Fried Green Tomatoes

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Fried Green Tomatoes
Fried Green Tomatoes (poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jon Avnet
Produced by Jon Avnet
Norman Lear
Screenplay by Fannie Flagg
Carol Sobieski
Jon Avnet (uncredited)
Based on Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe 
by Fannie Flagg
Starring Kathy Bates
Jessica Tandy
Mary Stuart Masterson
Mary-Louise Parker
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography Geoffrey Simpson
Edited by Debra Neil-Fisher
Production
company
Act III Communications
Fried Green Tomatoes Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • December 27, 1991 (1991-12-27)
Running time 136 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $11 million[1]
Box office $119,418,501

Fried Green Tomatoes is a 1991 comedy-drama film based on the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Directed by Jon Avnet and written by Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski, it stars Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Mary-Louise Parker. It tells the story of a Depression-era friendship between two women, Ruth and Idgie, and a 1980s friendship between Evelyn, a middle-aged housewife, and Ninny, an elderly woman who knew Ruth and Idgie. The centerpiece and parallel story concerns the murder of Ruth's abusive husband and the accusations that follow.

The film received a generally positive reception from film critics and was nominated for two Academy Awards. The filmmakers drew criticism from some reviewers for removing the lesbian content of the book's plot, but the film won a GLAAD Media Award for "best lesbian content".

Plot[edit]

Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates), a timid, unhappy housewife in her forties, meets elderly Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) in a Birmingham, Alabama, nursing home. Ninny, over several encounters with Evelyn, tells her the story of the now-abandoned town of Whistle Stop, Alabama, and the people who lived there. The film's subplot concerns Evelyn's dissatisfaction with her marriage and her life, her growing confidence, and her developing friendship with Ninny. The narrative switches several times between Ninny's story, which is set between World War I and World War II, and Evelyn's life in 1980s Birmingham.

Ninny's story begins with tomboy Imogene "Idgie" Threadgoode (Mary Stuart Masterson), the youngest of the Threadgoode children, whom Ninny describes as her sister-in-law. Idgie's close relationship with her charming older brother Buddy (Chris O'Donnell) is cut short when he is hit by a train and killed. Devastated, Idgie recedes from formal society for much of her childhood and adolescence until Buddy's former girlfriend, the straitlaced Ruth Jamison (Mary-Louise Parker), intervenes at the request of the concerned Threadgoode family.

Idgie initially resists Ruth's attempts at friendship, but then gradually allows a deep attachment to develop. Ruth leaves Whistle Stop to marry Frank Bennett (Nick Searcy) and moves to Valdosta, Georgia. Idgie is upset at losing her friend and struggles to forget her. After some time she visits Ruth, now pregnant and suffering from physical abuse from Frank. Against Frank's wishes, Ruth returns to Whistle Stop with Idgie, where her child, named Buddy Jr., is born. Papa Threadgoode gives Idgie money to start a business so she can care for Ruth and Buddy Jr. Ruth and Idgie open the Whistle Stop Cafe, employing cook Sipsey (Cicely Tyson) and her son Big George (Stan Shaw), who makes a barbecue that quickly becomes popular with their patrons.

Frank Bennett eventually returns to Whistle Stop in an attempt to kidnap Buddy Jr., but is thwarted by an unseen assailant. Frank goes missing and his truck is later found at the bottom of a nearby lake. Idgie is immediately a suspect, as she had publicly threatened violence against him for beating Ruth. She is arrested along with Big George for Frank's murder. The local sheriff offers to release her and pin the crime solely on Big George, but Idgie refuses to sacrifice her friend. During the subsequent trial, the local minister lies, providing Idgie and Big George with an alibi for the time of Frank's disappearance. Taking into account Frank's reputation for getting drunk, the judge rules his death an accident. Idgie and Big George are cleared of all charges.

After the trial, Ruth develops cancer and dies. Following her death, the café closes. Over time, many Whistle Stop residents eventually move away, bringing Ninny to the end of her story, but not before the revelation of what really happened to Frank: Sipsey had killed Frank (with a blow to the head from a cast-iron skillet) while trying to stop him from kidnapping Buddy Jr. Big George then barbecued Frank's body and served it to the Georgia sheriff searching for Frank.

Evelyn discovers that during Ninny's temporary stay at the nursing home, Ninny's house was condemned and torn down. Evelyn, having become good friends with Ninny, offers her a room in her home which Ninny accepts. As the two friends walk away from Ninny's former home, they pass Ruth's grave, freshly adorned with a jar of honey and honeycomb and a card which reads "I will always Love You. The Bee Charmer", Ruth's old nickname for Idgie.

Cast[edit]

Differences between the film and novel[edit]

Unlike the novel, the film does not make the lesbian romance between the two central characters explicit, instead making the relationship between Idgie and Ruth ambiguous.[2] The DVD contains an audio commentary in which the director acknowledges the relationship and points out that a scene between the two women engaging in a food fight was intended to be seen as symbolic love-making. At the time of the film's debut, it was criticized by reviewers and activists for what was seen as "glossing over" the lesbian relationship.[2][3] However, the film won an award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for best feature film with lesbian content.[4] The film does deal head-on with the issue of prejudice, just not in sexuality. For example, the film shows examples, more so than the novel, of discrimination against African Americans, women and the disabled, but the novel's examination of sexuality-based prejudice through a robust lesbian plot, is made more ambiguous, to the point where the film seems to address not homophobia, but non-conforming, liberal-minded tom girls.[5]

Production[edit]

Conception and casting[edit]

Avnet first read Fannie Flagg's novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe in 1987.[6] He was introduced to it by producer Lisa Lindstrom, with whom he worked on television films Heat Wave and Breaking Point. Although he wanted her to give him a synopsis of the story, she insisted he read the book and like her, he loved it.[7] He decided to turn the story into a film and pitched the idea to Norman Lear's company, Act III Communications, who were interested and gave Avnet a small budget for a screenwriter.[7] He hired Carol Sobieski who had written the screenplay for 1982's Annie. She wrote a draft for Fried Green Tomatoes as a musical, which Avnet was unhappy with.[7] Sobieski left the project and he hired Fannie Flagg. Flagg, who had been surprised that anyone would want to turn the novel into a film, worked to develop the script. Although she had some screenwriting experience, she found the process of turning her own novel into a script a strange one. The job was made somewhat easier by the work done by Sobieski and Avnet in choosing which characters from the book were going to be featured, but she found it difficult. She too left the project, after writing 70 pages of the screenplay.[7] With no money left to hire another writer, Avnet took the script over himself and spent the next 2–3 years developing it. Flagg gave her blessing to the final draft.[7]

Avnet wrote the film with Jessica Tandy in mind; she expressed excitement about making the film.[7] He had worked with Kathy Bates and Chris O'Donnell on the 1990 film Men Don't Leave before offering them the roles of Evelyn Couch and Buddy Threadgoode respectively.[6] When Bates read the script she loved the characters and was particularly keen to work with Tandy.[6] Mary-Louise Parker was casting director David Rubin's first choice for the role of Ruth Jamison. She read for the part several times, initially unhappy with her own tests. When she read along with Mary Stuart Masterson, they—and the producers—agreed that they had good chemistry.

Setting[edit]

Inside the Whistle Stop Cafe, Juliette, GA

Avnet hired Barbara Ling as production designer. Scouting for a location, she found Juliette in Monroe County, Georgia, a town that was, according to Avnet, nearly deserted.[7][8] The building chosen to be the Whistle Stop Café was formerly an antiques and hardware store. It was redesigned as a cafe, with a horse-shoe shaped counter to allow for optimal camera angles.[7] After the release of the film, Juliette saw an influx of tourists and, with Jon Avnet's encouragement, locals opened The Whistle Stop Café, recreated to mirror the film set.[9] Although "Whistle Stop Café" is now a registered trademark, other establishments have appeared using that name.[10]

When writing the novel, Flagg based Whistle Stop on Irondale, Alabama, and the café on a real-life restaurant, the Irondale Café.[8] She was a frequent visitor to the café which was formerly owned by her great-aunt.[11]

The scene where Idgie goes to collect honey from a beehive for Ruth was originally intended to be performed by a stunt performer. However, after the stunt double backed out at the last minute, Masterson volunteered to do it herself. This footage of Masterson covered in a swarm of live bees is seen in the final version of the film.[6]

The steam locomotive used in the film is A&WP 290 then in use pulling steam excursions for the New Georgia Railroad.

Release[edit]

The film was given a limited release in the US on December 27, 1991, opening in five theaters.[12] It got a wide release four weeks later on January 24, 1992, in 673 theaters. It ran for 19 weeks in total, with its widest release having been 1,331 theaters.[12]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed a total of $82,418,501 in the United States alone, and took in $37,000,000 outside the US, bringing the total to $119,418,501 worldwide.[12] In its opening weekend it earned $105,317, and at its wide release opening weekend it earned $5,235,940, which was 6.4 percent of its total gross.[12] According to Box Office Mojo, it ranked at #11 for all films released in the US in 1991, and #5 for PG-13 rated films released that year.[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

Fried Green Tomatoes was generally well received by critics. Film review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a "fresh" score of 73 percent based on 41 reviews.[13]

Critics enjoyed the narrative, but found it conventional and predictable.[3][14] The adaptation of the separate narrative of book to the screen was criticised by Time Out as "clumsy"; Roger Ebert agreed saying that the flashback device did not work.[14][15] Writing for The New York Times, Janet Maslin praised the costume and production design and Emanuel Levy praised the cinematography and score.[3][16] The cast drew praise for their performances, particularly Masterson and Tandy.[3][16]

Awards and honors[edit]

The film was nominated at the 64th Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jessica Tandy) and for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski).[17] At the 46th British Academy Film Awards in 1992, Tandy was nominated for the Best Actress award, and Bates was nominated as Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Both actresses also received Golden Globe nominations for their work, and the film got a Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) nomination.[17] At the 28th Guldbagge Awards in Sweden, the film was nominated for the Best Foreign Film award.[18]

American Film Institute recognition:

Soundtrack[edit]

Fried Green Tomatoes
Studio album by Various Artists
Released December 31, 1991
Genre Soundtrack
Length 39:24
Label MCA

Fried Green Tomatoes: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the soundtrack to the 1991 Academy Award-nominated film Fried Green Tomatoes. For the original score of the same film, composed by Thomas Newman, see Fried Green Tomatoes (score).

Track listing[edit]

  1. "I'll Remember You" (Grayson Hugh) — 5:08
  2. "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" (Paul Young) — 4:34
  3. "Cherish" (Hip Hop Version) (Jodeci) — 3:58
  4. "Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead" (Taylor Dayne) — 3:20
  5. "Rooster Blues" (Peter Wolf) — 3:15
  6. "Barbeque Bess" (Patti LaBelle) — 2:54
  7. "If I Can Help Somebody" (Aaron Hall) — 3:49
  8. "Cool Down Yonder" (Marion Williams) — 3:10
  9. "Cherish" (Movie Version) (Jodeci) — 2:29
  10. "Ghost Train" (Main Title) (Thomas Newman) — 3:11
  11. "Visiting Ruth" (Newman) — 1:46
  12. "A Charge To Keep I Have" (Newman) — 1:50


References[edit]

  1. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1992-02-10/entertainment/ca-1330_1_fried-green-tomatoes
  2. ^ a b Rockler, Naomi R. (March 22, 2001), "A Wall on the Lesbian Continuum: Polysemy and Fried Green Tomatoes", Women's Studies in Communication 24, retrieved June 15, 2009 
  3. ^ a b c d Levy, Emanuel (January 6, 2006), Fried Green Tomatoes, Emanuel Levy, retrieved June 15, 2009 
  4. ^ Pryor, Kelli; Sharon Isaak (February 28, 1992), "Women in Love", Entertainment Weekly (Time Inc.), retrieved February 9, 2010 
  5. ^ Vickers, Lu (June 1994), "Fried Green Tomatoes Excuse me, did we see the same movie?", Jump Cut 39: 25–30, retrieved February 12, 2012 
  6. ^ a b c d Avnet, Jon (1998), Director's Commentary (DVD), Universal Studios 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Kenny, J. M. (director) (December 15, 1998), Moments of Discovery: The Making of Fried Green Tomatoes (DVD), Universal Studios Home Video, retrieved April 4, 2010 
  8. ^ a b Park, Irby (May 7, 2003), "Fannie Flagg Captivates Audience at City Book Event", The Chattanoogan, retrieved December 28, 2009 
  9. ^ "Little Town Where Movie was Made Finally Gets Café, Fried Tomatoes", Rome News-Tribune, April 13, 1992, retrieved December 28, 2009 
  10. ^ Zganjar, Leslie (November 1, 2002), "The Whistle Stop name is just too popular", Birmingham Business Journal, retrieved December 28, 2009 
  11. ^ Nolan, Michael (October 20, 2002), "Fried Green Tomatoes At The Irondale Cafe", American Profile, retrieved December 28, 2009 
  12. ^ a b c d Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Box Office Mojo, retrieved April 5, 2008 
  13. ^ Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Rotten Tomatoes, retrieved April 11, 2008 
  14. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (January 10, 1992), "Fried Green Tomatoes", Chicago Sun-Times (Sun-Times Media Group), retrieved December 28, 2009 
  15. ^ CM, "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café (1991)", Time Out, retrieved December 28, 2009 
  16. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (December 27, 1991), "Women Finding Strength In Women", The New York Times (The New York Times Company), retrieved December 28, 2009 
  17. ^ a b "Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) Awards", The New York Times (The New York Times Company), retrieved June 19, 2009 
  18. ^ "Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)". Swedish Film Institute. 22 March 2014. 
  19. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
  20. ^ http://www.afi.com/Docs/100Years/cheers300.pdf

External links[edit]