Tag Archives: Danny Aiello

The Set of 400: #203 – My Favorite Inter-Celluloidal Romance

Today! Because I don’t get hurt or bleed, hair doesn’t muss – it’s one of the advantages of being imaginary –

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Directed by Woody Allen (x4)

Starring Mia Farrow (x3), Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello (x2), Edward Herrmann (x2), Deborah Rush (x2), Van Johnson, John Wood, Zoe Caldwell, Milo O’Shea (x2), Dianne Wiest, Glenne Headly, Peter McRobbie

While his early movies had a greater tendency toward the absurd and the extreme, Woody Allen has never really been a director of all-out fantasy. There are partial exceptions, sure – Sleeper, Midnight in Paris, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex…, Zelig – but it is most pronounced with The Purple Rose of Cairo. Figure, Sleeper is a straight science-fiction comedy, Everything You Always Wanted… is a bag of vignettes, some fantastic, some just goofy, but Purple Rose of Cairo is this wholly unexpected, supernatural thing taking place in the real world – much like Midnight in Paris.

This was also the first comedy Woody made that he doesn’t appear in – and unlike his later comedies, there isn’t even a “Woody Allen character” in the bunch -maybe you could stretch it to say Mia Farrow’s Cecilia fits this bill, albeit just barely. Her depressed, 1930’s movie fan frequents the local theater, where one day – while showing the titular movie-in-the-movie (favorite sub genre!), star Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) just walks out of the screen and sweeps her off her feet. And as fun as the fish-out-of-water movie character wandering around the real world is, the reel world section of the film – where the movie inside the theater tries to figure out how to continue after one of the actors disappears – is almost better, and good for plenty of laughs. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #270 – My Favorite Ghost Writers

Today! Because I don’t recognize the right of this committee to ask me these kind of questions. And furthermore, you can all go fuck yourselves –

The Front (1976)

Directed by Martin Ritt

Starring Woody Allen (x3), Zero Mostel (x2), Herschel Bernardi, Michael Murphy (x2), David Margulies, Charles Kimbrough, Andrea Marcovicci, Lloyd Gough, Danny Aiello, Remak Ramsay, Marvin Lichterman, Joshua Shelley

A markedly serious film despite the starring comedians, The Front features Woody Allen in a non-Woody Allen movie, and a drama at that (an extreme rarity), playing a cashier roped in by blacklisted writer friends to submit television scripts on their behalf, to enable them to keep earning, in the McCarthy Communist witch hunt of the early 1950s. And while there are funny bits here and there, the film attempts to explore the subject more or less straight, to devastating effect.

But people have had some tonal problems with the movie over the years – the television programs are largely comedies, and Zero’s Hecky Brown, in attempts to keep making money, does continue to perform live comedy acts. Because of this, some take issue with The Front for not taking the whole matter more seriously, but without this – I propose – you’d end up with Guilty by Suspicion, which is a fine movie in its own way, but a touch too unbearable and infuriating (and equivocating in its message and source facts). The Front works all the better because of the lighter moments – the sad clown is almost always going to be a more impactful character.

Zero!

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