Ellen Burstyn

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Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller and writer William Peter Blatty, collaborators on the 1973 horror classic of The Exorcist, reunited for some unknown reason in 1984 for Good Morning America. According to legend, Blatty pretended to be an Arabian prince in the 1950s to get booked on the game show You Bet Your Life. He didn’t fool Groucho but did win $10,000, which helped him jump-start his writing career. I’ve never seen the footage online.

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Burstyn, who won an Oscar for her role, years later said she thought the violent scenes went too far.

One of the films that Martin Scorsese made as a hired hand, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is the testosterone-fueled director’s surprisingly successful attempt at something resembling a feminist film, albeit one with the filmmaker’s trademark endless profanity and macho violence.

Housewife Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) lives in fear in small-town New Mexico, married to an irrational husband with a hair-trigger temper that could explode at any moment in the direction of her or her 11-year-old smartass son, Tommy (Alfred Lutter). Tragedy affords her a respite when her abusive spouse dies in an auto accident, but with little money and few skills, it’s not going to be easy to move her and her boy to Monterey, California, her childhood home which she still idealizes. She sings at piano bars and is game to wait tables, but those jobs won’t allow her to get rich quick.

Alice’s taste in men doesn’t help much, either. She hooks up almost immediately with a married psycho (Harvey Keitel), and is soon forced to flee from him to Tucson with tart-mouthed Tommy in tow. There she gets a job slinging hash at a diner and meets a nice guy (Kris Kristofferson)–or is he?–and hopes her luck may be changing. But because she was raised to be someone’s wife, Alice is always short on confidence. “I don’t know how to live without a man, that’s what it is,” she says, realizing the crux of her problem.

Because Alice dreams such small dreams, this movie feels a little dated even though it was true to its time for certain women. But there is so much richness here. Diane Ladd is just great as Alice’s foul-mouthed fellow waitress Flo, who has known as much unhappiness as Alice but treats bitter disappointment as yet another target for her big-hearted sass. Alice instinctively dislikes Flo at first, fearing that she can never carry herself with such gusto. But she comes to understand that boldness is less often something you’re born with than something you learn. (Available from Netflix and other outlets.)

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