The favorite film:
The Purple Rose of Cairo, a 1985 comedy/fantasy written and directed by Woody Allen

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The synopsis:
Cecilia, a New Jersey waitress trying to stay afloat during the Depression, turns to film for an escape from the monotony of her daily life. Her favorite film becomes The Purple Rose of Cairo (an RKO Radio Picture!), which she goes to see multiple times to cheer herself up. Cecilia gets the surprise of her life when archaeologist Tom Baxter, the film’s lead character, hops off of the screen in Cecilia’s theater. Both Hollywood and Cecilia’s life are turned upside down by Tom’s adventurous trip into the real world.

The cast:

  • Mia Farrow as Cecilia
  • Jeff Daniels as Tom Baxter
  • Jeff Daniels as Gil Shepard
  • Danny Aiello as Monk
  • Zoe Caldwell as The Countess
  • Van Johnson as Larry Wilde
  • Edward Herrmann as Henry
  • John Wood as Jason
  • Karen Akers as Kitty Haynes
  • Dianne Wiest as Emma

Fun facts:

  • This is one of Woody Allen’s favorites of all of the films he has made.
  • Jeff Daniel’s founded a theater/theater company in Chelsea, Michigan called “The Purple Rose,” named after this film, in 1991.
  • Despite prodding from the studio and promises that he’d have a hit film if he did, Woody Allen refused to change the ending of the film.
  • Jeff Daniels’ role was originally filled by Michael Keaton. After some shooting, Woody Allen decided to re-cast the role because Keaton felt too contemporary to be believable in a period film.
  • Gil Shepard, the actor playing Tom Baxter (though both are actually played by Jeff Daniels) shares a first name with the lead character of Allen’s more recent film Midnight in Paris.
  • When the film screened at Cannes in 1985, Allen reportedly said “The seduction of fantasy, as opposed to the pain of real life, is a theme that has appeared in my work time and time again. This was something I never realized. It was pointed out to me my critics and friends over a period of years. The Purple Rose of Cairo is apparently my latest expression of this idea.”  Allen also said he wouldn’t explore the theme again, since he was so pleased with how this film turned out… but he continued to in films like Midnight in Paris, which examines nostalgic fantasy. (Quote via
  • The theater used in the film is Brooklyn’s Kent Theater, which Allen visited as a child.
  • Awards: Nominated for Best Writing at the Oscars; nominated for four Saturn awards; won Best Film and Best Screenplay at the BAFTAS + received two more nominations for Best Actress and Best Visual Effects; Won the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes; Nominated for four Golden Globe awards, winning Best Screenplay; 2nd place Best Film & Best Screenplay from the National Society of Film Critics Awards; Nominated for WGA Best Screenplay award
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Favorite things/quotes:

  • The conversation between Cecilia and her co-worker about all of the hot screen star gossip of the day
  • The movie within the movie
  • “I think our poetic little archaeologist is about to make a discovery!”
  • “I’m on the verge of a mad cap Manhattan weekend!”
  • The scene where Tom Baxter begins talking to Cecilia from the screen, and then climbs out of the screen
  • The hysteria of the other characters on screen after Tom leaves in the middle of the story… and the audience continuing to watch as though it’s all intentional!
  • “No! No! Don’t turn the projector off! No, no, it gets black and we disappear!”
  • Tom’s excitement over tasting popcorn for the first time
  • “I’m tired of marrying you every night, anyway. We never even get to the bedroom!”
  • The audience enjoying the gag at first, but soon becoming annoyed and demanding refunds. “They sit around and talk, and no action?”
  • “I am a genuine countess with a lot of dough, and if that’s your wife she’s a tub of guts.”
  • I love the layers of actors playing actors who are playing characters, and the characters coming to life themselves. So much fun to watch.
  • “I wanna go too! I wanna be free! I want out!”
    “I’m warning you, that’s communist talk!”
  • Cecilia fangirling over Gil even though she’s already sort of spent time with him in his Tom Baxter persona
  • Gil introducing himself to Tom by saying “I play you in the movie.”
  • Tom getting into a fist fight because courage was “written into [his] character.”
  • “What’s your name, sweetheart?”
    “That’s the same as the ambassador’s wife!”
    “Why didn’t you bring the ambassador?”
    “Well, he’s still up on the screen.”
  • “Every breath she takes makes my heart dance!”
  • “We’re reality. They’re a dream!”
  • Tom trying to leave the screen in four theaters… “and he almost made it in Detroit!”
  • The scenes in which Cecilia gets the chance to hop into the black and white film. She is livin’ the dream.
  • Jeff Daniels arguing with himself
  • “I could have been played by Fredric March or Leslie Howard!”
  • “Go with somebody, child, cause I’s gettin’ bored.”
  • “If anyone wants me I’ll be in reel 6!”
  • Fred and Ginger!
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