Breakfast in Classic Movies (And How it Drives the Plot) - Part 2

This is another round of breakfast in classic movies and its importance to a storyline. Read the first part here: Breakfast in Classic Movies (And How it Drives the Plot) - Part 1

Eating your first meal of the day with someone suggests the importance of that person. When it happens in the movies, the characters are often doing more than just eating to pass the time. They are often telling us who and what are important to them, with whom they are closest, etc.

Hungry? Let's have breakfast with the stars (again).

A Tale of Two Breakfasts
Movie: Giant (1956)

The Breakfast

At her childhood home in Maryland, Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) is so busy talking, she barely eats the fluffy eggs at the table. Later, she takes a single piece of bacon from a chafing dish and strolls outdoors, forever nibbling.

Later, when married to Jordan (Rock Hudson) and living in Texas, her first breakfast as lady of the house includes a huge steak and other hardy fare. It's too much for the dainty lady to eat.

Not only what is being served for breakfast different, but how it is served has changed for our leading lady.

In the East, Leslie enjoys a leisurely morning meal around the dining table with the entire family. Out West, she must eat alone at a coffee table since everyone else has been up for hours and gone to work on the range.

In her new home, breakfast is fuel; it's not for lingering.

How it Drives the Plot
With two breakfasts, the movie plays up the cultural divide between husband and wife -he's formal and dogmatic, she's casual and challenges rules; he's a traditionalist, she's more suffragette,  etc. This makes for arguments and other drama for the duration of the movie.

The intensity of their differences at the beginning of the film contrasts with the peaceful family routine they later settle into. As the years wear on, they find common ground and become less selfish.

Morning Meal in a Motel  
Movie: It Happened One Night (1939)

The Breakfast

Two doughnuts, two cups of coffee, one fried egg. Our two leads (Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable) have very little money, so they split the motel rental the night before and they share an egg the next morning.

They also share a famous discussion about how to dunk a doughnut.("Say, where'd you learn to dunk? In finishing school?") Totally charming conversation.

How it Drives the Plot
It's only after this casual, humor-filled breakfast that the lady begins to relax around this veritable stranger who might become her love interest. Highly-recommended road trip movie.

Breakfast at the Kitchen Table
Movie: Indiscreet (1958)

The Breakfast
In Indiscreet, Ingrid Bergman is decidedly unhappy to have dinner alone at home. She wants a man and cannot seem to attract one. Enter Cary Grant. They have a lovely breakfast of bacon, coffee, etc. at her table, filled with sunlight and happiness.

How it Drives the Plot
This breakfast is a character development moment. The meal itself is not as important as are the accoutrements and what they mean.

It's a contrast of the lonely, paltry dinner of chocolate triangles and milk versus the bountiful breakfast with her new beau.

The lady has gone to the trouble of pulling out dishes and a tablecloth for this meal; she couldn't be bothered before. Sunlight is a huge part of this breakfast as well; before, she sat in a dark room alone with her dinner.

Life is fun again. However, we're only halfway through the film, so there's bound to be trouble ahead for the couple. For now, she's happy.

Almost No Breakfast
Movie: The Out-of-Towners (1970) 

The Breakfast

Noted for its lack of a morning meal, this comedy follows an Ohio couple (Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis) in New York City who have lost all their money to a mugger, they've slept in Central Park and George has to be at a business meeting at 9am.

Tired and hungry, they discuss that the kids back home are probably eating cornflakes and bananas right now. They talk about the room service that they could have had at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, if life had gone as planned.

They do manage to find a box of stale Cracker Jack that a dog slobbered over under an underpass.

How it Drives the Plot

There is very little plot. It's really a series of vignettes of the miserable things which beset this out-of-town couple. Writer Neil Simon has them starving while surrounded by some of the finest food in the world; it's all just played for laughs.

The through line is the husband's determination to arrive at that meeting. And -yes!- to get there he will eat stale, germ-ridden junk food if he must.

Definitely No Breakfast 
Movie: I Thank You (1941)

The Breakfast
A man (Arthur Askey) wakes up in a tube station in London where many have taken refuge in the night during an apparent blitz from enemy forces. During his morning ablutions underground, with a tiny cake of soap tied to his coat like a pocket watch, the man sings ("Hello to the Sun") and is generally cheerful.

He doesn't eat breakfast, but the song includes the following lyrics:
I stretch out my arms/ I try out my legs/I sample the coffee,/the bacon and eggs.
I'm way ahead of everyone,/the first one to say/ hello to the sun.

How it Drives the Plot
Mentioning rationed luxuries like coffee, bacon and eggs while clearly the character doesn't have any, sets him up as an everyman to his audience members, who were going through similar circumstances during WWII.

What's more, it's played for laughs and optimism - other commodities that people were short on at the time. This hilarious first scene sets you up nicely for a fun and frothy, pack-up-your-troubles-by-poking-fun-at-them movie.

Arthur Askey was a popular British movie star who often plays the comic average guy. His radio and movie appearances were welcome respite in times of great distress. So here he is again, serving humor sunny side up.

Have any more classic movie breakfasts? Tell me in the comments below.

Read the first part here: Breakfast in Classic Movies (And How it Drives the Plot) - Part 1
Third part here: Breakfast in Classic Movies (And How it Drives the Plot) - Part 3


  1. Wonderful series, and great choices. How about "The More the Merrier" when Jean Arthur shares her tiny breakfast nook with Charles Coburn and Joel McCrea?

  2. Thank you so much. I truly appreciate the compliment.

    Ah! The More the Merrier breakfast scene. That's a great one. That's the scene where she talks about her looooong engagement to Charles J. Pendergast, which inadvertently throws up an obstacle to any romance with her leading man, McCrea. So, much of the movie's central plot -getting the two leads together and getting rid of Mr. Pendergast- starts at breakfast. Never noticed that before.

    Thank you.
    -- Java


Thanks for your contribution to Java's Journey.


About Java

"Java's Journey: A really fun, informative well-written blog that explores all of the things - and I mean all - I love about classic films."-- Flick Chick of A Person In The Dark Email:


Blog Archive

Writer's Block Doesn't Stand a Chance