Broadway Danny Rose (1984): Woody Allen’s Oscar-Nominated Comedy, Starring Allen, Mia Farrow

Woody Allen was nominated for the Directing and Writing Oscars for this original black-and-white comedy, Broadway Danny Rose, in which he stars as a down-on-his-luck talent agent Danny Rose.

A two-bit agent, Danny Rose became famous for collecting offbeat clients that were not particularly gifted or in demand when he signed them, but then leave him as soon as they get better offers. The clients, some of whom are hilarious, include bird trainers, balloon twisters, wine and glass players.

In the first scene, set at the Carnegie Delicatessen (which no longer exists), a group of showbiz vets relates their encounters with the eccentric Danny Rose.

Of his regular clients, the most colorful one is Nick Apollo Forte (Lou Canova), a boozy, cubby lounge singer, who uses Danny to cover for him when he’s cheating on his wife with Tina Vitale (Mia Farrow).  Occasionally, Danny has to pretend to be Tina’s boyfriend, which gets him into hot waters.  Tina is presumably engaged to a gangster, and when his mobsters friends feel that he had been cuckolded, they go after Danny all over the city.

The movie, which is rather slight in plot, unfolds as a series of amusing vignettes. Remarkably, the movie is nostalgic and warm but not in the least sentimental, and it displays Allen’s strengths as a raconteur of witty verbal jokes.

Allen gives a terrific performance as the “showbiz nobody,” or to borrow from Yiddish, the amiable “schnook.”

Farrow, Allen’s muse and real-life companion in the 1980s, renders a vibrant performance as a floozy, sporting a look (and a wardrobe) that makes her barely recognizable.  Costume design is again by Allen’s reliable collaborator, Jeffrey Kurland.

Production values are excellent, particularly sharp black-and-white imagery by Gordon Willis, who shot half a dozen Allen pictures, including his very best ones.

I recall reading an interview with the gifted comedienne Tracey Ullman, in which she singled out the film as a favorite, “Because it celebrates the loser–something I don’t think Americans like to do.”

Allen was the only director in the Best Directors category whose film had not been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, and many felt that he “took” the spot that belonged to Norman Jewison, whose military melodrama, “A Soldier’s Story,” was nominated for the Best Picture, but not Best Director.

Orion

Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffe production 

Oscar Nominations: 2

Director: Woody Allen

Screenplay (Original): Woody Allen

Oscar Awards:

None

 

Oscar Awards: None

 

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Directing Oscar was Milos Forman for “Amadeus,” which also won Best Picture. Robert Benton won the Original Screenplay Oscar for his memory film, “Places in the Heart.”

Cast:

Danny Rose (Woody Allen)

Tina Vitale (Mia Farrow)

Lou Canova (Nick Apollo Forte)

With Sandy Baron, Corbett Monica, Jackie Gayle, Morty Gunty, Will Jordan , Howard Storm, Jack Rollins.

Running time: 86 Minutes

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