Jon Avnet’s 1991 drama film ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ introduces Frank Bennett’s mysterious death early into its narrative. In a nursing home, an unhappy housewife, Evelyn Couch, finds herself a rapt audience to Ninny Threadgoode’s recounts of stories about a town called Whistle Stop. As the older woman tells her about the town’s cafe run by lifelong companions Idgie and Ruth, Frank seamlessly comes up, given the women’s relation to him. Ruth had been married to Frank and separated from him shortly before giving birth to their son. On the other hand, Idgie was suspected of the man’s murder and even went to trial for it. Therefore, when the conundrum of Frank’s death, a puzzle yet unsolved almost 50 years later, finally unravels in an outlandish cannibalistic reveal, it must leave the viewers with a few questions. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Frank Bennet and His Fatal End
Frank Bennet becomes the tale’s antagonist shortly after his introduction into Idgie and Ruth’s story. Initially, his criminal offense as a character is simple and understated— he’s why Ruth and Idgie’s adventurous summer must come to an end on account of the former’s upcoming marriage to him. The marriage effectively puts a damper on the women’s close relationship, sending Idgie down a heartbroken path that takes her away from Ruth for quite some time.
However, the next time Frank leaves a mark on the narrative, his villainy grows. After Ruth and Idgie reunite due to the latter’s inability to stay away from her companion any longer, Idgie learns that Frank has been domestically abusing his wife. The petite, tomboyish woman is prepared to take the man down in the moment, but Ruth stops her. Nevertheless, eventually, even Ruth realizes her household environment is unsafe, especially once she discovers her pregnancy.
As a result, Ruth decides to reach out to Idgie to ask for help in running away from home. Thus, after a nasty encounter with Frank, Idgie manages to take Ruth away from her abusive husband with the help of her friends, who intimidate the other man. Nevertheless, it’s only so long before Frank becomes privy to the birth of his and Ruth’s son, Buddy Jr.
Consequently, Frank, who turns out to be a KKK member, storms Whistle Stop with his white supremacist group to attack Big George, Idgie’s friend, and attempt to kidnap Buddy Jr. Yet, Ruth and the town Sheriff, Grady, foils his latter plan, sending him back on his way empty-handed. The incident puts Ruth and her loved ones on edge, with everyone realizing the scope of the threat that Frank poses.
Nonetheless, Ruth and Idgie are well-loved within their community. Their cafe is a hotspot within the town, known for feeding people irrespective of their race, financial status, or any other social barrier. As a result, the women and their son, Buddy Jr., are well-protected. The same proves to be true when Frank attempts to kidnap the child a second time. Although neither Ruth nor Idgie is present in the house at the moment, Sipsey, the woman looking over Buddy Jr., and Smokey, a known drunk whom the couple has helped on numerous occasions, step up to protect their family.
Consequently, in trying to protect themselves and Buddy Jr., Sipsey ends up attacking Frank and delivers a deathly blow. Although the law may have accepted the incident as a self-defense tactic in any other case, Sipsey’s identity as a Black Woman and Frank’s as a White Man put the former at an unfair disadvantage. For the same reason, Big George, Sipsey’s son, and Idgie come up with a scheme to cover up the murder. The solution ends up being much more sinister and unpredictable than anyone would dare to think.
Equipping Smokey’s help, the group gets rid of Frank’s car, driving it into a lake. Afterward, the man skips town to avoid suspicions while the other disposes of Frank’s body by barbequing it at the cafe the next day while keeping Ruth in the dark about it. Even though Sipsey discourages their regulars from ordering the meat that day, the same can’t be done when Sheriff Curtis Smoote, in town to investigate Frank’s disappearance, orders the same. The Sheriff already suspects Idgie of murdering Frank due to her vocal dislike of him.
As a result, when the time comes, Idgie serves “Frank-barbeque” to Smoote, who unwittingly commits cannibalism, much to Idgie and her friend’s horror and humor. Even though Idgie and the others never actually eat Frank, the man certainly meets such an end.