The ‘secret is in the sauce’ this week at the Orpheum

If you are of the generation that remembers “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” “The Merv Griffith Show,” “The Dick Cavett Show” or the game show called “Match Game,” then you probably remember a recurring guest humorist by the name of Fannie Flagg. Alabama-born, Flagg spoke with that distinctive accent and Southern-style humor. She also appeared on several television shows of the 1970s and early 1980s. In her novel, “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” Flagg demonstrates her humor and her style of storytelling not only in the book, but also the screenplay for the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes.”

The movie is described as a comedy-drama. There is plenty of funny stuff in this film to keep you laughing throughout, but it also has some serious themes that make it a movie worth watching. The film abounds with many gifted and talented actors and actresses. Notably they include Academy award winner actresses Jessica Tandy (“Driving Miss Daisy”) and Kathy Bates (“Misery”). The story is told in a series of flash backs as Ninny (Tandy) tells Evelyn (Bates) who is visiting relatives at a nursing home and luckily meets Ninny, who delights in telling Evelyn the story of her life. Younger versions of Ninny’s characters are played by Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker, Cicely Tyson and Chris O’Donnell.

Besides a very interesting and unpredictable plot line, the modern part of the film centers around Evelyn’s life and troubled marriage. In that respect, the film is a journey of self-discovery for the Bates’ character. There is also a secondary story that parallels the situation with which Evelyn finds herself involved.

To tell you anymore would spoil the impact of the film. Let it suffice to say that this film is an outstanding first film for writer Flagg. The humor and the “secret” of the movie centers around the Whistle Stop Caf and its regionally known fine cooking.

This film is rated PG-13 and sure to be a great afternoon for all. Check it out this week at the Orpheum.

Show times are 7 p.m. on Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Visit the theater for tours and check out the gallery and exhibit hall that features Iowa stage and film memorabilia and information. Call the Orpheum Theater Center movie hotline at 641-844-5907 or visit

Tom LaVille is a retired Marshalltown drama and literature teacher. LaVille’s Critic’s Corner column appears Friday in the Times-Republican.