Broadway Danny Rose (1984) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for language
Running Time: 84 min.
Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte, Sandy Baron, Jackie Gayle, Milton Berle, Chris Vandenburgh, Herb Reynolds, Tony Turco, Edwin Bordo
Director: Woody Allen
Screenplay: Woody Allen
Broadway Danny Rose has its moments, and has a strong following among Woody Allen (Stardust Memories, Annie Hall) fans, but for non-fans and those unfamiliar with Allenís style, this would probably not be the best choice. This one takes Allen back to his roots as a stand-up comedian, and much of the humor comes from the showcasing of the many acts one would find in the venues Allen might have played in along the way. Shot in black-and-white, but not nearly the artistic vision that was Manhattan, this is a straightforward tale, almost a character study of the nightclub and lounge act industry and the eccentric characters that inhabit it balloon-shape artists, dummy/ventriloquist acts, playing the glasses of water, parrots, magicians, and crooners.
In this world is comedian Danny Rose, who has been spending more of his time managing the various acts, lending his own personal touch. Heís not all that successful himself but he when he gives his assistance, he gives it his all. Perhaps his most notorious story involves washed-up singing act, Lou Canova (Forte), who had made a minor splash in the 50s, but hasnít done much since. Danny takes him on, and has modest success playing small clubs and cruise ships, but soon, Louís dalliances begin to cause problems, and he asks Danny to bail him out. Lou wants his ďwoman on the sideĒ, Tina (Farrow, Zelig), to attend his concerts, and wants Danny to bring her, pretending to be her date, so as to keep up appearances. However, Tina has another interested suitor who is ravaged with jealousy, and his mobster family wants to cause bodily harm to Danny for getting in the way of his romantic interests.
Woody Allen would get two Academy Award nominations for Broadway Danny Rose, for his direction and for his screenplay. In those days, Allenís nominations were a bit perfunctory, and while I donít personally think this film is among his best in either department, I wonít really quibble with the fans that think it is. It is energetic and colorful (well, for a film in black and white), and has a few laugh-out-loud moments (my favorite is the scene with a shoot-out near helium tanks). It is also unpretentious, and at 84 minutes, flies by with ease.
Still, among Allenís works, my personal take is that Broadway Danny Rose is a middling effort. It may be cute, but itís not as funny as Allenís other comedies, and nowhere near as profound. My recommendation is to watch it, but only after youíve seen Allen at his finest in other films first.
©2005 Vince Leo