About the Movie "Alice's Restaurant"

by Donna Tinus
Arlo Guthrie still plays Alice's Restaurant, but he often offers the audience different lyrics.

Arlo Guthrie still plays Alice's Restaurant, but he often offers the audience different lyrics.

Rick Diamond/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The movie "Alice's Restaurant" is based on a song of the same name, which in turn is based on actual events that happened to singer/songwriter Arlo Guthrie. The extremely long song was very popular after it was released in 1967, but the movie didn't fare as well with critics.

Writer, Director and Stars

The comedy movie "Alice's Restaurant" was released in August of 1969, right after singer/songwriter Arlo Guthrie appeared at Woodstock. It was based on a song that Guthrie wrote and sang in 1967. The film was directed and co-written by Arthur Penn, and co-written by Venable Herndon. It stars Arlo Guthrie as himself, Patricia Quinn as Alice Brock, James Broderick as Ray Brock, Pete Seeger as himself and Tina Chen as Mari-chan.

Story Part I

The film is set in 1965 and describes Guthrie's attempts to avoid the draft by attending college in Montana. He gets in trouble with local police and is kicked out of school. He then hitchhikes to the east coast and visits his father, and singer Pete Seeger. Guthrie travels to the home of his friends, Alice and Ray Brock, which is an old church in Massachusetts. Here he finds other bohemian types whom he befriends. Guthrie then moves to New York. Alice wants to start a restaurant in the nearby town of Stockbridge, but is frustrated with her lazy husband. She leaves him for a while and goes to New York to see Arlo. Ray finally comes to get her, telling her he has invited a few friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. This is where the song's central story begins.

Story Part II

The second part of the story is based on true events. After the Thanksgiving dinner, Arlo and friends take Alice and Ray's garbage to the dump, where they find the dump is closed. They leave the garbage outside the dump. Ultimately, Arlo is arrested, then fined after he appears before a blind judge. He eventually gets drafted, but is rejected for the service because he has a criminal record. In the song he points out the irony that the army doesn't think he's moral enough to burn houses and villages after being found to be a litter bug.


United Artists Records released the film's soundtrack album. It includes a studio version of the song Alice's Restaurant, which is 18 minutes long. Other songs include "Pastures of Plenty" and "Car-Car Song," both by Woody Guthrie, and "Songs to Aging Children by Tigger Outlaw," written by Joni Mitchell. An old song from 1876, "Peer Gynt" by Edvard Grieg, is also on the album.

Photo Credits

  • Rick Diamond/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images