Broadway Danny Rose (1984)

Director: Woody Allen

Starring: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte

The last thing you want to have happen, when relating a “funny story” to some friends, is to have anyone in the group make the comment, “This isn’t funny at all.” Now you’ve got to stop in your tracks and explain your definition of the word “funny.” It totally kills your momentum, like some ill-advised commercial break. In “Broadway Danny Rose,” seven comedians sit around a table in New York’s Carnegie Deli, all of them swapping stories about Danny Rose (Woody Allen), a talent manager who typically grooms two kinds of people: either those too devoid of talent to make it big, or those with enough talent and enough business sense to seek better management. The stories about him are amusing, yet concise. They escalate, like the scene from “Jaws” where Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss play their “Can you top this?” game of comparing scars. Finally, one of the comedians says he has the “mother of all” Danny Rose stories. This tale, told in flashback (of course), serves as the movie’s main plot.

Among the acts which Danny Rose represented, there was the has-been lounge singer Lou Canova (Nick Apollo Forte), whose career is enjoying a bit of a comeback, even if in small doses. He’s about to hit the big time, though, because Danny has set up a gig which the legendary actor/comedian Milton Berle (appearing as himself) is hosting. If Uncle Miltie likes what he sees, this could lead to bigger and better things for Lou. This would be fantastic, since singing on cruise liners is about the best he can get up to this point. A potential obstacle exists in the form of Lou’s extra-marital affair with Tina (Mia Farrow). Things apparently aren’t going well between the two, and it’s got Lou teetering on the edge of drinking himself unconscious on the eve of his big performance. Not wanting his client to screw himself out of the chance of a lifetime, Danny takes it upon himself to talk to Tina and sort things out.

While all the perfomances in “Broadway Danny Rose” are good, Mia Farrow’s is that much better. In her introductory scene, Tina explodes onto the screen in a very “Hello, world!” kind of way. She’s quick to anger, seemingly never satisfied, and seems to know all the things to say to a man if the objective is to drive him crazy. She also pisses her money away on a crackpot fortune-teller. You know, because she’s incapable of making her own decisions. Right away, the audience can sense that this one is going to be trouble, even as none of the men who take an interest in Tina seem to have the faintest idea. Even as Farrow’s Italian accent fades every now and then, the strength of her overall performance does not.

Tina’s first husband crossed the wrong people, and wound up dying from the sort of lead poisoning which results in two gaping holes where your eyes used to be. The implication is strong that her flirtatious ways were an indirect cause, and this comes up again when Danny runs afoul of one of her more dangerous ex-boyfriends. The man has become convinced, due to Danny’s last name, that Danny is the man who keeps sending single white roses to Tina. This has made him both jealous and suicidal. After nearly killing himself with iodine, the man sends his two hitmen brothers chasing after Danny, who flees the scene with Tina.

The brothers do eventually catch up to their intended targets and, at least for a moment, I wasn’t sure whether or not Danny Rose would survive this story. Had Danny been killed, it’s doubtful that Lou, who drinks himself under the table in Danny’s absence, would not have died from alcohol poisoning. After Danny helps his client to sober up, the show goes on as planned. Unfortunately for Danny, the show will continue to go on without him. Unbeknownst, Tina had previously introduced Lou to another, better manager, and they made a deal behind Danny’s back. Sucks to be him but, hey, that’s show business! Sometime later, after she has exhausted her relationships with Lou and another boyfriend, Tina tries to apologize to Danny. She intrudes on a dinner which Danny is hosting for some of his friends/clients. Danny throws her out at first, but then gives chase to try to patch things up.

Story goes that Woody Allen’s original choice for the part of Lou was to have been Sylvester Stallone, whose Hollywood feature debut was in Allen’s 1971 comedy “Bananas.” 1984 also saw the release of a musical comedy pairing Stallone with Dolly Parton called “Rhinestone.” Anyone who knows anything about that movie knows that Stallone’s talents do not include singing. You know there’d have to be a certain amount of dubbing going on to make that work. Although it might have been worth it just to see Stallone getting drunk and passing out onto the floor. But I digress.

Where the ending is concerned, I’m leaning towards wanting to say that “Broadway Danny Rose” is about four minutes too long. It’s almost as if it ends this way not because it’s the natural conclusion, but because it’s the one the audience wants to see. While that may be true for some, I’m not sold on it. This story was built up by the comedian telling it as being the “mother of all” Danny Rose stories. While a well-acted and well-directed movie, it’s not even the “mother of all” Woody Allen films.

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