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The pathetic, social-climbing heroine of Booth Tarkington's novel was never better played than by Hepburn, who brought a fierce determination, clutching coyness, and tragic optimism to the part. She plays Alice Adams, who lives only a block or two from the wrong side of the tracks, but who
pretends that she and her family enjoy the status of her wealthy peer group--a pretense that grows into a dangerous conviction. Her family of hopeless clods drags her down to grim reality at every turn, yet she tries to escape through rich acquaintances who are really nothing more than chic snobs.
They merely tolerate her as a source of amusement, frivolously inviting her to an exclusive party where she meets the man of her dreams: rich, handsome, gracious MacMurray, who plays his part with unexpected sensitivity. He is attracted to her and is conned into believing that her folks are
well-to-do. Hepburn inflates their importance and then risks all by inviting her hero to dinner at her home. George Stevens's dinner-party scene is a classically choreographed symphony of tragicomedy that remains with the viewer long after the tacked-on happy ending. Fred Stone, Ann Shoemaker and,
young Frank Albertson, as Alice's grasping family, stand out in a capable ensemble cast, but supporting honors are stolen by Hattie McDaniel, in a slovenly turn as a hostess's worst nightmare. The painful yearning behind Alice's character speaks to audiences in a universal way, and the film proved
an important stepping stone for 30-year-old director George Stevens, with his first major film, and Hepburn, who won a second Academy Award nomination for the part, after MORNING GLORY in 1933.