Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cinematic Automats

If I could travel back in time and work anywhere, I would choose a bustling Horn & Hardart's in Manhattan. I'm completely enthralled by the entire concept of automats, and I can't believe that they no longer exist (this isn't entirely true -- there are modern equivalents, but it's not the same). I'm always interested in scrutinizing movie scenes set in automats, cafeterias, nightclubs, five and dimes, department stores, and the like -- those mundane settings that were completely unremarkable when the movies were first released but now could be seen as curiosities because of their obsolescence or extinction. (Or, scenes from areas that are gone or endangered.. like original footage of Coney Island, for instance) Sure, I suppose that would be like staring at a scene taking place in a McDonald's lobby and trying to get a good look at the dollar menu, but I can't help my fascination of everyday views of the past. Recently, I rediscovered a movie that had an automat scene, which was made even more thrilling by the rare footage of BEHIND the automat's windows. This movie is the Doris Day/Cary Grant romantic comedy, That Touch Of Mink. In the film, Doris' roommate, played by Audrey Meadows, works in the automat and is reprimanded for supplying her pal with free meals.

This rediscovery lead me on a field trip to the IMDb to see if I could scrounge up more movies that bring the past to life. Specifically, I was looking for more movies that have automat scenes. The list the Db spat out is as follows:

Sadie McKee (1934)*
Thirty Day Princess (1934)*
Easy Living (1937)*
Footlight Fever (1941) - The REAL tagline: They've got that FOOTLIGHT FEVER and it's CATCHING!*
Married Bachelor (1941)*
Sweet And Low-down (1944)*
Ladies' Man (1947)*
A Run For Your Money (1949)* - This one is British
Just This Once (1952)*
Affair With A Stranger (1953)*
The Catered Affair (1956)*
* A Hatful Of Rain (1957) - I've seen this, and I can't recall any scene in an automat
* That Touch Of Mink (1962) - YES, this definitely has a scene, and it's highly recommended!
* Midnight Cowboy (1969) - I just rewatched this recently, and I recall a Western diner setting but nothing else.
Summer In The City (German)
* Radio Days (1987) - I saw this many years ago and loved it. Since it's a nostalgic trip to the past, it's possible that there is an automat scene.
Dark City (1998)
Solitary Journey (1998 animated short)

My new quest is to see all the movies that I've asterisked*. Can anyone confirm whether or not these movies actually have automat scenes? Is this list lacking movies with automat, cafeteria, and/or five and dime settings (or scenes that might be of similar interest to a nostalgia enthusiast)?

(Incidentally, I just discovered IMDb's lousy interface update. Apparently, the notion of 'ease of use' ain't what it used to be.. I'm talking to you, too, Flickr.. and EVERY other decent site that keeps exchanging simplicity for flashy bloat. Thanks for constantly taking the joy out of the best of the internet!)

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