Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Broadway Danny Rose is a nice side-trip on Woody Allen's path of self-expression in the
1980s. Not as ambitious as Zelig or Stardust Memories, some thought it a kind of
retrograde enterprise - no elaborate aping of European directors, no indulging of cinematic tricks.
It isn't a return to,"Your Earlier Pictures - the Funny Ones", but is perhaps the beginning of Woody's
A group of standup comics at a deli listens to Sandy Baron's tale of
show business's most loveable and least successful 'personal manager', Danny Rose (Woody Allen).
He's a dedicated plodder, cultivating ungrateful talents who invariably dump him the moment he
gets them somewhere. This leaves Danny with a steady corral of incompetent hypnotists, hopeless
balloon acts, women who play tunes on glassware and an adorable guy whose bird act keeps being
eaten by cats. Danny's big hope for the bigtime is Lou Canova (Nick Apollo Forte), an over-the-hill
lounge singer whose charm is outweighed by his vanity and infidelity. Yet Danny supports Lou's big
break, even going so far as to play the 'beard' for his girl on the side, Tina Vitale (Mia Farrow),
a tough cookie who rankles at Danny's ethics and lack of ruthlessness.
Broadway Danny Rose is special because, perhaps for the first time, Woody Allen allows
genuine affection for his characters to drive the action. Loser agent Danny may have a lot of Allen's
usual neurotic schtick, but he's also a caring professional interested in something more than
himself. His concern for his woeful clientele is genuine, and even his pitiful TV-dinner Thanksgiving
gathering has a real sense of warmth and family. This makes him infinitely more likeable than most
of Allen's other roles. Allen had previously been wary of anything sentimental in his films, which
tended to stay
a bit on the cold satirical side. Even though his style was superior in Annie Hall, most of
the other characters were just ciphers for neurotic Alvy Singer to play against. In the visually
mannered Manhattan, he got warm and fuzzy at the end, but reserved most of the sympathy for
his own character (himself?), a romantic slimeball who sleeps with a close-to-underage girl in a
very exploitative relationship.
But Danny Rose has faith in his clients and a real sense of ethics. His big-fish client, Lou
Canova, is the infantile heartbreaker here, a real louse and a tough guy to even be around,
let alone have
a relationship with. But Danny believes in Lou's talent, and supports him through his tantrums. He's
even better at making the best possible case for other members of the Rose stable, a collection of
very un-trendy acts that include a balloon-twisting couple that wouldn't impress at a kid's birthday
party. But Rose gives every one of them his best, and means it. That's the real appeal here, and the
distinction that sets Broadway Danny Rose apart from Allen's more narcissistic work: a respect
It's this quality that wins Danny Rose his girl too, although in a roundabout way. The romantic
triangle is very simple, and never made into a big confrontational thing. Danny and the jaded
Tina spend a day together and she gets a good look at a guy with values totally different from her
own, her gangster friends, or even the selfish crooner Lou. Yep, she doublecrosses Danny without a
single thought, but the encounter has lasting effects. Danny Rose is as corny and out-of-touch as
those giant rubber balloons floating down Fifth Avenue, but he's got something in his life she
wants. People can be attracted to people simply because they admire their principles, and the
streetwise Tina belatedly discovers a severe need for some principles in her life.
Oh yes, there's the usual clever lines, unlikely gangster threats, embarassing mistaken identities
and humiliating situations for Danny. But it's the sentiment that sticks.
MGM Entertainment's DVD of Broadway Danny Rose is plainwrap as only a Woody Allen disc can
be - his unique deal with Orion (which carried through to MGM) is complete control over the content
of video presentations, and besides the theatrical trailer, there are no extras whatsoever. Perhaps
emulating his hero European masters, Allen doesn't always like his own work but he wants it to speak
for itself. Any commentary from him would indicate that something more needs to be said, like a
painter standing next to his work in a gallery and defending it against the comments of the patrons.
As much as I like this idea in theory, Savant has to admit that hearing great directors talk about
their own work can be very rewarding .... maybe when he retires.
The only aspect of this show I don't have a clue about is Allen's choice to shoot in B&W. It must
just have been the way he 'saw' the picture in his mind. It looks great here, and is free of the
artificial compositions of Manhattan. MGM's flawless 16:9 transfer is able to give the fairly
short movie a high compression rate, and the result is sparkling, even on a big screen.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Broadway Danny Rose rates:
Movie: Very Good
Packaging: Amaray case
Reviewed: October 8, 2001
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2001 Glenn Erickson
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