The Purple Rose of Cairo  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Purple Rose of Cairo is a 1985 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Woody Allen. Inspired by Sherlock, Jr., Hellzapoppin', and Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, it is the tale of a film character who leaves a fictional film of the same name and enters the real world.

Contents

Plot

Set in New Jersey during the Great Depression, the film tells the story of Cecilia (Mia Farrow), a clumsy waitress who goes to the movies to escape her bleak life and loveless, abusive marriage to Monk (Danny Aiello), whom she has attempted to leave on numerous occasions.

The latest film Cecilia sees is a fictitious RKO Radio Pictures film, The Purple Rose of Cairo. It is the story of a rich Manhattan playwright (Edward Herrmann) who goes on an exotic vacation to Egypt with companions Jason (John Wood) and Rita (Deborah Rush). While in Egypt, the three meet archaeologist Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels). Tom is brought back for a "madcap Manhattan weekend" where he falls head-over-heels for Kitty Haynes (Karen Akers), a chanteuse at the Copacabana.

After Cecilia sits through the film several times, Tom, noticing her, breaks the fourth wall, and emerges from the black-and-white screen into the colorful real world on the other side of the cinema's screen. He tells Cecilia that he is attracted to her after noticing her watching him so many times, and she takes him around her New Jersey town. Later, he takes her into the film and they have a great evening on the town within the film. The two fall in love. But the character's defection from the film has caused some problems. In other copies of the film, others have tried to exit the screen. The producer of the film learns that Tom has left the film, and he flies cross-country to New Jersey with actor Gil Shepherd (also played by Jeff Daniels). This sets up an unusual love triangle involving Tom, Gil and Cecilia. Cecilia must choose between them and she decides to choose the real person of Gil rather than the fantasy figure of Tom. She gives up the chance to return with Tom to his world, choosing to stay with Gil and have a 'real' life. She breaks up with her husband.

But Gil's professions of love for Cecilia were false—he wooed her only to get Tom to return to the movie and thereby save Gil's Hollywood career. Gil abandons Cecilia and is seen quietly racked with guilt on his flight back to Hollywood. Having been left without a lover, job or home, Cecilia ends up immersing herself in the frothy escapism of Hollywood once again, sitting in a theater watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing to "Cheek-to-Cheek" in the film Top Hat, forgetting her dire situation and losing herself in the film.

Cast

Michael Keaton was originally cast as Tom Baxter/Gil Shepherd, as Allen was a fan of his work. Allen later felt that Keaton, who took a pay cut to work with the director, was too contemporary and hard to accept in the period role. The two amicably parted ways after ten days of filming and Daniels replaced Keaton in the role.

Filming locations

A number of the scenes featuring Tom and Cecilia are set at the Bertrand Island Amusement Park, which closed just prior to the film's production. It was also filmed at the Raritan Diner in South Amboy, New Jersey. Woody Allen shut down the Kent Theater on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn to film The Purple Rose of Cairo there. This is the movie theater in neighborhood he grew up in and undoubtedly spent many hours there as a child and teenager.

Allen's opinion

In a rare public appearance at the National Film Theatre in 2001, Allen listed The Purple Rose of Cairo as one of only a few of his films that ended up being "fairly close to what I wanted to do" when he set out to write it. Allen provided more detail about the film's origins in a comment he made a year earlier, during a press junket for Small Time Crooks:

Purple Rose was a film that I just locked myself in a room [to write].... I wrote it and halfway through it didn't go anywhere and I put it aside. I didn't know what to do. I toyed around with other ideas. Only when the idea hit me, a long time later, that the real actor comes to town and she has to choose between the [screen] actor and the real actor and she chooses the real actor and he dumps her, that was the time it became a real movie. Before that it wasn't. But the whole thing was manufactured.

The film currently holds a 'fresh' 90% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 7.8/10.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Purple Rose of Cairo" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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