Born Alva White of French and Italian parents, her mother, a former chorus girl, died when Alice was only three years old. She attended Roanoke College in Virginia and then took a secretarial course at Hollywood High School also attended by future actors Joel McCrea and Mary Brian. After leaving school she became a secretary and "script girl" for director Josef Von Sternberg. After clashing with Von Sternberg, White left his employment to work for Charlie Chaplin, who decided before long to place her in front of the camera.
Her bubbly and vivacious persona led to comparisons with Clara Bow, but White's career was slow to progress. After playing a succession of flappers and gold diggers, she attracted the attention of the director and producer Mervyn LeRoy who saw potential in her. Her first sound films included Show Girl (1928) made in the Vitaphone sound-on-disc system, and Show Girl in Hollywood (1930) in the Western Electric sound-on-film process, both released by Warner Brothers and both based on novels by J. P. McEvoy. In these two films, White appeared as "Dixie Dugan". In October 1929, McAvoy started the comic strip Dixie Dugan with the character Dixie having a "helmet" hairstyle and appearance similar to actress Louise Brooks. White also used the services of Hollywood 'beauty sculptor' Sylvia of Hollywood to stay in shape.
She left films in 1931 to improve her acting abilities, returning in 1933 only to have her career hurt by a scandal that erupted over her involvement with boyfriend actor Jack Warburton and future husband Sy Bartlett. Although she later married Bartlett, her reputation was tarnished and she appeared only in supporting roles after this. By 1937 and 1938, her name was at the bottom of the cast lists. She made her final film appearance in Flamingo Road (1949).
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to Motion Pictures, at 1501 Vine Street.
White died of complications from a stroke, aged 78, on February 19, 1983.