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Broadway Danny Rose

Broadway Danny Rose
MGM Home Entertainment
1984 / B&W / 1:78 anamorphic 16:9 / 84m.
Starring Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte, Sandy Baron, Milton Berle
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Production Designer Mel Bourne
Film Editor Susan E. Morse
Original Music Dick Hyman
Produced by Robert Greenhut
Written & Directed by Woody Allen

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 best phase.


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 for people.

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
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Trailer
Packaging: Amaray case
Reviewed: October 8, 2001

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