On the heels of her success in The Exorcist (1973), Ellen Burstyn had unprecedented control over this dramedy about a widow seeking a singing career who’s sidetracked by a job waiting tables in Tucson. In addition to wanting a role that dealt with women’s real-life problems, she wanted to work with an exciting new director and chose Martin Scorsese, then at the start of his career. He wisely surrounded himself with strong, accomplished women on the production team, including producer Audrey Maas and editor Marcia Lucas, for what would be his first big studio film. On its initial release, the film generated controversy over whether it was truly a feminist picture, particularly since Alice eventually finds a gentle, caring boyfriend played by Kris Kristofferson. Later audiences have embraced its warm, sometimes witty and always gritty take on the struggles of a woman who unexpectedly has dependence thrust upon her. Burstyn played the part with such honesty it brought her an Oscar. It didn’t hurt that Scorsese directed expertly and assembled a top-notch cast including Diane Ladd, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel and Vic Tayback.
Dir. Martin Scorsese
In attendance: Allison Anders