“Life’s short; you don’t get any medals for being a boy scout.”
A down-on-his luck theatrical manager (Woody Allen) pins his hopes on a singer (Nick Apollo Forte) who he hopes will soon make the big time; but his plans become complicated when Forte refuses to sing in front of Milton Berle unless his moody mistress (Mia Farrow) is there, and Allen is tasked with convincing her to attend.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this Woody Allen comedy about “a former Borscht Belt comedian turned down-and-out Broadway agent for some of the least talented acts imaginable” “never reaches the hilarious heights of Allen’s classics”, but possesses a “truly sweet oddball character” in the title role of Danny Rose. Indeed, Danny is possibly Allen’s most likable alter-ego, given his endearing devotion to “all his clients”, even “a stuttering ventriloquist and an elderly couple who make balloon animals”. The running “joke” of the film — that Allen’s clients inevitably shift to another agent once they’ve achieved any level of real success — demonstrates that Danny’s loyalties may be somewhat misplaced, yet one can’t help cheering him on in his comedically hopeless endeavors. The storyline (efficiently, humorously scripted by Allen) remains enjoyably wacky and fast-paced throughout, as “Farrow and Allen have an exciting adventure together”, and Allen (mistaken for Farrow’s lover) eventually becomes “wanted” by her mob connections.
Though Allen does a fine job playing such a sympathetic character — and Forte is completely convincing in his debut role (he wrote his own songs as well) — Farrow’s performance is the true surprise here: she’s literally unrecognizable at first in her “blond wig and dark glasses”, using a “convincing New Jersey accent”; her character’s cynical, self-preserving approach to life functions as an effectively stark contrast to Danny’s eternally helpful optimism. Meanwhile, Allen’s use of a flashback structure to frame the storyline — involving a group of stand-up comedians who reminisce in a diner about Danny Rose — perfectly establishes the film’s tone and milieu, allowing Allen to pay homage to the performance medium that gave him his start in show business. One may question why DP Gordon Willis chose to film the picture in (admittedly gorgeous) b&w (perhaps to evoke an era of nostalgia?); but while I believe the film could have worked just as well in color, I won’t begin to quibble.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Woody Allen as Danny Rose
- Mia Farrow as Tina
- Gordon Willis’s cinematography
Yes, as one of Allen’s (many) “best” films.