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Fried Green Tomatoes is a 1991 drama film based on the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. It was released in the UKmarker under the novel's full title.

The film was directed by Jon Avnet and written by Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski. It stars Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary-Louise Parker and Mary Stuart Masterson.

Plot summary

Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates), a timid and unhappy housewife in her forties, meets elderly Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) in a nursing home waiting room, who passes the time by telling Evelyn the story of the now-abandoned town of Whistle Stop, Alabamamarker, and the people that lived there.

Ninny's story begins with unrepentant tomboy Imogen "Idgie" Threadgoode (Mary Stuart Masterson), the youngest of the Threadgoode children, whose happy relationship with her charming older brother Buddy is tragically cut short when Buddy is hit by a train and killed. Devastated, Idgie recedes from formal society for much of her adolescent years, until straight-laced Ruth Jamison (Mary-Louise Parker), Buddy's former love interest, intervenes on behalf of the concerned Threadgoode family.

Although Idgie and Ruth at first seem diametrically opposed in terms of lifestyle and modus operandi, a gradual friendship develops between the two women, eventually turning into a deep mutual love and respect. Ruth soon marries Frank Bennett and moves to Valdosta, Georgiamarker. A lonesome Idgie pays a visit to Ruth, only to discover that the latter, now pregnant, is routinely abused by Frank, a violent wifebeater. Along with Big George (son of the Threadgoode cook, Sipsey), Idgie takes Ruth back to Whistle Stop, where her child, Buddy Jr., is born. Papa Threadgoode gives Idgie money to start a business so that she can care for Ruth and Buddy Jr. Together with Ruth, Idgie opens the Whistle Stop Cafe, employing Sipsey and Big George, who makes a barbecue that quickly becomes famous in the region.

Frank Bennett eventually comes back to Whistle Stop in an attempt to forcibly kidnap Buddy Jr, but is thwarted by an unseen assailant, who later is discovered to be Sipsey. Soon after, Frank goes missing; when his car was found at the bottom of a lake outside of Whistle Stop, the police look to Idgie, as she threatened violence against him for beating Ruth. Idgie is arrested along with Big George for the murder of Frank Bennett; the police offer to set her free and pin the crime solely on Big George, but Idgie refuses to sacrifice her friend. The local minister, taking pity on Idgie, lies during the trial and testifies that she and Big George were at a three-day religious revival at the time of Frank's disappearance. Knowing his track record as a frequent drunk, the judge rules Frank's death an accident and Idgie and Big George are cleared of all charges. (Later it is discovered that Sipsey is actually Frank's killer, having accidentally killed him with a blow to the head with a cast-iron skillet as Frank tried to kidnap Buddy Jr. from his cradle. Idgie drives Frank's car into the river, while Big George barbecues Frank's body and serves it to the same Georgia police searching for Frank.)

Soon after the trial, Ruth develops cancer and quickly succumbs to her illness; a tearful Idgie bids Ruth goodbye as the latter dies. Following Ruth's death, the Cafe closes and "the life of the town" ebbs away, with most Whistle Stop residents moving away. Ninny's story ends; Evelyn discovers from a nurse that Ninny's home was condemned and torn down during Ninny's stay at the nursing home. Evelyn, having by now made a true friend in Ninny, offers Ninny a room in her home for the rest of her days; Ninny accepts. As the two friends walk to Evelyn's car, they pass Ruth's grave, freshly adorned with flowers and a card from "The Bee Charmer," Ruth's old nickname for Idgie.

The film jumps narration and sequence, frequently switching from Ninny's story, which is set in post-Depression Whistle Stop, to Evelyn's life in present-day Birmingham. As Ninny's story continues, Evelyn gradually becomes less timid and more self-confident, finally culminating in Evelyn mustering the courage to invite Ninny to live with her after the latter's house is demolished.


Differences between the film and novel

Unlike the book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, the film adaptation does not explicitly present the lesbian romance between the two central characters, instead making the relationship between Idgie and Ruth ambiguous. The DVD edition of the film has an audio commentary with the director acknowledging this and pointing out that a scene between the two women engaging in a food fight was intended to be seen as symbolic love-making. At the time of the film's debut, it was criticized by reviewers and activists for what was seen as "glossing over" the lesbian overtones of the relationship. However, the film won an award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for best feature film with lesbian content.


Critical reception

Fried Green Tomatoes was generally well received by critics. Film review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a "fresh" score of 82% based on 22 reviews.

Box office

The film grossed a total of $82,418,501 in the United States alone, and took in $37,000,000 outside the U.S., bringing the total to $119,418,501 worldwide.


The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jessica Tandy) and for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski). At the 46th British Academy Film Awards in 1992, Tandy was nominated for the Best Actress award, and Bates was nominated as Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

The Café

The "Whistle Stop Café" is loosely based on a real-life restaurant, the Irondale Café in Irondale, Alabamamarker. The restaurant is still in operation and is a local tourist attraction, thanks to the novel and movie. It is famous for its fried green tomatoes, and is located adjacent to the main line of the Norfolk Southern Railway (formerly Southern Railway) and near one of the line's large classification yards.

Irondale is a suburb of Birmingham, Alabamamarker, Flagg's birthplace.

After the film became a hit, the set used as the Whistle Stop Café, on location in Juliette, Georgiamarker, was converted into a restaurant and is a tourist attraction. It is famous for the fried green tomatoes and has thousands of visitors a year.

A second Whistle Stop Café was located on Houston Rd in Macon, Georgiamarker and a third in downtown Kennesaw, Georgiamarker. The Macon, Georgia location was closed in Spring of 2009.


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