Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)

In Martin Scorsese's melo-dramatic comedy, his first Hollywood studio production, was about female self-actualization (the film's tagline: "A movie for everyone who has ever dreamed of a second chance"); it ultimately became a popular TV comedy series titled Alice:

  • the surrealistic, dream-like prologue provided a reddish-tinged, late 1930s reference to both The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Gone With the Wind (1939); the film's opening presented a flashback to young 8 year-old, aspiring singer Alice Graham (Mia Bendixsen) living in Monterey, CA in 1947, singing her version of Alice Faye's You'll Never Know (from 20th Century-Fox's Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943))
The Musical Opening - Transitioning to the Present
  • the opening scene transitioned abruptly to 27 years later (the year 1974), in Socorro, NM, now with middle-class housewife Alice Hyatt (Oscar-winning Ellen Burstyn) in her mid-30s, unhappily married to brutish and physically-abusive Coca-Cola truck driver Donald (Billy Green Bush); they had a precocious, ill-mannered, often-bratty 11 year-old son Tommy (Alfred Lutter)
  • the recently-widowed and quietly-despairing Alice (after her husband died in a vehicle accident at work) decided to sell her house and belongings, leave town and head toward her childhood home of Monterey, California to find work (where she had grown up and taken jobs as a bar singer, but then had abandoned her career when she married)
  • while in transit through the Southwest during the early summer, and staying in a cheap Phoenix, AZ hotel room, she was accompanied by her "whining" young son Tommy; after too many complaints about their situation and uprooting, she forced him to sit down and demanded that he write all of his "problems" - including things that were wrong with his life ("all the bad things"); she expressed her exasperation and frustrations to him: "I'm out there, spendin' too much money on clothes, tryin' to look like maybe I'm under 30 so that somebody will hire me, and you're sittin' in here, whining like an idiot. I will get a job, all right? I will get you to Monterey before your birthday. I will get you in school by September. I swear it! Shall I open a vein and sign it in blood? I'm sorry, Tommy. I know you're upset, too. You've been taken away from your home and your friends, and everything. When we get to Monterey, things will be better"
  • after a few failed attempts to audition as a younger-looking lounge singer in various seedy bars, she met up with a charming, 27 year-old philandering male named Ben Eberhart (Harvey Keitel) and slept with him, not realizing that the domineering husband was married to a financially-struggling wife named Rita (Lane Bradbury), with a child suffering from a serious medical condition; she fled from town when the profanity-spewing, violence-prone Ben physically assaulted and threatened Rita with a knife
  • in their next destination, Alice took a job in a greasy-spoon diner in Tucson, AZ known as Mel & Ruby's Cafe; there were scenes with Alice's fellow waitresses at the chaotic diner, owned and managed-owned by widowed, short order cook Mel Sharples (Vic Tayback): shy, incompetent and neurotically-loopy Vera Gorman (Valerie Curtin) and sassy, outspoken, hardened and foul-mouthed Florence "Flo" Castleberry (Oscar-nominated Diane Ladd); Alice soon became close friends with Flo
  • Alice reluctantly entered into a relationship with one of the customers, a calm-natured, divorced rancher named David (Kris Kristofferson) who played the guitar; meanwhile, Tommy took guitar lessons at a music school where he became friends with hardened, tomboyish Audrey (Jodie Foster) - the daughter of a prostitute (she claimed: "Mom turns tricks at the Ramada Inn from 3:00 pm on"), who introduced him to juvenile deliquency and bad habits (shoplifting, drinking cheap Ripple, and stealing guitar strings)
  • in one instance, Mel asked the accident-prone Flo where Vera was, and in an unexpected outburst, she responded with the vulgar: "She went to s--t, and the hogs ate her!" - spraying ketchup all over customers and herself
  • there was the frequent telling of dirty jokes between Flo and Mel:
    • Flo: "Mel, what you doin' back there, pulling on your puddin'? Or are you givin' it a whack with a hammer? I heard the only way you can get it up is to slam it in a door"
    • Mel: "I don't want to get too close to you, honey. It will get you all bothered up early in the morning"
    • Flo: "Man, I could lay under you, eat fried chicken and do a crossword puzzle at the same time. That's how much you bother me"
  • Flo and Alice sunbathed with Flo's hints about how to make more money by showing her cleavage: ("Honey, unbutton that top button. Yeah, if you bend over, that's how you get more tips when you're working")
  • during the celebration of Tommy's 12th birthday at David's ranch, the bratty adolescent began arguing with David and complaining about his love of country music; after David attempted to discipline the bratty Tommy by spanking him, Alice was offended and temporarily broke up with David
  • Tommy's bad behavior ultimately resulted in his detention in a juvenile hall for drunkenness (with Audrey), causing Alice to miss work; the next day when she couldn't fully function on the job, Flo engaged Alice in private girl-talk in the toilet stall; Alice described how she had always depended on men her whole life, and sometimes mistakenly thought that they cared for her; she was semi-reluctant to remarry or be in a serious relationship
  • in the busy restaurant, Alice and David argued with each other, but were able to work out their differences after fighting, and still express their love each other; they reconciled after David confessed that he loved her and offered to give up his ranch and move to Monterey with her and Tommy: "Pack yer bags. I'll take you to Monterey. I don't give a damn about that ranch"; Alice realized that she could fulfill her aspirations anywhere and fall in love with David, not just in Monterey

"I'm not gonna let anybody stop me this time..."

"Pack yer bags..."

Alice and Tommy Hugging
David's Reconciliation with Alice
  • at the end of the film as she walked down the street with Tommy, Alice divulged that she wouldn't be going on to Monterey, CA, but would stay in town to begin a new life with David: ("If I'm gonna be a singer, I could be a singer anywhere, right?"); to her surprise, Tommy admitted that he actually wanted to stay in Arizona - and that he liked David: "Yeah, I like him too, I just hate his taste in music. He always said you could fight with somebody and still like him"; as they hugged, a sign in front of them ironically read: “Monterey Dining Room"

Alice (Ellen Burstyn) with son Tommy (Alfred Lutter) in Arizona Hotel Room

Tommy Writing List of Problems

Ben (Harvey Keitel) Threatening Alice During His Extra-Marital Affair

Flo (Diane Ladd) in the Diner

Alice Working at Mel & Ruby's Cafe

Flo with Mel (Vic Tayback)

Alice Working with Flo

Tomboy Audrey (Jodie Foster) with Tommy

Flo and Alice Sunbathing

In a Toilet Stall


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