Critical Reception


-“The Purple Rose of Cairo” was the fourth Allen film to star Mia Farrow and only the second without Allen appearing in a role. Some have said Allen's absence from the film was partly to blame for its lack of commercial success. Though the film is not embraced as a consummate Allen film, and many consider it a plainly inferior work, Allen has called The Purple Rose his favorite film in his oeuvre. "It was the one which came closest to my original conception." [3]


-“The Purple Rose of Cairo” received some of the best reviews of his career. In the opinion of Time’s Richard Schickel, it was nothing less than “one of the best movies about movies ever made.” [4]


-For a change, even the hard-nosed Pauline Kael seemed impressed by the writing and characterizations: “This is the first Woody Allen movie in which a whole batch of actors really intereact and spark each other.” [4]


-Among the minority was Woody’s passionate detractor John Simon, who compared the picture to an unpopular vegetable: “I say a purple rose is a purple rose, whether as a film or as film-within-film, and either way, it’s spinach and to hell with it.”


-Audiences must have felt the same way. The film made 10.6 million the box office – the same as “Broadway Danny Rose” and ended up losing money. [4]


-This movie garnered a single Oscar nomination, for Best Original Screenplay. It fared better elsewhere, though: it won the BAFTA for Best Picture and Best Screenplay (with additional nominations for Best Actress and Best Special Effects), it won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Actor (all three in the “Musical/Comedy” category); it also won the “International Critics” prize at the Cannes Film Festival. [2]


-90% Rotten Tomatoes rating

-Released in United States May 9, 1985

-Runtime: 82 mins

-Production Company: Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions

-Distributor: Orion Pictures Corporation

-Rated PG

- Budget $15 million (estimated) [1]

-Gross: $10.6 million [1]

- Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1

"The Purple Rose of Cairo" Screening Companion

-"The Purple Rose of Cairo" is the one movie it was okay to like — or, perhaps more accurately, it was the one that it was just too hard to deny. It’s the accepted “exception” for the people who dislike Woody Allen movies, and the go-to recommendation for anyone not sold on the Allen filmography and looking for something to change their mind. Partly because Woody Allen, who is understandably a polarizing figure on-screen, doesn’t appear in it, but mostly because "The Purple Rose of Cairo" is undeniably the most charming movie ever made by Allen, or perhaps anyone else. Although it’s miles from being his smartest, funniest or most innovative movie, it’s one that only the blackened hearts of Sauron or Hitler could truly dislike. [2]


-Allen grew up an obsessive moviegoer who soaked in the pictures that played in his Brooklyn, New York neighborhood. Allen's favorite movie theater palace as a boy was the last-run Kent, home of 12-cent films, which he called "one of the great, meaningful places of myboyhood." Before the Kent was torn down, Allen created his own homage to this beloved picture palace by filming part of "The Purple Rose of Cairo" there. Writing in The St. James Film Directors Encyclopedia, Mark Estrin notes the significance of film-going inthe movie, "Like "Manhattan" (1979) before it, and "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986) and "Radio Days" (1987) after it, The Purple Rose of Cairo examines the healing power of popular art." [3]


-Although the movie-fan story seemed to be truly about himself as a kid, Woody decided not to play the starry Cecilia. Emphatically distancing himself – “there was just no part for me,” he insisted – he gave the role to Mia. [4]


-Principle photography began in Piermont, New York, a small town on the Hudson River that had the correct gritty look of the thirty’s factory area. (Some interiors were filmed in Midwood, at the Kent theater, where Woody went as a boy). [4]


-Woody Allen has said more than once that this is his favorite of the movies he's made. [1]


-Never completely satisfied with any of his films, Woody would nevertheless rank “The Purple Rose of Cairo” as his best picture, at least one that came closest to his original concept. Later on, he also admitted that Cecilia, of all his created characters, was the one with whom he most closely identified. [4]

The Ending [minor spoilers]


-Fantasy is, by definition, all you could ever want and more, reality is deceptive and disappointing. The point Woody Allen set out to make is that life is disappointing and it’s foolish to expect anything from it. [2]


-One of the most unique features about “The Purple Rose of Cairo” is its remarkably downbeat ending, which provoked the wrath of his studio Orion. Orion executives asked Allen to change the painful conclusion, which punctured the escapist fantasy of the rest of the film, but Allen refused. [3]


-After this film was previewed, word got back to Woody Allen that if he just changed his ending, he could have a big hit. Allen declined, saying that the ending is one of the reasons he made the film. [1]


-In an interview in Esquire, Woody Allen was asked why he didn't make a happy ending to the film. Allen replied, "That *was* the happy ending." [1]


-Although drowned in the melodrama of the film’s final twist, I think this moment contains the movie’s real message: life will disappoint, but fantasy will always be there for you, even in your darkest hour. [2]

The deepening of Mia and Woody's relationship


-With “Purple Rose” being Mia’s fourth film with Woody, the public now saw her as his muse. Hereafter, whenever he released a new film, everyone knew the leading character was fashioned for her special capability. [4]


-Woody never publically spoke of love; he talked of loyalty, dependability, and obedience. Critic Vincent Canby though saw these early Mia-Woody films as “love letters. He obviously admired her tremendously. She’d always been a accomplished actress – though never a comedienne – and he got performances from her no other director ever could have gotten.” [4]


-At this point in Mia’s career she stopped looking for other work – partely because of Woody yearly production schedule, but also because she was convinced that working for another director would have damaged their personal relationship.


-Convenience was also another factor. Woody made filming incredibly accommodating for her and her family.  Unlike most people in this profession who would leave their families for extended periods, Woody filmed his movies around New York City and generally a 9-5 ordeal. [4]


-Woody and Mia because one of the hot couples of the mid-eighties. Mia began pushing for marriage but Woody once again resisted. Now almost 50, Woody didn’t see the need. Mia then changed her focus on having a child with him. After some difficulties trying to conceive, she suggested adoption. [4]


-Woody and Mia adopted a newborn baby girl who they named Dylan O’Sullivan. The blond, blue-eyed baby girl Mia later admitted might be the most likely to appeal to Woody. [4]


-At first Woody showed little interest, but it wasn’t before long he would visit Mia’s apartment on a daily basis and even ask for a key. They talked of coadopt her and even moving in together. They began house hunting together. After an extensive search and even finding one they both wanted (the owner of the house had an abrupt change of mind) the couple decided to stay in the same setup. [4]


-Woody followed this period of his life with two strong family focused films: “Hannah and her Sisters” and “Radio Days.”



-The dual role of Tom Baxter/Gil Shepherd was originally cast with Michael Keaton, whose work Allen admired and who took a significant cut in salary for the privilege of working with Allen (he was paid $250,000, a quarter of his normal fee [4]). But Allen eventually felt that, despite a strong performance, Keaton was too contemporary and hard to accept as a character living in the 1930s. After 10 days on the set, Keaton and Allen amicably parted company and Daniels was cast in the dual part of Shepherd /Baxter. [3]


-Allen apparently promised Michael Keaton a make-up role in a later film after cutting him from this one, but that obviously never happened. [2]


-Jeff Daniels opened a playhouse in his hometown of Chelsea, Michigan called "The Purple Rose."    [1]


-For the amusement park scenes, filming was brought to the classic and now closed amusement park Bertrand Island which was located in Mount Arlington at Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey. The park was quite a famous one in its heyday, and had closed shortly before filming commenced on the site. Some rides seen were the originals from the park, but others were props brought in by the film crew. [1]

In an interview in a Belgian magazine, Viggo Mortensen said that he was very proud to have played a small role in this movie during a difficult time of his life. When he proudly took his entire family to a movie theater to see it, he was extremely disappointed to find out that all of his scenes were cut from the final movie.    [1]


-In an interview, in the ‘90s, Woody Allen described the message of the movie as “life is ultimately disappointing.” In  2011’s Midnight In Paris, Owen Wilson uses almost that exact same line. Also, Wilson’s character in that movie is named “Gil” — the same name as Jeff Daniels’ character in this "The Purple Rose of Cairo." The latter is likely a coincidence, although the former is probably not. [2]\


-Woody featured newcomer Dianne West in a small cameo in “Purple Rose” and Woody hand-picked newcomer Dianne West from a room full of actresses auditioning for a role in “Purple Rose.” He would later feature her in multiple films were she repaid him with three Oscar nominations.

[1] –

[2] – "Every Woody Allen Movie" web site

[3] – Turner Movie Classics

[4] - "The Unruly Life of Woody Allen" by Marion Meade