Shortly after graduating from Barnard College in 1920, Aline MacMahon made her New York debut in The Madras House. She was lavishly praised by the Manhattan critics for her starring turn in the 1926 revival of Eugene O'Neill's Beyond the Horizon. After appearing in the 1930 Kaufman-Hart comedy Once in a Lifetime, MacMahon was brought to Hollywood to re-create her role in the film version. Production delays allowed her to work elsewhere, thus her screen bow was in Warner Bros.' Five Star Final (1931). She was stuck in a "wisecracking dame" rut until her moving portrayal of philandering silver tycoon Edward G. Robinson's careworn wife in Silver Dollar (1932). In 1944, she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Katharine Hepburn's Chinese mother in Dragon Seed. More than a decade later, MacMahon appeared as James Agee's grandmother in both the stage and screen versions of All the Way Home. Retiring from films in 1963, Aline MacMahon continued performing on stage, joining New York's Lincoln Repertory troupe just after turning 65.