The McNay Revives Martin Scorsese’s Influential 1974 Film ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’

click to enlarge The McNay Revives Martin Scorsese’s Influential 1974 Film ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.

If the story of a single mom working as a waitress at Mel’s Diner in Arizona sounds familiar, that’s because 1974’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore inspired the TV series Alice. However, the movie is significant for more than inspiring a sitcom. Ellen Burstyn made one of the best decisions of her career when she decided her next project after The Exorcist would be a small, gritty dramedy about a widow who must find a job and raise a son while pursuing her dream of becoming a singer. She approached a young director named  Martin Scorsese, and it turned out to be a good move for him, too. The film proved a big hit and won Burstyn an Academy Award, but not without some controversy over whether this woman-centered drama was sufficiently feminist. That won’t seem an issue today, when portraits of working-class women are all too rare in films. Diane Ladd scored a nomination for her supporting role as Flo, the sassy waitress, and you can spot her daughter Laura Dern as a little girl eating ice cream. Jodie Foster’s tomboy role led straight to Scorcese casting her in 1976’s Taxi Driver. Kris Kristofferson plays Alice’s rugged boyfriend, while Harvey Keitel makes a scary cameo. As the gruff Mel, Vic Tayback is the only actor who reprised his role on TV. In short, it’s a festival of fine actors in a finely tuned snapshot of American Southwestern highway atmosphere of the mid-1970s with a soundtrack of radio hits peppered with Burstyn’s renditions of classics. The McNay revives the film as part of its Get Reel summer series celebrating American women in 1970s cinema.

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