Wednesday, July 6, 2016

#2,134. Broadway Danny Rose (1984)

Directed By: Woody Allen

Starring: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte

Line from the film: "May I interject one statement at this juncture? And I don't mean to be didactic or facetious in any way..."

Trivia: Actors Danny Aiello, Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone were considered for the role of Lou Canova

The 1980s was quite a decade for writer / director Woody Allen. Along with his Oscar-winning 1986 film Hannah and Her Sisters, he turned out a pair of clever fantasies (Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo); a thought-provoking comedy / drama (Crimes and Misdemeanors); a nostalgic autobiography (Radio Days); and a lighthearted romance (A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy). Often lost in the shuffle is 1984’s Broadway Dany Rose, a black and white comedy about a third-rate talent agent who is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his clients happy, even if it means putting his life on the line!

There is no act too small for New York show biz agent Danny Rose (Allen); along with representing a blind xylophone player, he’s recently signed a husband and wife who specialize in balloon animals. Danny works hard to land gigs for those clients he believes in, and pays special attention to his lone “star” Lou Canova (Nick Apollo Forte), an Italian crooner whose best days seem to be behind him. Still, Danny is certain that Lou has what it takes to get back on top, and has recently convinced the great Milton Berle (appearing briefly as himself) to come to one of Lou’s gigs. In an effort to keep Lou happy in the days leading up to his big audition, Danny even agrees to pose as the boyfriend of Lou’s mistress, Tina (Mia Farrow), a widow whose late husband laundered money for the mob.

But things don’t go well for Danny, especially when he tries to pick Tina up on the big day. For one, she and Lou have just had a fight, and she’s refusing to go to his show. Then, after following her to a party, Danny is confronted by Tina’s ex-boyfriend, Johnny (Edwin Bordo), a mobster who accuses the hapless agent of stealing Tina away from him. Before long, Danny convinces Tina to come to Lou’s gig, but along the way they’re chased by Johnny’s two brothers, Vito (Paul Greco) and Joe (Frank Renzulli), both of whom are mafia hit men. To makes matters worse, Tina has been secretly trying for some time to get Lou to fire Danny, in the hopes a more experienced agent might give the singer’s career the kick-start it needs.

The laughs come early and often in Broadway Danny Rose; in one of the film’s first scenes, Danny tries to talk a promoter into signing some of the acts, including a guy with a singing parrot and a female musician who plays wine glasses (“My hand to God, she’s gonna be at Carnegie Hall”, Danny tells the promoter, “but I’ll let you have her right now at the old price, which is whatever you wanna give me”). He even has big plans for the couple that makes balloons animals, telling them “I don’t see you folding balloons in joints. You’re gonna be folding balloons in… colleges and universities”. Alas, not all of his clients work out; in one hilarious moment, a hypnotist he reps puts an elderly woman in a trance, then can’t snap her out of it (Danny promises the woman’s husband that, if his wife never wakes up, he’ll treat him to a free meal at the restaurant of his choice).

In addition to Allen’s typically manic performance, Nick Apollo Forte (in his only movie role) is superb as the self-centered, married crooner who has fallen in love with another woman (Forte even gets a chance to sing, belting out the catchy tune “Agita”, which he himself wrote). The real star of Broadway Danny Rose, though, is Mia Farrow, who displays a toughness we seldom see from her; as she and Danny try to outrun Johnny’s brothers, it’s Tina who remains strong throughout, and it's thanks to her they're able to stay one step ahead of the would-be assassins (during their adventure, Tina and Danny, pursued by a mob gunman, duck into a warehouse filled with inflatable parade floats, leading to what is easily the film’s most uproarious sequence).

Like most Woody Allen movies, Broadway Danny Rose has its moments of drama and pathos (especially towards the end), but it’s also one of the funniest he’s ever made. If you’re looking for a good laugh, Broadway Danny Rose has dozens to choose from.

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