skip navigation
Remind Me
Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More,Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More


Wednesday March, 20 2019 at 10:00 PM

Films in BOLD will Air on TCM *  |   VIEW TCMDb ENTRY

Ellen Burstyn did not attend the Academy Awards to collect her Best Actress win for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. At the time, she was appearing on Broadway in the hit comedy Same Time, Next Year. Burstyn and Alan Alda appeared in the film version of that play in 1978. Martin Scorsese accepted Burstyn's Oscar®, naming the people she had asked him to thank, including himself.

Ellen Burstyn noted in a March 1975 interview that it "broke the house record for the first week at the Sutton Theater [in New York], and all the men who said it wouldn't work are eatin' crow."

The day after winning her award, Burstyn received a congratulatory phone call from Jackie Gleason. In her early days, as Erica Dean (one of her many stage names), she worked on his show as a "Glea Girl," a cast of pretty faces who introduced various segments of the program. "I haven't heard from him in 20 years," she told the New York Post's Earl Wilson. Gleason had also placed a call to Best Actor winner Art Carney. Burstyn later said she really wanted to win alongside Carney, having played his daughter in Harry and Tonto (1974), the film for which he won his award and which she made just prior to Alice.

Burstyn's Oscar® was delivered to her in a liquor box by Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau at the stage door of the Broadway theater where she was working. She asked Matthau what an Oscar® really meant, and he told her, "Let's put it this way, Ellen. When you die, the newspapers will say, 'The Academy Award-winning actress Ellen Burstyn died today.'"

"I'm still not entirely happy about the ending, but we don't say definitely they're getting married. We say that whatever they do will have to include Alice's aspirations. I think any way we ended it would have been partly unsatisfactory because this movie is about something we're all going through right now, and nobody knows how it's all going to end." - Ellen Burstyn, interview with Joan Barthel, New York Times, March 2, 1975

In her autobiography, Lessons in Becoming Myself (Riverhead, 2006), Ellen Burstyn lamented not taking producer credit for the project she found and brought to the studio, and for which she hired the director. "If I'd been executive producer, I would have been part of the deal when it was sold as a television series and had a piece of what John Calley told me were the 'mega millions' Warner Bros. made."

The opening sequence of Alice as a little girl in Monterey was the last footage to be shot on the old Columbia sound stages on Gower Street in Hollywood.

Martin Scorsese felt that editing down the movie from more than three hours to less than two made the story very simplistic, whereas the longer version "was quite three-dimensional."

The opening fantasy flashback sequence, of which Scorsese was particularly proud and excited, actually drew the most negative reaction from reviewers.

"To tell you the truth, the reviews that praise Alice as a feminist picture couldn't have surprised me more. I don't like to think of it as a woman's picture, but as a human picture--if that doesn't sound too corny." - Martin Scorsese, quoted in Hollywood Renaissance by Diane Jacobs (Gazelle Book Services, 1977)

Scorsese, whose astrological sign is Scorpio, borrowed the scorpion necklace Harvey Keitel wore in the movie and wore it on set during production. He later said it was for him a symbol of the anger he was suppressing while making the film. Scorsese also said the production was "a kind of therapy for me."

While he was finishing work on Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Scorsese was also working on his documentary Italianamerican (1974) about his parents. Observers noted that the relationship between Scorsese and his mother in that film echoed the give-and-take between Alice and Tommy in this one.

Although he had received much attention and critical praise for Mean Streets (1973), Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore made Scorsese a bankable director and helped him get the backing he needed for his next film, Taxi Driver (1976).

The TV series based on Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore featured Polly Holliday as Flo, the character created by Diane Ladd in the movie. When Flo was spun off into her own series, Ladd joined the cast as Belle. She left after a couple of dozen episodes and a new character, Jolene, was added to replace her. The part was played by Celia Weston.

Vic Tayback as diner owner Mel was the only member of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore cast to play in the television series adaptation.

Alfred Lutter III reprised his role as Tommy in the pilot for the TV show, but when it was picked up for a full series run, Philip McKeon was cast. Lutter made only a few other movies, including portraying Woody Allen's character as a child in Love and Death (1975) and one of the players in The Bad News Bears (1976) and its 1977 sequel. He also made a few television appearances before retiring from acting at the age of fifteen.

Diane Ladd's seven-year-old daughter Laura Dern made her second screen appearance in this picture, uncredited as the little girl eating an ice cream cone at the counter in the final diner scene. Her next picture was the teen drama Foxes (1980) starring Alice cast member Jodie Foster.

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore was the feature film debut of Valerie Curtin as diner waitress Vera. She went on to become a screenwriter. Her credits include Inside Moves (1980), Best Friends (1982), Toys (1992), and a 1975 episode of Mary Tyler Moore Show. She was married to director Barry Levinson from 1975 to 1982.

Ellen Burstyn's good friend from the Actor's Studio, Lelia Goldoni, played Bea, Alice's friend from Socorro. Goldoni was the star of John Cassavetes directorial debut, Shadows (1959).

by Rob Nixon


ALICE (Ellen Burstyn): "How are we supposed to have a meaningful family relationship if he's always on the verge of killing you?"

ALICE: "I'm an okay sorta person. How'd I get such a smart-ass kid?"
TOMMY: (Alfred Lutter III): "You got pregnant."

ALICE: (after singing) "It ain't Peggy Lee."

TOMMY: "Mom, are we in Arizona yet?"
ALICE: "If you ask me that one more time, I'm gonna beat you to death. Just sit back there and relax and enjoy life, huh?"
TOMMY: "Life is short."
ALICE: "So are you."

CHICKEN (Dean Casper): "Would you mind turning around for me?"
ALICE: "Turn around? Why?"
CHICKEN: "I wanna look at ya."
ALICE: "Well, look at my face, I don't sing with my ass."

ALICE: "You're a very weird kid."

BEN (Harvey Keitel): "Hiya, Hyatt."
ALICE: "Oh, please."
BEN: "I bet a lotta guys pull that on you."
ALICE: "Yeah, but most of them are under 12."

FLO (Diane Ladd): "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: "You kiss me where the sun don't shine."

FLO: "My old man, he ain't talked to me since the day Kennedy got shot."
ALICE: "Why? Did he think you had something to do with it?"

AUDREY (Jodie Foster): "Tucson is the weird capital of the world. Weird."

ALICE: "I know what I'm doing!"
DAVID (Kris Kristofferson): "Yeah, you do. That's why you can't make up your mind about your kid, your job, Monterey, or me."

DAVID: "Who's stoppin' ya? ... Pack your bags, I'll take you to Monterey. ... I don't give a damn about that ranch."

ALICE: (hugging Tommy tightly) "My boy."
TOMMY: "Mom, I can't breathe."

Compiled by Rob Nixon



Also Playing on TCM

Also playing
Scorsese Screens for February
An exclusive monthly column

In partnership with The Film Foundation, Turner Classic Movies is proud to bring you this exclusive monthly column by iconic film...more

TCM Shopping
  • Wuthering Heights
  • The acclaimed masterpiece based on Emily... more info
  • $11.21
  • Regularly $14.98
  • Add to cart