Today! Because the man has an axe, there’s two of us – there’ll be four of us in no time –
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Directed by Woody Allen
Starring Woody Allen, Mia Farrow (x2), Nick Apollo Forte, Milton Berle (x2), Sandy Baron, Corbett Monica, Morty Gunty, Will Jordan, Jackie Gayle, Howard Storm, Joe Franklin, Michael Badalucco (x2), Howard Cosell
As intimated way back in #399’s Payback, there is a certain point when a filmmaker/actor/writer’s outside life is going to influence the perception of their work. But what will be a much more prevalent issue on this list is the sheer volume of Woody Allen films, compared to Mel Gibson’s – with which I believe we have already finished. Troubles aside, I’ve been an unabashed fan of Woody’s for most of my life – and didn’t see any of his films until after the early scandal of his imploding marriage to Mia/taking up with Soon-Yi. I know this incident was enough for many people to bail on him entirely, but this was pretty much always built into my knowledge of the guy, given the age I was at when it happened. This, of course, says nothing about the later accusations.
I will likely touch on this again, in one of the many Allen movies to come, but I know there is a wholly justified trending belief that the work of an accused person can and should be shunned, as watching/supporting it in many ways is supporting the individual and whatever they did (or are accused of doing). If you feel genuine anger and resentment at the sight of a person’s work, I completely understand not watching it. But while I’m not about to try and parse the facts of the Allen abuse case here – even though the conflicting stories of his and Mia’s kids are pretty curious – I think I can still watch and enjoy Woody’s movies because in my life he’s never been anything but a) an obvious weirdo, in his personal decisions b) someone not to emulate so far as life management is concerned c) the greatest comedy film writer/director in history. Does this give him a pass of some sort? Not at all, if there are legitimate crimes in all this, he should answer for them. But I’ve been able to keep the work separate from the person for Hollywood’s proven monsters (keep an eye out for the Kevin Spacey films to come!), so alleged monsters are a step down even from that. I know I’m rationalizing a bit, but I didn’t want to ignore this obvious issue.
All that being said, Broadway Danny Rose is a particularly interesting film on this list. Sure, it’s the first Allen movie, but it’s also squarely from the second period of his career – the Mia Farrow era, post-Diane Keaton, pre-slow decent into virtual irrelevance, with only momentary flashes of genius. This era is not one that crops up a lot on this list – while there were still some great movies, I didn’t feel like Mia Farrow fit terribly well into Woody’s films, with rare exceptions. Thus, a lot of movies from this time are more fluffy and disposable (Radio Days, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy), increasingly serious, with varying degrees of success (the great Crimes and Misdemeanors, the less so September) or mixed-bag failures (Shadows and Fog, Alice). But this was the one movie where Mia Farrow was outstanding, and with a ton of heavy lifting. Sure, Woody does a great variation on the Woody character – this time as a huckster talent agent managing the career of hard drinking, womanizing nightclub singer Lou Canova (a terrific Nick Apollo Forte) – but Mia, as the married Lou’s sidepiece, carries the later parts of the film, while virtually always wearing sunglasses, forcing her to a lot of tough places acting-wise without using her eyes. It’s almost something you don’t notice, so skilled is Mia in the role, but step back and think about the degree of difficulty in doing something like this, as the co-lead of the movie. Astounding.
And while this movie received the relatively standard Best Original Screenplay nomination for Woody (sixteen in total now), and the third of his seven directing nominations, there is virtually no mention of the very roundabout Best Muppet Movie Reunion of Mad Man Mooney Milton Berle, cameoing here as himself, and Kermit the Frog, who appears gigantically as a balloon during the parade.
We’ve also got an odd group for admission to the Two-Timers club – Uncle Miltie joins in a very small role, following his very small role in #371’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Mia is inducted from her previous appearance in #352’s Be Kind Rewind, and Michael Badalucco – later of The Practice and The Sopranos fame – had another very brief role after his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part in #358’s Switch. Spotlight!