1984 / Best Director

Film #542: Broadway Danny Rose (1984)

As I continue my trawl through Woody Allen’s back catalogue I’m starting to see some recurring themes in his work. The last two films have both featured the entertainment industry and elements of the criminal underworld and 1984’s Broadway Danny Rose is no different. In fact Broadway Danny Rose is primarily about the entertainment industry with Allen playing the theatrical agent of the title.

Up to this point, my favourite performance that I’ve seen Allen give in a film is Annie Hall’s Alvy Singer but I think his turn as Danny Rose slightly trumps it. I think for the first time Broadway Danny Rose sees him play a sympathetic character albeit with the same amount of self-loathing that we’ve come to expect from an Allen character. The story is told as an anecdote by one impressionist who is enjoying lunch with a bunch of comedian friends all of whom are aware of Danny. Danny’s client list is made up of acts that take up bottom billing such as bird acts and rubbish ventriloquists. His luck changes when he takes lounger singer Lou Cavana as a client just as the nostalgia boom hits and he’s able to book him a gig at the Waldorf Astoria. The main plot of the film sees Danny trying to get Lou’s bit-on-the-side Tina to the gig as she has to be in the audience or he won’t perform. Danny’s decision to pretend Tina is his girlfriend gets him into more trouble with her ex who himself has connections with the mob and sends two men to kill the agent. So starts a farcical tale as Danny and Tina attempt to get to The Astoria before Lou goes on, however it’s after the performance finishes that the story really starts to take a turn. However I think Broadway Danny Rose ended perfectly and in my opinion it had the best ending to an Allen film I’ve seen so far.

Like the prior two films on this list, Broadway Danny Rose was nominated for both Best Director and Best Original Screenplay but lost out on both counts. That’s a shame as the screenplay for the film is very funny and unlike other Allen films I’ve seen the story is well-paced. At just under ninety minutes the breezy comic plot ambles along pleasantly with the two leads bouncing off each other perfectly. As I’ve already mentioned, Allen’s performance as Danny Rose was one of his best and I found his character completely endearing as he attempted to do right by his clients. But it was Mia Farrow who was the bigger revelation here as she stepped out of her comfort zone somewhat to play the brassy mistress Tina, who actually had more invested in Lou’s career than we previously thought. The chemistry between Allen and Farrow is perfect and that’s just as well as they spend the majority of the film on screen together. Allen’s direction is also on point here and I feel that the black and white photography adds to the old school feel of both the story and the characters. The only thing I didn’t particularly care for was the involvement of the mob in this film as it felt a little out of place and not nearly as believable as it did in Bullets over Broadway.

While I enjoyed Broadway Danny Rose I honestly didn’t feel it was Best Picture material as it never gave me the impression that it was anything more than a rather entertaining comedy film. While Allen and Farrow were both great, I didn’t feel that the film deserved to sit amongst that year’s Best Picture contenders but was certainly deserving of the nod it received in the screenplay category.

Next time I conclude my Woody Allen odyssey with a dramatic film from 1978.

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