The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Big-screen fantasy and Depression-era reality collide in this Woody Allen gem, which he ranks among his personal favorites. In their fourth of their 13 films together, Allen casts Mia Farrow as a small-town waitress with an abusive lout of a husband (Danny Aiello). She forgets her problems at the local movie house, but during her fourth viewing of the romantic RKO release THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, the leading man (Jeff Daniels) notes her presence and steps out of the screen to court her. One of Allen’s great gifts is the ability to explore all the implications of his comic ideas. With one character out of the film-within-a-film, the other characters (including Van Johnson, Zoe Caldwell and Deborah Rush) have no way to move the plot forward. Before long, the picture’s producer and the actual star (also Daniels) step in to resolve the situation. Allen’s influences in writing the film are works by two of his cinematic heroes, Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. (1924) and Federico Fellini’s The White Sheik (1952), but the combination of humor, satire and pathos is all Allen. He even drew on his own past for the movie theater scenes, filming in The Kent, the neighborhood moviehouse he visited throughout his childhood.

(d. Woody Allen, 82m, 35mm)