Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore was Martin Scorcese’s second film after the decade-defining success of Mean Streets. It remains his first and only film with a female lead and perhaps subsequently, one of his least violent and least well-known films. It also happens to be one of his most humorous, emotionally nuanced, and romantic. When it was released, many dismissed it as a “woman’s film,” a genre that unjustly connoted all the fluffiness and inferiority that romantic comedies do today, but it nonetheless gained acclaim for its brilliant performances, simple story, and the burgeoning auterist flourishes of Mr. Scorcese.
After the death of her husband, Alice, played by Ellen Burstyn, takes off with her son Tommy with the hopes of relocating to her hometown of Monterey, California. When their funds run dangerously low, Alice is forced to stop in Arizona for work. She gets a job as a lounge singer in a dive bar in Phoenix but an abusive relationship with the owner quickly forces her to continue on to Tucson and accept a job as a waitress at a diner called Mel and Ruby’s Bar-B-Q. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore brilliantly brings to life the colorful comings and goings of the diner and the daily joys and hassles of the women who work there. Though Alice eventually falls in love with one of her customers, a rancher played by Kris Kristopherson, the most memorable part of the film for me is its portrayal of the relationship between the three waitresses. The scenes were filmed in an actual diner in Tucson, located on Main Street, but it has since been closed.
When Jimmy Conway (Robert DeNiro) and Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) need a secure location to meet for an important conversation, they chose, as Henry says in his narration, a “crowded place both of us knew.” Of course, this just so happens to be a diner. In countless films, diners serve as safe spaces for characters to meet up and discuss sensitive information and hatch various illicit schemes, even if they involve murder. This scene, in which Jimmy first asks Henry to do a hit job, was filmed at the Clinton Diner on Maspeth Avenue in Queens. Earlier in the film, Henry and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) meet in front of the Airline Diner near the ‘Idlewood Airport.” Though the diner, located on Astoria Avenue at 70th in Queens, has since been absorbed by the Jackson Hole chain, it thankfully still retains the classic neon sign and its original pink and chrome interior.
The 1985 dark comedy film After Hours is usually classified as minor Scorsese. Though it might not be as groundbreaking or memorable as Scorsese’s previous 10 years of filmmaking, After Hours has gained respect and cult-status over the years and, along with its predecessor, King of Comedy, is a much-watch for any film buff. After the reserved, yuppie word processer Paul Hackett (played by Griffin Dune) finds himself stranded and penniless in SoHo, he spends a surreal night roaming haplessly through the streets of lower Manhattan in search of safe haven. His nocturnal odyssey takes him to a sculptor’s loft, a dingy pub, a punk nightclub, and of course, a 24-hour diner. With its elongated, stainless steel exterior, neon signage, formica tables, and red leather seating, the diner is as classic as any you’ll find in New York City. Paul returns to the River Diner at 452 11th Avenue several times throughout the evening but unfortunately, the diner was recently demolished and we can no longer do the same.