In addition to featuring the full meals from 15 or so films, we intend to mention briefly a number of movies in which food plays an important role. The first of these is Diner, Barry Levinson's tribute to 1960's Baltimore.
What’s a cookbook without any mention of diner food? Diners have featured in a number of films, from Taxi Driver to A Prairie Home Companion, and breakfasting or lunching at the local diner is a cherished American tradition. Originally lunch wagons, many of the diners of the 1950s and 1960s were actually old railroad cars; today’s diners may never have been rolling stock, but their prefabricated appearance and long, narrow structure are reminiscent of their predecessors’ origins. Most diners serve eggs, waffles, pancakes, French toast, and other hearty, inexpensive breakfast foods day and night, but hamburgers, club sandwiches, and especially French fries are also staples on any diner menu—not to mention the incredible pies, cakes, pastries, and other tempting desserts that fill the large, often rotating display cases that are a main feature of every American diner.
In Diner, much of the “action” takes place in the Fells Point Diner, where the main characters gather for midnight snacking and male bonding. This group of six men share memories of their high school exploits with great zest; now in their mid-twenties, however, they are facing serious choices about what to do with their lives: marry or not; grad school or work; roast beef or fried chicken. Although the diner’s food may not be spectacular, it is both reliable and comforting, providing a realistic backdrop for a running dialogue that showcases the friends’ indecision and questioning as well as their real fondness for one another.
Levinson filmed the diner scenes in an actual, working diner in Fells Point, Baltimore, to capture the essence of the city where he grew up. Since most of the scenes in the diner took place after dark, Levinson kept the kitchen running all night long (filming often did not end until sunrise) so that the characters could have real diner food: French fries, eggs, burgers, sandwiches. These scenes were filmed last, after the actors had gotten to know one another, and the dialogue was a combination of scripted lines and improvisation.
At the time of filming, Baltimore had just begun its revitalization effort by renovating its harbor/waterfront area, so much of the scenery Levinson filmed had not changed that much since 1959-1960, the era he was depicting, giving the film an authentic feel.
Released March 5, 1982
Starring Steve Guttenberg as Edward “Eddie” Simmons, Daniel Stern as Laurence “Shrevie” Schreiber, Mickey Rourke as Robert “Boogie” Sheftell, Kevin Bacon as Timothy Fenwick Jr., Tim Daly as William “Billy” Howard, Ellen Barkin as Beth Schreiber, Paul Reiser as Modell
Written and Directed by Barry Levinson
Awards: National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor (Mickey Rourke); Boston Society of Film Critics Awards for Best Screenplay (Barry Levinson) and Best Supporting Actor (Mickey Rourke)