G. Dir: Lisa Hurwitz, US, 2022, 79 min. Mel Brooks, Elliot Gould, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Colin Powell, Carl Reiner, Wilson Goode, Howard Schultz.
Featuring an original new song written and performed by Mel Brooks, THE AUTOMAT tells the 100-year story of the iconic restaurant chain Horn & Hardart, the inspiration for Starbucks, where generations of Americans ate and drank coffee together at communal tables. From the perspective of former customers entertainer Mel Brooks, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Horns, the Hardarts, and key employees – we watch a business climb to its peak success and then grapple with fast food in a forever changed America.
“In a whirlwind 78 minutes we learn the history of the Automat, its glory days through the 1930s and ’40s, and its eventual decline. (The last one closed in 1991.) It survives in songs, old cartoons and movies, including this wonderful documentary. The memories are so vivid you can almost taste them.” —National Post
“Horn & Hardart is dead and buried, but Hurwitz lovingly brings it back to life in The Automat.” – Sheldon Kirshner Journal