Arlecchino Cinema > 16:30


George Stevens


Sunday 25/07/2021


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Perhaps there’s nothing more excruciating than pretending to be something one is not – and no humility greater than having it exposed. But humility in itself could be a noble feeling when, after the pretensions are stripped away, one arrives at a moment of painful enlightenment. This is the essence of Alice Adams, a tightknit blend of humour and pathos, and what is generally regarded as Stevens’s entry into the league of greats. This first sound adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s 1921 novel (after a 1922 version directed by Rowland V. Lee), is about snobbery in a small town and a young girl from a poor family trying to find her way in society; to be recognised and to be loved. Katharine Hepburn, whose previous two pictures had been poorly received, wanted William Wyler as director but instead got Stevens, whose poker face and wordless presence at first baffled and disconcerted her. Stevens reworked the script with Hepburn in mind – an actress who was herself out of place in Hollywood, pretending to be something she was not. Stevens lightened up his ‘crescendo of suffering’ with remarkably effective comic scenes. The idea for driving a jalopy comes from Two Tars and the awkward family dinner scene is a revamp of Pass the Gravy (Fred Guiol, 1928), both shot by Stevens. Also the theme of the upstart trying to improve his or her social status, leading to misery, wasn’t unknown to Stevens, who regularly showed an interest in this subject, from Annie Oakley to A Place in the Sun. The film’s original ending, in which Alice searches for a job, was replaced with something more upbeat. As a maca bre joke, Stevens even filmed an ending that suggested suicide to irritate the studio heads. The gossip columnist Hedda Hopper plays Mrs Palmer; Hattie McDaniel steals the picture as the ill-at-ease maid, and Fred Stone’s performance as the ailing and failing father is the most moving. By the end of the picture, Hepburn and Stevens were lovers. Hepburn biographer Barbara Leaming argues that through this collaboration Hepburn gained an Alice-Adams-like confidence to take herself seriously as an artist. The rest is history.


Ehsan Khoshbakht

Cast and Credits

Sog: based on the novel of the same name (1921) by Booth Tarkington. Scen: Dorothy Yost, Mortimer Offner, Jane Murfin. F: Robert De Grasse. M: Jane Loring. Scgf: Van Nest Polglase. Int: Katharine Hepburn (Alice Adams), Fred MacMurray (Arthur Russell), Fred Stone (Virgil Adams), Evelyn Venable (Mildred Palmer), Frank Albertson  (Walter Adams), Ann Shoemaker (signora Adams), Hattie McDaniel (Malena), Charley Grapewin (J.A. Lamb), Grady Sutton (Frank Dowling), Hedda Hopper (signora Palmer). Prod: Pandro S. Berman per RKO Radio Pictures. 35mm.