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Film / Alice's Restaurant

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Alice's Restaurant is a 1969 comedy-drama film directed by Arthur Penn (his follow-up to Bonnie and Clyde) and inspired by the title song of the Arlo Guthrie album Alice's Restaurant. (The song itself is officially named "The Alice's Restaurant Massacree", but is frequently also called "Alice's Restaurant".)

The film, like the song, is loosely autobiographical. Arlo Guthrie stars as himself.


Alice's Restaurant (the film) provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Eighteen minutes is long for a song but short for a film, so the film version adds additional incidents drawn from the same period in Arlo Guthrie's life.
  • As Himself: Officer Obie.
  • Autobiographical Role: Arlo Guthrie plays himself. Stockbridge police chief William Obanhein ("Officer Obie") plays himself, reportedly on the basis that making himself look like a fool was preferable to having somebody else make him look like a fool. Folk singer Pete Seeger plays himself. Actually, the whole town of Stockbridge (more or less) played themselves.
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  • Bait-and-Switch: Arlo is denied entry into the army, not because of the littering incident as he thought...but because of his long hair.
    Sargent: Kid, we don't like your kind.
  • Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: At the physical, a doctor comes in with a stethoscope.
    Doctor: Turn Your Head and Cough...Turn your head and cough...Turn your head and cough...(Arlo's turn) Turn your hat and cough...
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The movie recounts about all the events of "The Alice's Restaurant Massacree", but the true emphasis is on the miserable marriage of Alice and her alcoholic husband.
  • Composite Character: Roger Crowther is a combination of two of Guthrie's real life buddies: Rick Robbins (his actual accomplice for the garbage incident), and the character's portrayer, Geoff Outlaw.
  • Compressed Hair: Arlo's long hippie locks concealed under his hat when hitching a ride with the redneck truck driver. At the reveal, the truck driver's reaction is very much Please Keep Your Hat On.
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  • Commune: The church
  • The Film of the Song
  • Hippie Van: Arlo's VW microbus
  • Holy Ground: Alice and Ray live in a former church, which was in the process deconsecration when we first meet them.
  • Listing the Forms of Degenerates: In both the film and the song, Arlo Guthrie presents a list of the people he met in prison: "mother rapers... father stabbers... father rapers" before reminding the audience that he was simply there for littering.
  • Messy Hair: This being The '60s, Arlo's hair got him kicked out of institutions and picked on by local authorities. But it did save him from the draft, though.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: "Amazing Grace" gets tossed around a lot in this one.
  • Real Men Have Short Hair: Arlo gets assaulted in a restaurant and pushed out through the window pane due to his long hair. The police arrest him instead of the perpetrators. He keeps his hair under his hat when hitching a ride in a truck. On entering, he lets his hair out, and the driver gives him a look of surprise and possibly also of regret that he had picked him up.
  • Real Person Cameo: The real Alice appears in a couple of crowd scenes.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The bare outlines of the film are fact-based (Arlo Guthrie going to Montana and then heading back east to visit his old friends Alice and Raynote , who lived in an old church, only to get caught littering and then having to deal with the draft board, while Alice opens a restaurant), but it's largely fictionalized beyond that, to the extent that Alice Brock wasn't entirely comfortable with the final results.

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