“The Automat” traces the rise and fall of Horn and Hardart and their “automat” restaurant concept, which was born and thrived in the first half of the twentieth century. There you put nickels in a slot and a window opened to a delicious piece of pie, a bowl of baked beans, or a ham and cheese sandwich. Quick, convenient, and relatively cheap, automats were at one time omnipresent in Philadelphia and New York. Mel Brooks and others reminisce about their special magic, and the film also covers the societal changes that led to their demise.
Hurwitz’s funny, richly nostalgic, altogether delightful doc tells a uniquely American story. During the challenging years of the Depression and World War 2, Horn and Hardart’s automats offered quality fresh food in a clean, beautiful environment for reasonable prices, and importantly, welcomed everyone regardless of class or color. Luminaries like Brooks, Colin Powell, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg lend color and context as they share their early memories of the automat. Via this disarming film, you’ll share their longing for a simpler time and place.