Archive Review: Broadway Danny Rose (1984)

One-time Woody Allen muse Mia Farrow turned 66 today. As far as my Allen movie-watching goes, my latest ventures have been in the ’80s. I’m finding more and more that I like this era of Woody.

“Broadway Danny Rose,” other than featuring Woody Allen as a neurotic character attached to the entertainment industry in some fashion, has a much wider appeal than much of Allen’s other work. Instead of targeting the upper-middle class with societal rants and characters more concerned with their personal and social lives than anything else, “Danny Rose” is for the working-class folk, a story that aims to humble the Hollywood or Broadway ego that believes that you have to be self-serving to be in show business.

The story of the film is told by a bunch of entertainers at the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan, reminiscing about Rose (Allen), an agent for the most obscure acts in New York back in the ’50s and ’60s. One of them claims to have the best Danny Rose story and his telling serves as narration to the film.

The story revolves around Rose and his biggest talent, Lou Canova (Nick Apollo Forte), an old-fashioned Italian crooner doing covers of Sinatra and all kinds of classic tunes from what back then was considered a “bygone era,” but Lou is having a resurgence. Problem is he’s an alcoholic and a womanizer. He insists on having the woman he’s having an affair with attend his big performance at the Waldorf (that could get him a national gig). Other problem is, this Tina (Mia Farrow) was told Lou was cheating on her, so now she’s run off to her Italian mob family and through strange circumstances, the mob wants to knock Danny off.

There are elements of classic comedy here, which is why the black and white works for “Danny Rose.” At the same time, it’s a nostalgic film (the early ’80s was full of that for Allen) and an intimate one.

Without spoiling too much, the key to “Danny Rose” relies in the conflict between self- interest and dependency on others. In a way, it’s Allen’s way of saying thank you or perhaps apologizing to those that have been part of his personal journey.

No one does it alone, especially not Danny Rose, a character whose living is dependent on the talents and aspirations of others and who lives solely by the advice he remembers from deceased relatives. Then there’s Lou, who can’t perform unless Tina is there but loves his wife dearly, and then Tina, who can’t make any major decision without consulting a psychic elderly woman.

“Danny Rose” has some memorable Woody Allen quotes and classically comical situations such as he and Farrow’s Tina “wriggling” their way out of some ropes tying them together as a former escape artist client of Danny’s used to say, or when they’re chased into the Macy’s Day Parade balloon warehouse.

The film is simplistic but truthful and it’s nice to see Allen make a point that’s so universal instead of one about affluent people solving their life crises.

4/5 Stars

Broadway Danny Rose
Written and Directed by Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte


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