In the small town of South Renford, Alice Adams (Katharine Hepburn), the pretty daughter of Virgil Adams (Fred Stone), an invalid clerk, is escorted by her brother Walter (Frank Albertson) to an elegant party that is being hosted by Mildred Palmer (Evelyn Venable), a local debutante. Dressed in a two-year-old gown and carrying a bouquet of wilted violets, Alice, who dreams of social acceptance, is snubbed by the Palmers and their guests until Arthur Russell (Fred MacMurray), Mildred's cousin, asks her to dance. Although entranced by the handsome Arthur, Alice shyly refuses a second dance and asks him to find Walter, who is playing dice with the servants in the cloakroom. A humiliated Alice returns home and, after a brave smile for her mother, cries bitterly in her room.

Later, however, Alice runs into Arthur in town and walks with him to her house. Embarrassed by the house's shabby appearance, Alice discourages an eager Arthur from coming inside but agrees to receive him for an evening visit. After two nights of anxious waiting, Alice finally finds Arthur at her door and chats with him on the porch. As Alice's mother (Ann Shoemaker) listens by the window, Arthur showers Alice with sincere compliments and asks her to a party that the daughter of Virgil's employer, J. A. Lamb (Charley Grapewin), is planning.

Furious that Alice was not invited by the Lambs, Mrs. Adams later rails against Virgil for his lack of career ambition, which she contends has ruined Alice's chances at "catching" Arthur. Overwhelmed by his wife's arguments, Virgil gives in and, backed by a formula for glue that he had invented years before while working for Lamb, opens his own glue works.

Arthur, meanwhile, continues to romance Alice and happily accepts an invitation to a family dinner. Just before the dinner, Arthur hears from Mildred's father that Lamb has accused Virgil of stealing the glue formula and is planning to open a rival factory. In spite of a surly maid, bad food and her father's social awkwardness, Alice maintains an overly cheerful facade for Arthur throughout the "formal" dinner. When Walter, who has been caught stealing from Lamb's company, shows up, however, the evening falls apart, and Alice says goodbye to Arthur, sure that she will never see him again.

Oscar
2 Nominations
0 Awards

Golden Globes
0 Nominations
0 Awards
Directed by George Stevens, "Alice Adams" is from Booth Tarkington's 1921 Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Katharine Hepburn wanted William Wyler to direct the film, but producer Pandro S. Berman favored Stevens. Also, RKO executives wanted Randolph Scott for the Fred MacMurray role, but he was involved in the production of “So Red The Rose”.

All of Alice's attempts to better her place in the world meet with a continuous string of disasters. Alice is embarrased to be escorted by her brother to the dance, prattles on about her family's nonexistent wealth, and will not let MacMurray into her house until she is finally and fatefully obliged to invite him to dinner. The comic highpoint of the film is the dinner party, where the family has hired a maid (Hattie McDaniel) to help with what becomes a total disaster. The scene is both riotously funny and tragically real, and the laughter is always close to tears.

Katharine Hepburn received her second Oscar nomination for this film. Her performance is vastly superior to when she won for "Morning Glory" primarily because this is the first successful film in which she acts against type. She carries the emotional heart of the movie, and her strength as a maturing actress is captured in two scenes where she carries the moment with tears rather than words. One is the dinner party itself, with just one look and no words; you know exactly how she feels. The old adage “less is more” is a perfect example here. And the other is after the dinner scene, where she runs to her bedroom and breaks down weeping at the window, finally crushed by all that has happens. When her father, who has no clue the dinner had been a disaster, comments on how nice her date was, a tear roles down Hepburn's cheek. These two scenes created Hepburn's reputation as the screen's greatest "on cue" weeper.

Fred MacMurray solidified his mark in Hollywood as the strong leading man with this role, which earned him the right to go on to such classics as the comedy “The Egg and I” with Claudette Colbert and of course the ever classic thriller “Double Indemnity” with Barbara Stanwyck. Throughout the late ‘50’s Fred, who was personal friends with Walt Disney, became the Disney legend with such classic hits as “The Shaggy Dog” and “The Absent Minded Professor”. But Fred is probably most notably remembered as Steve Douglas, the father on "My Three Sons”. His star power was such that he was given a dream contract in which he only had to work 65 days a year on the series. The supporting cast, as a result, often had to shoot their scenes opposite a prop person off camera instead of Fred. The popular series ran 12 seasons.