Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Alice Adams (1935)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Alice Adams (1935)

In director George Stevens' version of Booth Tarkington's 1921 novel of the same name:

  • in the poignant story, a likeable, small-town teenager Alice Adams (Katharine Hepburn) was from a middle-class background in the midwestern town of South Renford, Indiana, in the early part of the 20th century. The socially-ambitious and poor Alice was frustrated because she desperately wished to be accepted by her upper-class peers, but was embarrassed by her family's social status and lack of money, and her invalid father Mr. Virgil Adams' (Fred Stone) unambitious and crude nature. Although her father was hard-working, he was employed in a lowly job as a clerk in a wholesale drug firm. She was determined to convince her friends that she was from a wealthy family

Virgil Adams (Fred Stone)

Mrs. Adams (Ann Shoemaker)

Alice Adams (Katharine Hepburn)
  • with her brother Walter (Frank Albertson) as her escort, Alice attended a high-society party-dance, hosted by debutante Mildred Palmer (Evelyn Venable) from a prominent family. During the party, Alice (with wilted flowers and an outdated dress) put on a play-act that she was wealthy and of high social standing. Although the very vulnerable wallflower Alice was miserable and out of place, she pretended to be having a good time
  • finally, she met wealthy, handsome young Arthur Russell (Fred MacMurray), Mildred's cousin. At the end of the evening, Alice wept bitterly at her rain-spattered bedroom window after returning home from the Palmer dance - feeling completely humiliated by her bedraggled bouquet of flowers, her insensitive escort brother Walter, and dashed hopes of respectability with new-in-town suitor Arthur
  • the next day, however, she met Arthur again in town and with more affected mannerisms, she told him fanciful tales of her family's fortunes to convince him of her social respectability, and he seemed to show some interest in getting to know her more. He expressed an interest to visit her home, and they walked together to her house. Over a few days' time, although she refused his entry into their shabby house, he courted her on the front porch
  • ultimately, the pretentious and aspiring Alice was compelled to invite Arthur into her home, to impress her rich new suitor with a "stylish" dinner party - the film's most memorable scene of the ill-fated "formal" event. Alice's mother Mrs. Adams (Ann Shoemaker) had hired a black maid and cook named Malena (Hattie McDaniel) for the evening - on a hot and muggy night
The Disastrous 'Formal' Dinner
  • the gum-chewing, slovenly and surly Malena valiantly served a heavy menu, starting with caviar sandwiches and hot soup, and then strong-smelling brussel sprouts and other dishes on serving trays; everything went wrong during the sweaty, disastrous, tragically-funny dinner table sequence, as it was painfully obvious what her social circumstances really were. Alice suffered with the maid, her socially-awkward father, and the incredibly inappropriate 'formal' dinner menu, and believed afterwards that she would never see Arthur again
  • (Another added wrinkle during the evening was Arthur's knowledge that that Mr. Adams' paternalistic employer J.A. Lamb (Charley Grapewin) had accused Virgil of stealing a glue formula and was planning to open a rival factory to ruin him, and the fact that Walter had embezzled $150 dollars from Lamb's firm. After dinner, Alice interceded and was able to get the two men, Lamb and her father, to work out a harmonious arrangement, to save both him and her brother)
  • immediately after dinner, Alice and Russell were forced to retreat to the front porch, where Alice confessed her feelings of failing and her fears that he would be dropping her: ("I feel as if I were only gonna see you about five minutes more all the rest of my life...You're never coming here again. Why it's all over, isn't it? Why it's finished, isn't it? Why, yes...Yes, you must go. There's nothing else for you to do. When anything's spoiled, people can't do anything else but runaway from it. Goodbye"); Arthur was dismissed

Alice's Confession of Failure to Walter After Dinner
Later on the Front Porch: Walter's Question to a Pensive Alice: "A penny for your thoughts"
  • later that evening outside in the film's fairy-tale ending, Arthur was heard asking Alice on the front porch: "A penny for your thoughts." He had remained quietly behind on the porch swing, and even though he knew the whole truth of the Lamb incident and the dinner, and in spite of everything, he professed his love for her ("I love you, Alice") at the end of the evening. She exclaimed: "Gee whiz!" - and they kissed as the film came to a close

Alice Waltzing With Her Brother Walter (Frank Albertson) as Awkward Dance Escort

Expectant Wallflower Alice at the Dance - All Alone

At the Dance with New-in-Town Suitor Arthur (Fred MacMurray)

Alice's Weeping at Window After Dance

Alice Later Being Courted on Her Front Porch by Walter

Pre-Dinner Caviar Sandwiches

The Awkward Dinner Party

Ending Porch Kiss with Arthur


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