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The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1991)

PG-13 | | Comedy, Drama, Mystery | June 1991 (USA)
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A tangled triangle. In the rural South of the early 20th century, Miss Amelia is the town eccentric, selling corn liquor and dispensing medicine. She takes in her half-sister's son, a ... See full summary »



(play), | 1 more credit »
1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Miss Amelia
... Marvin Macy
... Cousin Lymon
... Rev. Willin
... Lawyer Taylor
... Mary Hale
... Merlie Ryan
Mert Hatfield ... Stumpy McPhail
... Henry Macy
Anne Pitoniak ... Mrs. McPhail
Frederick Johnson ... Jeff
Lauri Raymond ... Sadie Ricketts
... Henry Ford Crimp (as Joe Stephens)
Keith Wommack ... Tom Rainey
Kevin Wommack ... George Rainey


A tangled triangle. In the rural South of the early 20th century, Miss Amelia is the town eccentric, selling corn liquor and dispensing medicine. She takes in her half-sister's son, a diminutive crook-back named Lymon. He suggests they open a café in the downstairs of her large house. Marvin Macy gets out of prison and returns to town; turns out he was married to Amelia but it wasn't consummated. He pleaded, then got angry. Is he back for revenge? Eventually, Amelia and Marvin stage a no-holds-barred fight in the café. Lymon's complicated response to Marvin and to Cousin Amelia figures in the resolution. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | Mystery

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for a scene of violence | See all certifications »





Release Date:

June 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Ballad of the Sad Café  »

Filming Locations:



Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


Source playwright Edward Albee said to Merchant Ivory Productions of this proposed filmed adaptation and its screenplay prior to its production: "For the film to succeed to [novelist Carson] McCullers' intentions it must bring a mythic quality to the relationship. It is not the story of a shy, sexually repressed, mannish woman set on by a brutish punk. It is the story of two people who however unclearly to themselves they may comprehend it, are engaged in a bizarre 'grand passion' - the one real chance in their lives for something very special - the one opportunity for them both to fully realize themselves. It is this quality, this awareness which reaches toward the mythic, and makes what happens when Marvin Macy comes back so poignant, so inevitable, and the stuff of true tragedy. It is this which is missing from the screenplay. As it is now, a punk gets rejected and comes back and does his dirty work. That is not what McCullers intended, is not what I intended, and is not what the screenplay should be offering us". See more »


Several times earlier in the film, we are shown how the only way to arrive at Miss Amelia's secret still is by wading - neck-deep - through a muddy swamp. Yet late in the film when Marvin Macy and Cousin Lymon are shown at Miss Amelia's still, their clothes are clean and dry. See more »


Mary Hale: Marvin changed himself. That time he loved Miss Amelia. Well, it seemed like he changed completely -- he was -- he was good to me, and to Henry... You remember that, doncha'?
Rev. Willin: I remember that.
Mary Hale: Why'd she throw him out? Why'd she marry him and then throw him out? Why?
Rev. Willin: I don't know. All I know is... that it takes two people to be in love. It takes the... lover... and the beloved. But these two, they come from... diff'rent countries. And sometimes, the... the belove is the cause for all the, all the...
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User Reviews

I loved this movie
18 June 2008 | by See all my reviews

We watched this movie again last night because I remembered seeing it when it first came out on video and when our local video store sold out all its VHS tapes this is one we bought. I liked it just as much this time but still have not read the Carson Mc Cullers story it was based on. We don't really understand what it is that has formed the character of Miss Amelia. . . her greed, her dominance of the town and its poverty stricken residents. She seemed to fill every need the town had except for that of citizen on an equal footing with the others. Seemingly the store she ran had been her father's before her but that alone does not explain the force of her personality and disposition. She obviously has married Marvin Macy to get his property but we do not understand what the appeal of her "cousin" Lymon is unless it is that he has no respect for her and uses her in the same way she uses everyone else. His infatuation with Marvin is more understandable than is Amelia's with Lymon. I thought the cast were all wonderful, including the preacher, who had some of the best and most human lines. Vanessa Redgrave was marvelous. The pacing and photography were excellent. At times though I felt as if I was watching a stage play instead of a movie. In writing this I do realize why Miss Amelia was who she was. She was angry because her own stage was so limited. For some reason she must have felt locked in to that tiny corner of the world when she could with her personality, have held sway over a much larger number of people and geographic area!

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