Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore | 1974
The stylised red sunset of the opening flashback (set in ‘Monterey, California’), with its echoes of the farmhouse scenes from The Wizard of Oz, was director Martin Scorsese’s first purpose built studio set. Designed by veteran Darrell Silvera, who worked on Citizen Kane, it cost $85,000 and ran 180 degrees around the soundstage at the old Columbia Studios on Gower Street, Hollywood (now NBC’s Sunset-Gower TV Studios).
After being widowed, Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) determines to return to her roots in Monterey and resume her career as a singer. With her young son Tommy (Alfred Lutter), she eventually fetches up in Tucson, Arizona, where she lowers her sights a little to work in a diner.
Mel and Ruby’s Bar-B-Q, where Alice works as waitress alongside Flo (Diane Ladd), was filmed in a real Tucson diner, now closed, which stood on Main Avenue. All the other joints where Alice tries to get work as a lounge singer are genuine Tucson bars, too.
The giant cow skull-fronted restaurant where Alice stops off en route from Phoenix to Tucson is actually the Longhorn Bar and Grill, 28851 South Nogales Highway, Amado on I-9, a good 30 miles to the south of Tucson (it’s seen also in Boys On The Side). The restaurant closed in 2012, but the giant skull remains.
The Monterey Dining Room billboard seen at the end of the movie, when Alice decides to stay on and give another chance to her relationship with farmer David (Kris Kristofferson), is not a piece of heavy-handed ‘happiness-in-your-own-backyard’ symbolism, but the sign for an actual Tucson restaurant that strayed into the closing shot by chance.