Ellen Burstyn won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as strong-willed 35-year-old widow Alice Hyatt, trying to forge a new life for herself and her son in this expertly played drama from Martin Scorsese, the much-maligned follow-up to his critically acclaimed Mean Streets (1973).
Although directed by Scorsese, the film was very much Burstyn’s project; She found the screenplay and reworked it, chose the cast and director and sold it to Warner Bros for 10% of the profits.
As Alice hits the road with her brattish son (Alfred Lutter) in order to find herself and dreams of a new beginning as a singer, Burstyn brilliantly conveys the vulnerability that forces her character first into the arms of the brutal Ben Eberhart (Harvey Keitel) and then of taciturn rancher David Barrie (Kris Kristofferson).
Scorsese just about keeps the sprawling road movie segment on track, but the film only really comes to life when Alice joins forces with Flo, a sassy diner waitress played by Oscar-nominated Diane Ladd.
This movie inspired the TV comedy series Alice (1976 – 1985) with Linda Lavin playing the Burstyn role.
Billy Green Bush