New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: The Automat

The Automat Movies and Shakers March 31, 2022

This film is a blast from the past affectionately remembered here by Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Colin Powell and even Starbucks CEO. Howard Schultz.  

Director Lisa Hurwitz explains how she became obsessed with the history of this magical place that is no more. Mel Brooks even wrote the music and lyrics to a song he sings with a full orchestra touting the reasons why it was such a special place. He belts out, “There’s Nothing better than the coffee at the Automat.” 

But there’s a lot more in this documentary on the self-serve cafeteria,  first in Philadelphia, then a fixture in New York City where people from all walks of life put nickles in a machine and received delicious plates of food…and don’t forget the pies. 

Hurwitz shows through interviews with the stars and dignitaries who loved going there, how it became part of the fabric of America depicted on Broadway, in movies, TV programs and even cartoons. 

The film follows how the cafeterias were constructed talking with first Vice President of Engineering, John Ramos, showing what the banks of little brass trimmed doors were fashioned after. She shows the European influence on the decor and more, plus how grateful people were for a comfortable, well-appointed room where a diverse crowd of all ages could get a great meal for a few pickles. She not only talks to the patrons, but to those who worked behind the glass filled with all kinds of goodies. 

Hurwitz uses Brooks as the thread that ties the film together, but there are a few surprises from the world of politics and business. Watch our interview here with Director Hurwitz, who was blown away by the influence that The Automat had on a boy who became a titan in the food industry. Who knew that the magic Howard Schultz saw would become Starbucks! 

Hurwitz has put together a piece of nostalgia that’s worth watching not only for its celebrity, but for shining a light on this influential piece of restaurant history that hasn’t and shouldn’t be forgotten.

A Slice of Pie Productions.  1 hour and 19 minutes  Not Yet Rated. 

At select theaters starting April 1st. 

The post The Automat first appeared on Movies and Shakers.

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