Broadway Danny Rose (1984)


I love movie titles like Broadway Danny RoseGood Will Hunting or Saving Private Ryan.  I don’t know why, I just do.

Woody Allen plays Danny Rose, a manager/agent for smalltime entertainment acts.  He’s a hard worker, and he’ll do anything to scrape by.  Picture a stereotypical salesman.  That’s Danny.

Well one of his clients is Lou, and Lou’s doing quite well.  Danny books a big showcase for Lou, but Lou says he can’t perform unless his mistress, Tina (Mia Farrow), is there.

So Danny tries to track down Tina, following her to a party with a bunch of mobsters.  They encounter Tina’s ex-boyfriend who is jealous of Danny, believing him to be Tina’s new man.

So Tina’s ex-boyfriend orders a hit on Danny, and they must escape.  Danny is desperate to get Tina to Lou’s show, but in the process they bond.  At first they are on opposite ends of a spectrum: Danny believes in acceptance, forgiveness and love while Tina believes in getting the other guy before he gets you.

But then Lou compliments Tina’s idea for how to hypothetically decorate his apartment.  He says she could do better than just designing an apartment.  He has grand visions for her career as an interior designer, and she admits that no one has ever been  in favor of her ideas like he is.

At the same time, around the midpoint of the film, we learn that Tina encouraged Lou to seek new management, before meeting Danny, of course.

Well Danny and Tina are captured by the hitmen, and, discovering that Danny is covering for another man, they demand to know who Tina’s new boyfriend is.  Even under the threat of a gun, Danny refuses to give them Lou’s name.  No matter what, he’s willing to protect his client.  To appease them, Danny gives them the name Barney Dunn.  Barney is a struggling act who Danny believes is on a cruise and thus not in any danger.

While the hitmen go looking for Barney, Danny and Tina escape and make it to Lou’s show just in time.  Everything is great.

Now, in movies there are conventional plot points such as the inciting incident, point of no return, etc.  There’s also the “all is lost” moment (according Blake Snyder, at least) near the end of the second act in which it seems like the character has failed.  In some ways it might seem like getting captured by the hitmen is that moment, but it really comes a bit later when, after the show, Lou tells Danny, in front of Tina, that he thinks they should part ways.

Danny is devastated.  He already told Tina how many of his clients have left him, and Lou isn’t just a client but also a dear friend.  Still, Danny doesn’t beg or tell Lou everything he’s done for him in basically saving his life.  Tina also doesn’t jump in on his behalf.  They each act the part of the worldview they stated earlier: forgiveness and acceptance for Danny and Tina’s cutthroat attitude.

It’s a somber scene, and we (or I) feel for Danny.  He goes to a diner where he hears that Barney Dunn was badly beat up.  Danny feels terrible since he is responsible, so he comes to visit Barney in the hospital and offers to pay for his medical bills.  Barney doesn’t understand why Danny, notoriously cheap, would do such a thing.

The film then focuses back on Tina as she is conflicted about not helping Danny.  We don’t see Danny again until she decides to go see him and apologize.  Whereas most Allen films show him going after the girl, here the girl goes after him.

She visits Allen on Thanksgiving, and it’s a rag tag group of friends assembled, including Barney.  It’s incredibly heartwarming to see.  Danny, though, can’t bring himself to forgive Tina, but then he thinks it over for a minute, long enough for her to walk far enough away that Danny has to run after her.

This is when it becomes more like the Woody Allen films we’re familiar with.  The camera tracks along the street as he runs through the rain to find her, so it does still end with him going after the girl.  They accept each other, and the bow is tied.

I get tired trying to recap each of these movies.  I like analyzing them to death instead.

Broadway Danny Rose begins with a bunch of guys in a diner talking about Danny.  The whole film is told through them recounting the story.  It offers a structure in which information can be revealed, such as Tina encouraging Lou to look for new management, at any time that has the most dramatic effect.  It’s very similar to the way he gives information in his other films, but instead of Woody Allen telling the audience what they need to know, another character does it for him.

This reminded me of his two mockumentaries, Take the Money and Run and Zelig.  All three films are about a character played by Woody Allen, and all three movies deal with other characters talking about Allen.  This is unlike many of his films in which he’s the dominant personality, talking to the camera and basically just monologuing throughout the film.  As the writer he gives the speech to other characters, only he’s now controlling what the conversation is about him.

It makes the film less about what’s going on in Allen’s character’s head and more about what he conveys to the world around him.  What these characters think and feel about Virgil, Leonard and Danny is from what they observe, not what they intrinsically know.

So in that way it’s about the image we give off to the world, and also about how that may be subverted or at least not an entirely accurate picture.  The guys in the diner speak with amusement about Danny.  They don’t seem to like or dislike him, but they’re entertained by him as a comic character.  In the end, though, Danny is shown to be an incredibly caring and thoughtful person.  He doesn’t quite fit the mold of what we assume entertainment agents are really like.  We picture people who only care about the money and who are greedy.  At least, maybe I do because I used to watch Entourage.

But Danny accepts and forgives.  He moves on and hosts thanksgiving meals in his apartment.  So there’s always something going on internally, and if you observe long enough, you’ll see past the image of them you create in your head.

Up Next: The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Radio Days (1987)

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