White Palace (film)

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White Palace
White palace movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Luis Mandoki
Produced by Griffin Dunne
Amy Robinson
Mark Rosenberg
Screenplay by Ted Tally
Alvin Sargent
Based on White Palace 
by Glenn Savan
Starring Susan Sarandon
James Spader
Jason Alexander
Kathy Bates
Eileen Brennan
Steven Hill
Rachel Chagall
Corey Parker
Renee Taylor
Jonathan Penner
Barbara Howard
Kim Myers
Mitzi McCall
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography Lajos Koltai
Edited by Carol Fisher
Carol Littleton
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
October 19, 1990 (1990-10-19)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $17,487,531

White Palace is a 1990 American romantic drama film directed by Luis Mandoki and starring Susan Sarandon, James Spader, Jason Alexander, Kathy Bates, Steven Hill, Jeremy Piven, and Renee Taylor. It was written by Ted Tally and Alvin Sargent, based on an homonymous novel by Glenn Savan (who appears in the film as an extra with a small speaking part).

It centers on the unlikely relationship between a young middle class widower (Spader) who falls in love with a middle-aged working class waitress (Sarandon) in St. Louis, Missouri. The original music score was composed by George Fenton. The film is marketed with the tagline "The story of a younger man and a bolder woman".


27-year-old St. Louis advertising executive, Max Baron (James Spader), has completely shut himself off from the world in the two years since the auto accident that killed his wife Janey (Maria Pitillo). On the way to the bachelor party of his friend, Neil (Jason Alexander), he picks up 50 burgers from a diner called White Palace. At the party, he discovers that the order is six burgers short and, to the ridicule of his friends, returns to the restaurant to complain. In a moment that defines his initial character, Max declares, "It's the principle." He is roundly mocked by his cohorts who make it clear that they favor money over principle.

Enter, seeing Max park at the White Palace establishment.

Following a heated exchange with 43-year-old waitress, Nora Baker (Susan Sarandon), Max gets his refund and returns to the party. He later leaves the party upset and heads to a bar, where he runs into Nora. Drunk, she makes a play for him, but he declines and starts to leave. She senses he's upset, asks why, and discovers his wife was killed. She discloses she lost her young son to leukemia. The 'connection' prevents him from leaving. They have a few drinks, and he gives her a lift home, but crashes his car into her mailbox because he is drunk. She invites him to spend the night at her house, sleeping on the couch. As Max has a dream about his wife, he wakes up to find Nora performing fellatio on him; they sleep together.

After visiting his wife's grave on the second anniversary of her death, Max returns to the White Palace to see Nora, but misses her. He visits her at home with the pretext of replacing the mailbox, but instead they begin a relationship. Max becomes more open and relaxed, but reluctant to reveal his relationship with Nora to his family and friends. He attempts to introduce Nora to culture, but she resists, feeling their age and cultural differences will put a strain on their relationship.

Nora is angry after Max doesn't take her to Neil's wedding. They argue about why Max doesn't introduce her to his family and friends, telling him that he is ashamed being seen with her. Nora's sister, Judy (Eileen Brennan), meets Max the following day and explains to him, in Nora's absence, how they were abandoned as children, and how she left Nora in care. Judy also explains how the death of Nora's son (not as Nora had described) devastated Nora.

While at the supermarket, Max runs into Neil's wife, Rachel (Rachel Chagall), who invites him and his "mystery woman" to Thanksgiving. At Max's apartment, Nora hears a message on his answering machine inviting them to the Horowitz's for Thanksgiving, and they both resolve to attend. At the dinner with Neil, Rachel, Mrs. Baron (Renee Taylor), Max's friends, and the Horowitz's extended family, all make Nora and Max uncomfortable. Following an argument between Nora and Neil's father, she walks out, Max following. After the dinner, Nora and Max argue.

Nora quits the White Palace and leaves St. Louis. Max finds her house empty and a note explaining to him why she had to leave. He goes to a brunch and meets Heidi Solomon (Kim Myers), but Max cannot stop thinking about Nora. He travels to New York to see Judy and she tells Max that Nora is working in a restaurant. Max goes to the restaurant and confesses his love to Nora, where he reveals that he has moved to New York to be with her. They reunite, kissing tenderly as patrons of the restaurant look on. Max playfully clears the table of its contents and lays a laughing Nora down on it, climbing on top of her and passionately kissing her, while the whole restaurant cheers and applauds.


Actor Role
Susan Sarandon Nora Baker
James Spader Max Baron
Jason Alexander Neil
Kathy Bates Rosemary
Eileen Brennan Judy
Steven Hill Sol Horowitz
Rachel Chagall Rachel
Corey Parker Larry Klugman
Renee Taylor Edith Baron
Jonathan Penner Marv Miller
Barbara Howard Sherri Klugman
Kim Myers Heidi Solomon
Mitzi McCall Sophie Rosen


The original title for the film was to have been The White Castle, and the novel even makes reference to a specific real White Castle location at the intersection of S. Grand Blvd. and Gravois Ave. in south St. Louis,[1] but the restaurant chain refused permission to use its trademarked name in either the novel or the film, and also refused permission to allow any of its restaurants for filming locations.

Instead, an independent diner at the intersection of North Eighteenth and Olive Streets[2] just west of downtown St. Louis was used – and that address is even given in the film as a plug for the diner. After the film was released the diner's owners sought permission to permanently rename it "White Palace", but were refused by the studio, so the diner was instead renamed "White Knight".

The movie also features , and was shot almost entirely in the St. Louis area, one of the few major movie productions to be filmed and set there, including the Thanksgiving Dinner scenes, which were filmed in a private home off Conway Road located at #2 Frontenac Place[3] in west St. Louis County, and Nora's house, which was in the Dogtown neighborhood of the City of St. Louis northwest of the intersection of Hampton and Manchester Avenues at 1521 W. Billon Avenue.[4]


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