With a list of credits that amounts to roughly one film per year since 1965, there’s bound to be some great work that gets lost among the towering monuments of films like Annie Hall or The Purple Rose of Cairo. While not as top shelf as those two examples, Broadway Danny Rose is still a pretty great film.
It casts its spell over you fairly quickly, as the film is a story told in flashback not by any of the principal characters in it, but by a group of show business veterans who look at our title character with a mixture of warmth, respect and great humor in his exploits. Woody Allen, not an actor of tremendous range, crafts a charming character out of his well-known persona and, more than likely, disparate parts of real-life characters he had met over the years. It’s good that we can find him amusing and enjoyable to spend time with even when he dips into darker territory, the plot does revolve around him escorting his client mistress around town while simultaneously falling for her. And the plot, not always the strongest part of the Allen film package which comes in the characters and dialog, is truly secondary to the three central performances, especially the one from Mia Farrow.
Allen is famous for crafting and creating strong, complicated and dynamic female characters. And Farrow’s gum-chewing gangster’s moll is a nice change of pace from her normally sweet, demure and open characters. That she creates so strong a performance while wearing sunglasses the whole time is a testament to her gifts, and that she so effortlessly nails her laughs and sells her tough-talk is a stronger one. Sure the plot ends in a slapstick manner that isn’t entirely satisfying, but everything up until that point side-steps the easy stereotypes these characters and situation could have become. So, it ends in a less than stellar way, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t underrated. And underrated Woody Allen is a pretty fantastic thing.