Ellen Is Nice

I saw Martin Scorcese’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” from 1974 and I think it holds up very well.  It’s well acted and not preachy, and it concerns a very likeable character named Alice Hyatt who decides to follow her dreams after her husband dies.  It’s not about the women’s movement or feminism or radical thinking.  It’s about a person who seems real, and about problems that seem real.  Ellen Burstyn won a well deserved Oscar for performance as Alice, and supporting actors Kris Kristofferson, Diane Ladd, Harvey Keitel, and Jodie Foster all contribute good performances.

Ellen Burstyn with Kris Kristofferson.

Back in my college days, Ellen Burstyn visited our campus to give a speech in the University Auditorium, where I worked backstage.  This sorority sponsored event took place right around the time when Ellen Burstyn won her Oscar.  Burstyn had become a feminist icon because of the movie.  The sorority leaders told me in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to talk to Ellen.  They said, “Don’t even look at her!” for no apparent reason other than the fact that she was a feminist icon and I’m male.

After her speech, Burstyn went to the auditorium’s Green Room, where a large crowd of sorority women waited to spend some quality time with their heroine.  I stood by the door as Ellen arrived to an awkward reception.  No one in the awestruck crowd greeted her, and Ellen just stood there wondering what to do.  Finally, she walked directly over to me and said, “Hi, I’m Ellen.  Thank you so much for inviting me here.”  Needless to say, I got lots of dirty looks from the women in the room, but I’ve been a huge fan of Ellen Burstyn ever since.

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