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BROADWAY DANNY ROSE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte
Director:  Woody Allen
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  MGM
Features:  Theatrical Trailer
Length:  84 Minutes
Release Date:  November 6, 2001

“I need a valium the size of a hockey puck.”

Film ***

Broadway Danny Rose is a simple, irresistible comedy from Woody Allen that features one of his most memorable starring roles.  He plays the title character, a manager of a strange menagerie of talent that he would do anything for, but he rarely reaps the rewards from his good deeds:  when an act of his starts to become big, they always leave Danny behind (one word, Mr. Rose:  contract).

His story is told in a brilliant setting, by a group of New York comics (including the likes of Sandy Baron and Will Jordan) having lunch at a deli and sharing their favorite Danny Rose stories.  Baron tells his companions to sit back and get comfortable, because he has the best story of all, and it’s going to take a while to tell.  He might as well have used a whole printer cartridge of brother toner and printed out read-a-long sheets for people to follow.

It’s the story of Rose and his new, troublesome talent Lou Canova (a terrific Forte).  Lou once had his fifteen minutes as an Italian crooner in the 1950s.  Now, still with a big voice (but with a big physique, big appetites and big temper to match), Rose is determined to make Canova the success he’s been dreaming of, and he’ll do anything to make that happen.

What follows is a nightmare of comic proportions.  Lou, despite being currently married and behind on alimony payments to two ex-wives, has it bad for his current mistress, the brash Tina (Farrow, in a memorable role).  With the biggest gig of his life coming up (the chance to perform on a Milton Berle special), he begs Danny to be the “beard”…in other words, bring Tina to the show as his date so they can be together.

Danny reluctantly agrees…he goes to pick up Tina only to find her furious with Lou and his two-timing ways, and refusing to go!  The lovesick Lou protests he can’t go on without her, and starts taking to the bottle to calm his nerves.  Danny has to act fast and use his glib tongue more masterfully than he’s ever done in his life to save the day!

It goes from bad to worse when a Mafioso type, who is also in love with Tina, attempts suicide, sending his two hit men brothers after the guy who stole Tina away from him.  The trouble, naturally, is that they think it’s Danny, not Lou!  Now Danny has to save Lou’s show, convince Tina to be there, and save his own life all in a matter of hours.

This is a much lighter picture for Allen, considering his previous film was the tongue-in-cheek Zelig and his subsequent film was the beautiful The Purple Rose of Cairo.  But Woody light is still terrific entertainment, and his funny, lively screenplay earned him an Oscar nomination.

The ending is poignant and memorable, including a romantic reunion and the ultimate tribute to a Broadway man as indicated by the circle of comics.  You’ll see for yourself what that tribute is.  Bon appetit!

BONUS TRIVIA:  Two of Lou Canova’s songs, “Agita” and “My Bambino”, were actually penned by Nick Apollo Forte himself.

Video ***

Out of all of Allen’s pictures, this one most has the look and feel of an independent film.  Gordon Willis, who created the beautiful black and white imagery of Manhattan and the effectively old-fashioned look of Zelig, takes a more au natural approach to Broadway Danny Rose.  The photography is good, but less self-aware, using black and white for a feeling rather than an artistic statement.  MGM has done a fine job with this anamorphic transfer…the blacks are deep and pure and the whites are clean, and there’s very little noticeable grain to break up the image quality.

Audio **

This is a serviceable mono offering, per Woody Allen’s own audio preference.  Dialogue is well rendered throughout, and there’s nothing else especially praiseworthy or cause for complaint about it.

Features *

Only a trailer.

Summary:

Broadway Danny Rose is all about a master funnyman just being funny.  This lighthearted romp boasts a good cast and a wonderful central character that makes the film more than worthy for a good night’s entertainment.