This is my entry in the 1984-A-Thon, being hosted by Forgotten Filmcast. Be sure to click on the picture in the sidebar or this link to check out the entire line-up of blogs and reviews that are celebrating this great year of movies. The last time I looked, there were 135 movies being covered by 115 different bloggers, so there should be lots of great reading ahead and something to please everyone. And a huge thanks to Todd for giving me a chance to participate and for host what should be a really fun blogathon.
If you enjoy the fragrance of a rose, you must accept the thorns which it bears.
– Isaac Hayes
I’ll admit, I’ve had a sort of love/not love relationship with Woody Allen‘s films over the years. I put it that way because there are some that I definitely love, and others that, well, I feel like “hate” is too strong a word for the way I feel about them, but they just don’t live up to what I would like to see from a man I consider one of America’s most talented writer/directors. I also should admit that I haven’t seen a whole lot of Mr. Allen’s most recent films, a shortcoming I really need to correct.
That being said, Broadway Danny Rose has always been among my all-time favorites of the director’s films. It has just the right amount of tenderness and absurdity to turn what could, in other hands, have gone wrong in so many ways into a true tour-de-force, and a movie that, like many of Allen’s films, reminds us of a time that doesn’t really exist anymore, and probably never actually did, at least not quite like this.
It also contains one of my all-time favorite movie gags, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Broadway Danny Rose opens with an ever-expanding group of comedians sitting around a table at New York’s famed Carnegie Delicatessen swapping jokes and stories. Eventually the name of talent agent Danny Rose comes up, and one of the comedians says that he has “the ultimate Danny Rose story” which he then proceeds to tell.
But most of all, it’s a story about humanity.
Simply put, and without going too Yiddish, Danny Rose is kind of a loser. More than that, he is a loser who has surrounded himself with more losers. He’s a talent manager (not just an agent, as he actually gets personally involved in almost every aspect of his clients’ lives) who represents clients such as a one-armed juggler and a blind xylophonist.
His biggest act, however, is Lou Canova, a washed up lounge singer who suddenly finds himself on the verge of a comeback due to a nostalgia craze that may allow the spotlight to shine on him again, at least momentarily. After years of supporting Lou through thick and thin, it seems as though Danny may have finally managed to get Lou his second big break when Canova is invited to audition for a spot on a TV special being put together by “Mr. Television” himself, Milton Berle. Of course, this would be a huge break not only for Lou, but also for Danny, who might finally have that client who hit the “big time” and didn’t leave him as soon as the pastures seemed to be turning green, as has happened to the agent so many times before.
Unfortunately, there’s just one complication to all of this, and that complication has a name – Tina. You see, Lou is on his third marriage, but he has, unknown to Danny, fallen in love with his mistress, a woman named Tina, who he insists has to be at the show or else he’s convinced he’ll completely bomb the act. However, since Lou’s wife will also be at the show, it appears that the only solution is for Danny to act as Tina’s date for the night, or as the movie puts it, for Danny to be “the Beard”.
Reluctantly, Danny agrees to this plan, but then even further complications arise when, on the day of the big show, Danny arrives to pick up Tina only to find her on the phone having a huge fight with Lou. Having heard rumors that Lou was also seeing someone else, she tells him that there is no way she’s going to come to the show. Hanging up on Lou, Tina runs out on Danny and heads for the estate of her mobster ex-boyfriend, where a party is being held. When Danny is mistakenly identified as the man who stole Tina away, the pair suddenly find themselves on the run form a pair of mobsters who have sworn to avenge their brother’s honor.
It’s during this chase that the gag that I mentioned as one of my all-time favorites occurs:
I’m not going to go too much further into the plot, because I don’t want to spoil the rest for those of you who might decide to give this little gem a try. Instead I’ll simply say that throughout the ensuing pathos and humor, as I mentioned above, the most enduring quality that the film embodies is the inherent humanity that is at the heart of the best of Allen’s films. Because despite what happens, despite the plot twists and chaos and confusion and absurdity, the one theme that underlies the entire film is that of the connections that we make in life. Yes, in the end, people are people, and sometimes they will make choices that disappoint or hurt, but at the same time, in the end, life is about connections. Those we miss, and those we make.
It’s those connections, finally, that this film celebrates, and in those connections it is that Allen finds, in a way that makes it seem, looking back, as one of the transitional films from his earlier, more broadly comedic films to the more serious movies he’s tended towards in more recent years.
And it’s the film’s humanity that shines through the whole enterprise and makes it not just one of my favorite films of 1984, and not just one of my favorite Woody Allen films, but one I think I could happily include in a list of my all-time favorites.
- Star, Smile, Strong: Keeping Confident about the Visual Irony in BROADWAY DANNY ROSE (reelclub.wordpress.com)
- Broadway Danny Rose (1984) (moonwolves.wordpress.com)
- Broadway Danny Rose (nehovistecose.wordpress.com)