HTF REVIEW: "Alice Adams" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Dec 31, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Alice Adams

    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Year: 1935
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 99 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Full Frame
    Subtitles: English, French and Spanish

    So ever trying to expand my classic film horizons,
    I decided to take a look at Warner Bros. upcoming
    release of Alice Adams, a film from George
    Stevens the leading film director of the 1930s and
    1940s known for movie standards such as Swing Time
    (1936), Gunga Din (1939), and Woman of the
    (1942). As is usual with material I am not
    familiar with, I went and did a little homework. This
    is what I found...
    This 1935 film stars Katharine Hepburn, who was
    under contract with RKO pictures. Hepburn never
    wanted to sign a contract with the studio, so she
    made several outlandish demands concerning salary
    and choice of scripts. The studio surprisingly gave
    in, and soon she emerged as the freshest and most
    original actress in Hollywood. Alice Adams
    is considered to be her best film of that period.
    The film also stars Fred MacMurray, considered to
    be one of the hottest young actors in town, emerging
    as a favorite romantic sparring partner with many
    of Hollywood's leading actresses. In fact, it
    was Katharine Hepburn herself who requested his
    services for this film.
    This is the story of a socially awkward middle-class
    girl named Alice Adams (Katharine Hepburn) who lives
    in a run down home with her mother, father and younger
    brother. Her father (Fred Stone) has been ill for
    quite some time, and hasn't been able to properly
    provide for the family. Still, Alice has big dreams
    of taking her place in high society, desperately
    trying to enter a world where she clearly doesn't
    Enter Arthur Russell (Fred MacMurray), a handsome
    young man that represents the inner circle that
    Alice so much wishes to be part of. When Arthur
    takes a personal interest in her, she begins
    wondering if all her dreams will suddenly come true.
    I found Alice Adams to be a quaint and
    charming film. I think the most remarkable aspect
    of this film was watching a young Katharine Hepburn
    with her bold, distinctive personality. You can
    see how she became one of Hollywood's most powerful
    leading ladies, always in complete control of
    herself and her craft. One must also admire the
    way this film honestly portrays the social scene
    of that time, most particularly in the film's highly
    memorable (and hilarious) dinner sequence that takes
    place in the Adams home. Be sure to watch for
    a rather amusing performance by the maid, Hattie
    McDaniel, who went on to play Mammy in Gone With
    The Wind
    How is the transfer?
    Warner Bros. is touting an all-new digital transfer
    from restored picture and audio elements, and judging
    by the results, they did a pretty decent job.
    One thing I need to stop doing in my reviews is
    comparing one transfer against another. There are
    some recent "classic" releases that look better
    than others, and some that look a little too perfect.
    Many of these B&W films don't go through the same
    restoration process as films like Citizen Kane
    and Sunset Boulevard did. Studios budgets
    inhibit just how much effort can be put into a
    particular film's restoration.
    What am I getting at here? To be honest, Alice
    Adams is not a perfect restoration. It does
    have its shares of blemishes throughout. However,
    based on the caliber of this title and the small
    amount of money that was probably budgeted for its
    restoration, it looks pretty damn good. Image looks
    rather uniform throughout with very good contrast
    levels. There is a lot of picture detail here and
    black levels are nice and solid.
    What I noticed the most about this transfer was
    an aged mono soundtrack that was extremely clean
    and smooth. Most classic movies I have reviewed
    in the past all have one thing in common -- the
    sound is always "tinny" and a bit too "shrill".
    This is one of those rare times that a soundtrack
    like this sounds more full-bodied, not entirely
    existing in the higher ends of the dynamic range.
    Special Features
    Warner Bros. has offered a few extra extras on this
    disc. Let's take a look at them...

    George Steven: A Film maker's Journey is only
    a small excerpt from the 1985 tribute to director
    George Steven by his son. It recounts how the
    Steven started his career as a cameraman in 2-reel
    comedies and came to direct one of America's most
    important stars -- Katharine Hepburn. This segment
    of the documentary is mostly dominated by interviews
    with Hepburn and RKO Executive Producer, Pandro
    Berman. One interesting thing to watch for is
    how bad the included film footage looks. It gives
    you much appreciation for the restoration done for
    this DVD.
    (length: approx. 6 minutes)
    Katharine Hepburn: The RKO Years is an essay
    that takes us from Hepburn's early success on
    Broadway in 1931 through her outlandish salary
    demands that surprisingly won her a contract at
    RKO studios and started a string of semi-successful
    A Cast and Crew page does little more than
    list the cast and film team. There are no click-on
    filmographies here.
    Final Thoughts
    A rather interesting point has been made from
    a friend about this film's release to DVD. While
    I think it's great that a film like Alice Adams
    is getting this sort of treatment, why is Warner
    concentrating on lesser-known fare rather than getting
    out their most requested classic films? Many of us
    have been patiently waiting for James Cagney for the
    past six years.
    The problem I see with this release is that while
    Alice Adams is a film that I think many
    people will enjoy watching, it will only get the
    attention of its die-hard fans. It's unfortunate
    that the generation who dominates the sales of
    DVD players will have no appreciation for a film
    like this.
    I'd hate to see Alice Adams get lost in the
    shuffle. This was a first-time viewing for me, and
    I found it time well enjoyed. I think those of you
    that give it a chance will feel the same way.
    Release Date: January 7, 2003
    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

    Dec 11, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Ron, thanks for the review. I haven't seen Alice Adams so I'm looking forward to this release. [​IMG]
  3. SteveP

    SteveP Second Unit

    Mar 6, 2001
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    This film is a charming and telling social satire of a bygone age--one of my favorites of this period and notable for Hepburn's willingness to portray her character's shameless and downright painful to watch social climbing.

    Fred Stone, who plays the father, was famous for playing the Scarecrow in the original stage production of WIZARD OF OZ in about 1902.

    It is spoiled only by the cop-out ending--in the Booth Tarkington original, she doesn't get the young man at the end, but bravely meets her fate by climbing the stairs to the secretarial school.

    And, as usual--HATTIE MCDANIEL RULES!!!
  4. Thomas T

    Thomas T Cinematographer

    Sep 30, 2001
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    One of Katharine Hepburn's best performances and it should have gotten her a second Oscar! Though I look forward to the more "famous" classics coming from Warners, I love the fact that they are also paying attention to some of the lesser known but equally deserving titles.
  5. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

    Apr 23, 2002
    Likes Received:
    A charming film,
    and one happily added to my collection today.

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