Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

PG-13 | 130 mins | Comedy-drama | 27 December 1991

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HISTORY

After completing numerous drafts of the script, screenwriter Carol Sobieski died in Nov 1990 from a rare heart disease. Her work on the screenplay ended in 1989, when, according to a 2 Feb 1992 LAT article, Fannie Flagg and Jon Avnet took over. Screenwriting credits were decided by a Writers Guild of America (WGA) arbitration, which took place automatically due to the fact that Avnet was also credited as producer and director. In Dec 1991, the WGA awarded writing credits to Sobieski and Flagg, but not Avnet. However, Universal printed publicity materials crediting Avnet and Flagg as the sole screenwriters, which led to misprints in several reviews, including those in the 23 Dec 1991 Var and ^HR, and 27 Dec 1991 NYT. The 2 Feb 1992 LAT quoted an anonymous source at the WGA as saying it had been “a major long shot that [Avnet] would get any credit,” and Sobieski’s husband, Jim, who called Avnet’s alleged claim that Carol had not wanted a credit “preposterous.”
       According to a 15 Sep 1991 LAT article and 13 Jan 1992 HR “Hollywood Report” column, Jon Avnet read galleys of Fannie Flagg’s novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, prior to its release in 1987, at the urging of his story editor, Lisa Lindstrom. Immediately after finishing the book, Avnet purchased film rights with his own money. He initially took the project to “Universal and every other studio in town,” who turned it down. Act III Communications provided “seed money,” and Avnet brought the project back to Universal once a draft of the ... More Less

After completing numerous drafts of the script, screenwriter Carol Sobieski died in Nov 1990 from a rare heart disease. Her work on the screenplay ended in 1989, when, according to a 2 Feb 1992 LAT article, Fannie Flagg and Jon Avnet took over. Screenwriting credits were decided by a Writers Guild of America (WGA) arbitration, which took place automatically due to the fact that Avnet was also credited as producer and director. In Dec 1991, the WGA awarded writing credits to Sobieski and Flagg, but not Avnet. However, Universal printed publicity materials crediting Avnet and Flagg as the sole screenwriters, which led to misprints in several reviews, including those in the 23 Dec 1991 Var and ^HR, and 27 Dec 1991 NYT. The 2 Feb 1992 LAT quoted an anonymous source at the WGA as saying it had been “a major long shot that [Avnet] would get any credit,” and Sobieski’s husband, Jim, who called Avnet’s alleged claim that Carol had not wanted a credit “preposterous.”
       According to a 15 Sep 1991 LAT article and 13 Jan 1992 HR “Hollywood Report” column, Jon Avnet read galleys of Fannie Flagg’s novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, prior to its release in 1987, at the urging of his story editor, Lisa Lindstrom. Immediately after finishing the book, Avnet purchased film rights with his own money. He initially took the project to “Universal and every other studio in town,” who turned it down. Act III Communications provided “seed money,” and Avnet brought the project back to Universal once a draft of the screenplay was completed. Universal agreed to finance one-third of the film, and, later, increased its financial commitment.
       A 28 Feb 1992 NYT article listed inconsistencies between the novel and screenplay, including the film’s abandonment of a storyline involving the black characters, and addition of a reunion scene between “Ninny Threadgoode” and “Evelyn Couch,” which suggested that Ninny and “Idgie Threadgoode” were the same person – a notion never presented in the novel. Most notably, the article pointed out the novel’s Idgie Threadgoode and “Ruth Jamison” were “clearly lovers,” while their onscreen counterparts are only shown as having an ambiguous, loving friendship. In a 3 Jan 1992 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, actress Mary Stuart Masterson was quoted as saying the lesbian relationship was merely “an implication” in the book, but that Avnet did not feel it was “the point of the movie.”
       Principal photography began 10 Jun 1991, according to the 18 Jun 1991 HR production chart. Four weeks of filming took place in Juliette, GA, as noted in a 30 Aug 1991 HR brief, which stated that $6 million of the $10-$12 million budget was spent in Georgia. Other Georgia locations included the town of Zebulon, where courthouse scenes were shot.
       Mary Stuart Masterson performed her own stunts for the scene in which Idgie Threadgoode retrieves honey from an active beehive. According to the 15 Sep 1991 LAT, Masterson was not stung in the process.
       The 9 Oct 1990 HR stated Rank Film Distributors acquired worldwide distribution rights outside North America.
       The film’s platform release began with a handful of theaters in select cities on 27 Dec 1991, partly to qualify for the upcoming Academy Awards. Despite mixed reviews, positive word-of-mouth led Universal to gradually increase the number of play dates to 1,229 screens by the seventh week of release. According to the 19 Mar 1993 HR, the film ultimately grossed $82 million.
       In Jan 1992, a revised marketing campaign was launched based on positive responses from young women at research screenings on college campuses, as stated in a 31 Jan 1992 WSJ article. Television commercials and print advertisements that had previously focused on Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy were changed to emphasize the relationship between Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker.
       The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Actress in a Supporting Role (Jessica Tandy), and Writing (Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published). Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski received the University of Southern California (USC) “Scripter’s Award,” as noted in the 24 Jan 1992 Newsday, and the film received a GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Award “for its rendering of intimacy between women, although there was no overt sex,” as stated in a 13 Apr 1992 LAT article.
       A 14 Apr 1992 LAT brief reported that a real Whistle Stop Café was set to open that week in Juliette, where the film was shot. Allegedly, Avnet had encouraged the town’s 500 locals to open the restaurant.
       A 19 Mar 1993 HR news item reported that ASCII, a Japanese investment firm and part owner of Electric Shadow Productions, sued Electric Shadow for failing to repay a $500,000 loan that ASCII granted the company in Feb 1991, when it faced “higher-than-budgeted production expenses” on Fried Green Tomatoes. The outcome of the lawsuit could not be determined as of the writing of this Note.
       End credits include the following statement: “The Producers Wish to Thank: Marion Williams; Bette L. Smith; Jo Ann May-Payey; The State of Georgia; The Georgia Film Commission; The Starcrest Nursing Home; Miss Ollie Denny; Mr. Robert Williams and the entire town of Juliette, GA; The Southern Railway Historical Association, Spencer, NC; Dan Martin Florists; The Veranda; Liegner Management; Anthony Heilbut; Sarah Black; Dewey Graham; Jay S. Berger, M.D.; and Colleen Dewhurst.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
17 Jun 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Oct 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 1991
p. 5, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jan 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 1993
p. 3, 34.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 1994.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Sep 1991
Calendar, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
27 Dec 1991
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
2 Feb 1992
Calendar, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
10 Feb 1992
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
8 Apr 1992
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
13 Apr 1992
Calendar, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
14 Apr 1992
Calendar, p. 2.
New York Times
27 Dec 1991
p. 3.
New York Times
28 Feb 1992
Section C, p. 1.
Newsday
24 Jan 1992
p. 11.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
3 Jan 1992
Section G, p. 3.
Variety
23 Dec 1991
p. 44.
WSJ
31 Jan 1992
Section B, p. 1.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Universal Pictures and
Act III Communications present
In Association with Electric Shadow Productions
An Avnet/Kerner Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Co-prod
Co-prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod for Electric Shadow Productions
Exec prod for Electric Shadow Productions
Exec prod for Electric Shadow Productions
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st cam asst
2d cam asst
Steadicam op
Still photog
Gaffer
Best boy elec
Key grip
Dolly grip
Craft service
Craft service
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept coord
Art dept asst
Art dept res
Art dept res
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst props
Set des
Leadman
On set dresser
Set dressing asst
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Prop asst
Prop asst
Food stylist
Const coord
Gen foreman
Mill foreman
Loc foreman
Gang boss
Stand-by carpenter
Lead carpenter
Lead carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Stand-by scenic
Head painter
Painter gang boss
Painter gang boss
Painter gang boss
Painter
Painter
Painter
Greensman
Greensman
Greensman
Greensman
COSTUMES
Asst cost des
Set costumer
Set costumer
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus supv
Mus scoring mixer
Mus contractor
Mus res
2d eng
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cable op
Playback op
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Supv dial ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Supv ADR ed
ADR ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Prod sd
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff foreman
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup
Asst makeup
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Asst hair
Asst hair
Wig des
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Exec in charge of prod Act III
Prod coord
Asst coord
Story dept ed
Scr supv
Casting assoc
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Driver
Loc catering by
Craft service
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Loc scount
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Key set P. A.
Asst to Mr. Avnet
Asst to Mr. Avnet
Asst to Mr. Kerner
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Loc P. A.
Loc P. A.
Loc P. A.
Office intern
Office intern
Atlanta casting
Extras casting coord
Asst extras coord
Loop group
Unit pub
Act III asst
Travel arrangements by
Spec bee wrangler
Small animal wrangler
Small animal wrangler
Head horse wrangler
On set train coord
Georgia prod facilities
Completion guarantee
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Negative processing
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based upon the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg (New York, 1987).
AUTHOR
SONGS
“My Blue Heaven,” written by Walter Donaldson and George Whiting, performed by Gene Austin and His Orchestra, courtesy of the RCA Records label of BMG Music
“What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted,” written by James Dean, Paul Riser, and William Weatherspoon, produced by Arthur Baker, co-produced by Tommy Faragher, performed by Paul Young, mixed by Michael Brauer, courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment (U. K.)
“Railroad Blues,” performed by Trixie Smith, courtesy of Rosetta Records, Inc.
+
SONGS
“My Blue Heaven,” written by Walter Donaldson and George Whiting, performed by Gene Austin and His Orchestra, courtesy of the RCA Records label of BMG Music
“What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted,” written by James Dean, Paul Riser, and William Weatherspoon, produced by Arthur Baker, co-produced by Tommy Faragher, performed by Paul Young, mixed by Michael Brauer, courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment (U. K.)
“Railroad Blues,” performed by Trixie Smith, courtesy of Rosetta Records, Inc.
“Cherish,” written by Terry Kirkman, produced by Arthur Baker, performed by Jodeci, music programmed by Axel Kroell, mixed by Louis Scalise, courtesy of Uptown/MCA Records, Inc.
“Cannon Ball,” performed by Nora Lee King, courtesy of Rosetta Records, Inc.
“Cool Down Yonder,” written by Ira Tucker, produced by Anthony Heilbut, arranged and performed by Marion Williams, courtesy of Spirit Feel Records
“Barbeque Bess,” written by Bessie Jackson, produced by Arthur Baker and Hal Willner, performed by Patti La Belle, mixed by Kirk Yano
“Rooster Blues,” written by Jerry West, produced by Arthur Baker, performed by Peter Wolf, mixed by Louis Scalise
“Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead,” written by Clarence Paul, Ivy Jo Hunter, and William Stevenson, produced by Arthur Baker, performed by Taylor Dayne, mixed by Louis Scalise, courtesy of Arista Records, Inc.
“If I Can Help Somebody,” written by Alma Androzzo, produced by Arthur Baker, performed by Aaron Hall, mixed by Louis Scalise
“A Charge To Keep I Have,” performed by Marion Williams, produced by Anthony Heilbut, instrumentation by Thomas Newman, courtesy of Spirit Feel Records
“I’ll Remember You,” written by Bob Dylan, produced by Arthur Baker, performed by Grayson Hugh, mixed by Michael Brauer.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
Release Date:
27 December 1991
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 27 December 1991
Production Date:
began 10 June 1991
Copyright Claimant:
Fried Green Tomatoes Productions
Copyright Date:
19 May 1992
Copyright Number:
PA568252
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Duration(in mins):
130
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31540
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Evelyn Couch, a repressed, middle-aged housewife with an overeating problem, travels with her husband, Ed, to Rose Hills Convalescent Home in Whistle Stop, Alabama. When Ed’s Aunt Vesta runs Evelyn out of her room, she goes to a common area and meets a sprightly eighty-two-year-old named “Ninny” Threadgoode. Ninny came to Rose Hills with her friend, Mrs. Otis, but as soon as Otis is settled, she will return home. Launching into a story about her sister-in-law, Imogene Louise “Idgie” Threadgoode, Ninny relates that Idgie was once arrested for the murder of a man named Frank Bennett. Evelyn is enthralled by Ninny’s storytelling, and over time, she continues to visit to hear more about Idgie. Ninny begins a story about when Idgie was a young tomboy: At her sister’s wedding, Idgie reluctantly wears a dress but takes it off when her younger brother, Julian, teases her. Idgie’s dashing older brother, Buddy, finds her in a tree house and talks her down. Later, Idgie spends time with Buddy and his girl friend, Ruth Jamison. As they walk near the train tracks, Ruth’s hat flies off her head, and Buddy goes to retrieve it. His foot gets stuck in the tracks, and Idgie and Ruth witness as a train runs him over. Idgie is inconsolable, and over the next few years, spends most of her time in the woods, cut off from society. Ruth Jamison moves away, but Idgie’s mother persuades her to return one summer to coax Idgie out of reclusion. Initially standoffish, Idgie warms to Ruth, and the two develop a deep bond. Idgie, a rebellious spirit who sometimes refers to herself as “Towanda, the amazing Amazon woman,” broadens ... +


Evelyn Couch, a repressed, middle-aged housewife with an overeating problem, travels with her husband, Ed, to Rose Hills Convalescent Home in Whistle Stop, Alabama. When Ed’s Aunt Vesta runs Evelyn out of her room, she goes to a common area and meets a sprightly eighty-two-year-old named “Ninny” Threadgoode. Ninny came to Rose Hills with her friend, Mrs. Otis, but as soon as Otis is settled, she will return home. Launching into a story about her sister-in-law, Imogene Louise “Idgie” Threadgoode, Ninny relates that Idgie was once arrested for the murder of a man named Frank Bennett. Evelyn is enthralled by Ninny’s storytelling, and over time, she continues to visit to hear more about Idgie. Ninny begins a story about when Idgie was a young tomboy: At her sister’s wedding, Idgie reluctantly wears a dress but takes it off when her younger brother, Julian, teases her. Idgie’s dashing older brother, Buddy, finds her in a tree house and talks her down. Later, Idgie spends time with Buddy and his girl friend, Ruth Jamison. As they walk near the train tracks, Ruth’s hat flies off her head, and Buddy goes to retrieve it. His foot gets stuck in the tracks, and Idgie and Ruth witness as a train runs him over. Idgie is inconsolable, and over the next few years, spends most of her time in the woods, cut off from society. Ruth Jamison moves away, but Idgie’s mother persuades her to return one summer to coax Idgie out of reclusion. Initially standoffish, Idgie warms to Ruth, and the two develop a deep bond. Idgie, a rebellious spirit who sometimes refers to herself as “Towanda, the amazing Amazon woman,” broadens Ruth’s horizons by teaching her how to play poker and getting her drunk at a local saloon. One day, she takes Ruth to a tree where she collects honey from an active beehive. Ruth is amazed and nicknames Idgie “the Bee Charmer.” At the end of the summer, Ruth returns to Valdosta, Georgia, where she is set to marry Frank Bennett. Idgie is devastated by her friend’s departure, and instead of attending her wedding, she observes it from afar. Sometime later, Idgie visits Ruth and discovers she is being beaten by her new husband. Idgie tries to intervene, but Ruth forces her to leave. Eventually, Idgie and her mother receive a letter from Ruth, alerting them that her mother has died. Idgie returns to Valdosta, where a grieving Ruth confesses she is pregnant. With help from her younger brother, Julian, and their African American servant, “Big George,” Idgie helps Ruth move out. As they are about to leave, Frank Bennett returns home. Julian Threadgoode orders him to let Ruth go, or face the wrath of Big George. Bennett pushes Ruth down the stairs, and Idgie warns she will kill him if he ever touches Ruth again. Months later, Ruth gives birth to a boy named Buddy, Jr. She and Idgie open the Whistle Stop Café, where Big George and his mother, Sipsey, work as cooks. Locals frequent the café, which quickly becomes known for its barbecue and fried green tomatoes. Grady, the town sheriff who has tried to woo Idgie, to no avail, warns her to stop serving African Americans in the front of the restaurant. She ignores his request, granting the same kindness to all of her customers, including Smokey Lonesome, an alcoholic hobo. Ruth is touched by Idgie’s inclusiveness and adopts the same attitude. One night, Ku Klux Klansmen, led by Frank Bennett, attack Big George. Grady stops them outside the cafe, and Idgie tends to Big George’s wounds. Before leaving town, Bennett breaks into the Threadgoode home, where Ruth lives with her baby. She blocks him from seeing Buddy, Jr., but Bennett threatens to come back. On the night of the “Town Follies” show, he returns. However, Ruth is away at a church revival led by Reverend Herbert Scroggins. At the café, Sipsey babysits Buddy, Jr. Bennett drunkenly barges in, knocks Sipsey in the head with a shotgun, and takes the baby. Smokey Lonesome stops Bennett outside his car, but Bennett punches him. Smokey observes as Bennett is hit from behind and falls to the ground. The next day, Big George butchers and grills large pieces of meat as Curtis Smoote, a police detective from Georgia, arrives at the café. Smoote, who is aware that Idgie once threatened to kill Bennett, suspects her of murder, but Idgie denies any involvement with Bennett’s disappearance. Smoote eats several plates of barbecue, and leaves. In the present, Ninny Threadgoode suggests Evelyn Couch’s recent mood swings might be due to menopause. Under Ninny’s positive influence, Evelyn begins eating healthier, exercising, and selling cosmetics for Mary Kay. Her husband, Ed, is disturbed by her sudden personality change. No longer a “doormat,” Evelyn acts out in a grocery store parking lot when two young women “steal” the parking spot she is waiting for. After the girls walk into the store, Evelyn runs into their car six times, shouting “Towanda!” Later, Ed reprimands her and worries that she has gone crazy. At Rose Hills, Evelyn learns from Ninny’s family friend, Sue Otis, that Ninny’s house has been condemned and torn down. However, no one has broken the bad news to Ninny, whose eighty-third birthday is approaching. Over Evelyn’s next few visits, Ninny finishes the story of Idgie Threadgoode: Five years after Frank Bennett’s disappearance, Curtis Smoote continues to investigate. Bennett’s car is finally discovered in a river, and Idgie and Big George are arrested for his murder. At their trial, Ruth testifies that she left Frank Bennett to live with Idgie because Idgie is her best friend and she loves her. Swearing on his own Bible, Reverend Scroggins testifies that Idgie and Big George were at his church revival the weekend of Bennett’s disappearance. Trusting the reverend, and knowing Bennett was a reckless alcoholic, the judge determines his death must have been accidental and dismisses the case. Afterward, Idgie learns that Scroggins’s “Bible” was actually a copy of Moby Dick. Ruth Bennett suddenly falls ill. A doctor diagnoses her with cancer and gives her only two weeks to live. Idgie consoles Ruth’s son, Buddy, Jr., who recently lost his arm in a train accident. Before she dies, Ruth urges Idgie to be good to herself and settle down with someone. Recalling Ruth’s funeral, Ninny tells Evelyn that everyone was in love with her, even Smokey Lonesome, whose only possession at the time of his death was a picture of Ruth. Evelyn tells Ed she wants Ninny to move in with them, and ignores him when he tells her no. She goes to Rose Hills but finds Ninny’s room empty. A nurse mistakenly tells her Ninny has died, and Evelyn weeps. However, another nurse informs her that Mrs. Otis was the one who died, and Ninny took a taxi home. Evelyn finds Ninny by the empty lot where her house used to be. She persuades Ninny to come live with her and Ed. They wander toward a cemetery, where Ninny reveals that Big George’s mother, Sipsey, was Frank Bennett’s killer. To cover up the murder, Idgie told Big George to barbecue Bennett’s body, and the barbecue was served to Curtis Smoote the next day. It feels good for Ninny to finally tell the truth. They walk past Ruth’s grave, and Evelyn sees a fresh jar of honey with a note from “the Bee Charmer.” Evelyn smiles as she realizes that Ninny is actually Idgie Threadgoode herself. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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