could shop at the fine dress store to get a dress for the big society party. Her parents can't help her out because Dad's been ill, and hasn't made that much at his job anyhow, since he didn't have much ambition. At least, not the sort of ambition Alice has. Alice goes to the party with her brother Walter (Frank Albertson), and it's at the party that Alice meets Arthur Russell (Fred MacMurray). Arthur is there because the folks giving the party, the Palmers, expect that their daughter Mildred (Evelyn Venable) to get engaged to him.

But things don't quite work out that way, or at least, we're given reason to think they're not going to. Arthur sees Alice, and she's just so charming that he can't help but be taken with her. Alice, for her part, sees her big chance to move up in life. But she's convinced that Arthur wouldn't want her if he knew the real truth about her and her family, which is that they're decidedly common. Soon enough, of course, Arthur is going to want to meet the family, which poses a dilemma for Alice. She comes up with the brilliant plan of having a fancier dinner for Arthur, to make it look as though the family is more well-to-do, even though nobody else in the family wants to have that sort of dinner.

Sure enough, the dinner goes badly. Back in those days there must have been no way that relationships with such a class difference could end positively, at least if you were thinking like Hollywood did. Which is why Possessed becomes more interesting when we find that the boy from Crawford's home town has become successful. Even though the plot of Alice Adams could easily be called trite, the movie is benefited greatly by having a cast that performs so well. I'm not a big fan of Katharine Hepburn, but she does a fine job here. I do kind of wonder how much she was playing herself, or at least the same character type she played in so many movies, that of the self-centered blankety-blank who thinks the world ought to be revolving around her. There's some of that character type here, and in Stage Door and Bringing Up Baby as well, among other of her films. MacMurray is fine, although he isn't given enough to do. Fred Stone is very good too as father Virgil Adams, a man who seems OK with a comfortable enough life, even if the women around him wish he had had more ambition.

Alice Adams did get a DVD release a decade or so ago, but it's out of print, since Amazon claims there's only one ridiculously expensive copy available. So you'll have to watch or record tomorrow's TCM airing.

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