Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “Alice’s Restaurant” (1969):
There are not that many real hippie movies. “Easy Rider” sure wasn’t one, and “Hair” was ten years too late. There are not many Thanksgiving movies either. Only “Home for the Holidays” comes to mind. If there ever was a Thanksgiving hippie movie, this is it. It takes place in the mid-sixties.
Some movies have grand themes. Like love and war and power. Other movies have not-so-grand themes. “Alice’s Restaurant” is one of those not-so-grand theme movies. It is about taking out the garbage, a subject which I have some knowledge about. Who would believe you could get arrested for taking out the garbage?
In case you are wondering, “Alice’s Restaurant” takes its title from a song done by Arlo Guthrie called “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre”. He’s the son of Woody Guthrie. Woody was the Okie who hoboed around the country, writing and singing about the country he was hoboing around. He wrote lots of songs about his experiences, songs like “This Land is Your Land”. Woody had Huntington’s disease and is in the hospital when this movie takes place. But the movie is not about Woody. It’s about Arlo’s adventures. Arlo plays Arlo.
The movie starts in the Midwest where Arlo is going to college to get out of the draft. He gets in trouble for making folk music in his music class. He gets in trouble for having long hair. After getting kicked out of school and run out of town, Arlo heads east where he makes a brief stopover to see Woody. Then he makes it to Stockbridge, Massachusetts to stay with his friends, Alcie (Patricia Quinn) and Ray (James Broderick, Matthew Broderick’s father). They live in a church. Alice has a restaurant in the town.
Well, this is where the movie gets real interesting. There’s a Thanksgiving dinner at the church. At the end of the feast, there is a ton of garbage. Arlo, being the friendly sort of fellow, volunteers to take out the garbage in his van. Now you’d think taking out the garbage would not be something that could get a person arrested. But that’s exactly what happens. It gets Arlo arrested. As folks say, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
Not only did this movie have Arlo, it also introduced Joni Mitchell to the world with her song, “Songs to Aging Children Come”. Pete Seeger and Lee Hays from The Weavers do a cameo performance and Officer Obie plays hisself. Directed by Arthur Penn (the same Arthur Penn who directed “Bonnie and Clyde”), “Alice’s Restaurant” was released shortly after Woodstock. Finally we had a movie that done us proud. It told the truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me Arlo.