Bagdad Cafe

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Bagdad Cafe
Bagdad cafe ver1.jpg
French-language film poster
Directed byPercy Adlon
Written by
  • Eleonore Adlon
  • Percy Adlon
Produced by
  • Eleonore Adlon
  • Percy Adlon
CinematographyBernd Heinl
Edited byNorbert Herzner  [de]
Music byBob Telson
  • Bayerischer Rundfunk
  • Hessischer Rundfunk
  • Pelemele Film
  • Pro-ject Filmproduktion
Distributed byIsland Pictures
Release dates
  • 12 November 1987 (1987-11-12) (Europe)
  • 22 April 1988 (1988-04-22) (U.S.)
Running time
108 minutes (German)
95 minutes (U.S.)
CountryWest Germany
  • English
  • German

Bagdad Cafe (sometimes Bagdad Café, titled Out of Rosenheim in Germany) is a 1987 English-language West German film directed by Percy Adlon. It is a comedy-drama set in a remote truck stop and motel in the Mojave Desert in the U.S. state of California.[1] Inspired by Carson McCullers' novella The Ballad of the Sad Café (1951),[2] the film centers on two women who have recently separated from their husbands, and the blossoming friendship that ensues. It runs 95 minutes in the U.S. and 108 minutes in the German version.


German tourists Jasmin Münchgstettner (Sägebrecht) from Rosenheim and her husband fight while driving across the desert. She storms out of the car and makes her way to the isolated truck stop, which is run by the tough-as-nails and short-tempered Brenda (Pounder), whose own husband, after an argument out front, is soon to leave as well. Jasmin takes a room at the adjacent motel. Initially suspicious of the foreigner, Brenda eventually befriends Jasmin and allows her to work at the cafe.

The cafe is visited by an assortment of colorful characters, including a strange ex-Hollywood set-painter (Palance) and a glamorous tattoo artist (Kaufmann). Brenda's son (Darron Flagg) plays J. S. Bach preludes on the piano. With an ability to quietly empathize with everyone she meets at the cafe, helped by a passion for cleaning and performing magic tricks, Jasmin gradually transforms the cafe and all the people in it.



The script was inspired by a road trip across U.S. Route 66 taken by director Percy Adlon and his wife Eleanor, a producer, in 1984.[3] The town of Barstow, California reminded the couple of "purgatory".[4] The film was shot in sequence.[3]


The film received positive reviews and critical acclaim.[5][6][7] It holds an 85% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 20 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.8/10.[8]

Roger Ebert awarded the film 3 and ½ stars in his review:

"[Percy Adlon] is saying something in this movie about Europe and America, about the old and the new, about the edge of the desert as the edge of the American Dream. I am not sure exactly what it is, but that is comforting; if a director could assemble these strange characters and then know for sure what they were doing in the same movie together, he would be too confident to find the humor in their situation. The charm of "Bagdad Cafe" is that every character and every moment is unanticipated, obscurely motivated, of uncertain meaning and vibrating with life".[7]

The film was successful at the European box office, and was one of the most financially successful foreign-language productions in the U.S. at that time, grossing $3.59 million.[9][10][11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Television series[edit]

In 1990 the film was re-created as a television series starring James Gammon, Whoopi Goldberg, Cleavon Little, and Jean Stapleton, with Stapleton as the abandoned tourist, and Goldberg as the restaurant operator. In the TV version the tourist was no longer from Germany. The series was shot in the conventional multi-camera sitcom format, before a studio audience.[15] The show did not attract a sizable audience and it was cancelled after two seasons.[16]


Bagdad Cafe, Newberry Springs (Location on Google Maps).

The setting, Bagdad, California, is a former town on U.S. Route 66. After being bypassed by Interstate 40 in 1973, it was abandoned and eventually razed.[17] While the town had a "Bagdad Cafe", the film was shot at the then Sidewinder Cafe in Newberry Springs, 50 miles (80 km) west of the site of Bagdad. The cafe has become something of a tourist destination; to capitalize on the film, it changed its name to Bagdad Cafe.[18] A small noticeboard on the cafe wall features snapshots of the film's cast and crew.


The soundtrack features the songs "Calling You", written by Bob Telson and sung by Jevetta Steele, and "Brenda, Brenda" with lyrics by Lee Breuer and music by Bob Telson, sung by Jearlyn Steele, featuring the harmonica of William Galison, and also has a track in which the director narrates the story, including the film's missing scenes.[19]

The principal piano pieces, performed by Darron Flagg, are preludes from Book I of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier: the C major, no. 1, BWV 845; the C major, BWV 846, no. 2; and the D major, no. 5, BWV 850.

Home media[edit]

For the film's 30th anniversary in 2018, StudioCanal reissued Bagdad Cafe as a 4K digital restoration on DVD and Blu-ray.[20] In April 2021, Shout! Factory re-released the film digitally.[13]


  1. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (25 May 1995). "Percy Adlon's Trek to 'Bagdad Cafe' – Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  2. ^ "Bagdad Cafe: Calling You". Archived from the original on 24 February 2020. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  3. ^ a b "How we made Bagdad Café". The Guardian. 28 August 2018. Retrieved 19 April 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Kempley, Rita (6 May 1988). "Bagdad Cafe". The Washington Post. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  5. ^ Thomas, Kevin (23 June 1988). "MOVIE REVIEW: 'Bagdad Cafe' Serves Endearing and Quirky Version of America – Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  6. ^ Maslin, Janet (22 April 1988). "Review/Film; Exotic U.S. In Bavarian Perspective". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  7. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (9 September 1988). "Bagdad Cafe movie review". Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  8. ^ "Bagdad Cafe", Rotten Tomatoes, retrieved 20 January 2022
  9. ^ Bagdad Cafe Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
  10. ^ Klady, Leonard (8 January 1989). "Box Office Champs, Chumps: The hero of the bottom line was the 46-year-old 'Bambi' – Page 2 – Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  11. ^ a b Haase, Christine (2007). When Heimat Meets Hollywood: German Filmmakers and America, 1985-2005. Camden House. p. 159. ISBN 9781571132796.
  12. ^ "Out of Rosenheim (1987)". Swedish Film Institute. 15 March 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-04-11.
  13. ^ a b c d e "Shout! Factory Reissues 'Bagdad Cafe' on Digital Platforms". Media Play News. 19 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  14. ^ "1989 Artios Awards". Casting Society of America. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  15. ^ Tucker, Ken (30 March 1990). "Bagdad Cafe". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  16. ^ Harris, Mark (21 December 1990). "Goodbye to Bagdad Cafe". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  17. ^ "Amboy Area & the Mojave Desert". Archived from the original on 5 April 2004. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  18. ^ "Bagdad Cafe". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  19. ^ "Bagdad Café [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] - Original Soundtrack | Songs, Reviews, Credits", AllMusic, retrieved 19 April 2022
  20. ^ StudioCanal: 30th Anniversary 4K Restoration of Bagdad Cafe Detailed for Blu-ray, 30 June 2018, retrieved 19 April 2022

External links[edit]