Review: The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985 movie)

I saw this when it first came out but had forgotten most of it except the original premise. Mia Farrow is a waitress in the depths of the Great Depression, supporting both herself and her husband, who drinks and gambles and since losing his job hasn’t been trying hard to find another. She’s not a very good waitress and has the job only because her sister (played by Farrow’s real-life sister Stephanie) works in the same diner.

Farrow’s lone pleasure is watching movies at the local theater, the latest being a romantic musical comedy one of whose characters is a cheerful adventurer, played by Jeff Daniels, who has just returned from seeking a legendary purple rose in Egypt. Farrow watches the movie over and over again until Daniels, who has noticed her in the audience for all those showings, steps off the screen to talk to her. This naturally proves quite disruptive. The other characters can’t continue the movie without him, and the studio executives fear a lawsuit.

It’s obviously a wild fantasy, but it also asks some interesting questions. I didn’t like the ending at first but after thinking about it I revised my opinion. It’s certainly among Woody Allen’s better films and he has at times called it his favorite.

Incidentally, the little old lady who plays the piano in the music shop is Loretta Tupper, a child prodigy pianist since the age of four who performed in Vaudeville and had her own radio variety show as well as playing a regular role on The Gibson Family radio show.

Following is an abbreviated, fan-created version of the trailer (“The original spoils too much.”)


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