Diners & The Imagination

Since I have summer Fridays off from work, I try to take advantage of the cultural and natural amenities of the metropolitan region. I never lack for something to do.

Yearning for the immersive atmosphere of a darkened theater, I recently visited the Film Forum, a cinematic temple in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood. I bought a ticket for The Killers, a noir masterpiece directed by Robert Siodmak and starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner.

The fill opened with a tense scene in a New Jersey diner. I was hooked.

The Killers
The opening  diner scene in The Killers (1946).

On the following night, I watched a Detour, a fatalistic poverty-row noir from 1945. Edgar Ulmer directed this minor classic revered by cineastes and auteurs–a film lover’s film. In the movie’s first few minutes, the main character walks into a roadside diner and begins relating his tale of bad luck to the audience.

Detour
The central character nurses a cup of coffee in Detour (1945).

See a common thread? Diners.

Why are diners catnip for storytellers? What do so many great television episodes or films feature diners? Why do so many writers look to diners for inspiration or as a sanctuary wherein to fiddle with their manuscripts?

Needless to say, my film choices left me craving for the comfort and satisfaction of a bottomless cup of coffee and a greasy breakfast. On a late Sunday morning, I slid into a booth at my neighborhood diner.

My notebook and pen were ready.

 

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