Manhattan


1h 36m 1979
Manhattan

Brief Synopsis

A TV comedy writer falls for his best friend's girl.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Romantic Comedy
Release Date
1979
Location
New York City, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

A middle-aged TV writer, living in Manhattan, finds himself torn between relationships with a teenage girl who idolizes him, a thirtysomething woman who shares his intellectual passions, and an ex-wife who left him for another woman.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Romantic Comedy
Release Date
1979
Location
New York City, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Supporting Actress

1979
Mariel Hemingway

Best Writing, Screenplay

1980
Woody Allen

Articles

Manhattan


Universally praised by critics and a favorite among Woody Allen fans, Manhattan (1979) remains one of the key films of the seventies, one that is still relevant and astute in its observations of life in Gotham. In Woody Allen's own words, it is about 'the problems of trying to live a decent life amidst the junk of contemporary culture - the temptations, the seductions.' It is also uncharacteristically romantic for an Allen movie with its "May-December" affair between Isaac Davis (Allen), a twice-divorced 42-year-old comedy writer, and Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), a 17-year-old high school student. Equally important is the city of New York which plays a central role in the film. This is not the grimy, gritty Big Apple glimpsed in the films of Martin Scorcese (Mean Streets, 1972), Sidney Lumet (Serpico, 1973), or Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant, 1992). This is an idealized view of the city which travels from the Central Park to the Russian Tea Room to the Hayden Planetarium with stops at the Guggenheim, the Whitney, and other cultural landmarks. Allen said, "I presented a view of the city as I'd like it to be and as it can be today, if you take the trouble to walk on the right streets."

In a conversation with Silvio Bizio, the director revealed that the idea for Manhattan "evolved from the music. I was listening to a record album of overtures from famous George Gershwin shows, and I thought 'This would be a beautiful thing to make a movie in black-and-white, you know, and make a romantic movie." United Artists initially had some reservations about allowing Allen to shoot in monochrome due to commercial considerations but eventually gave in to his demands. Allen promptly hired cinematographer Gordon Willis who decided the best way to capture New York City was in the wide-screen Panavision process. It proved to be an inspired creative decision which is evident from the exhilarating opening montage set to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

When Manhattan was first released, there was some criticism leveled at the film for its depiction of a romance between a teenager and a 42-year-old man but several biographical sources have suggested that the relationship had a real-life parallel in Allen's two-year romance with actress Stacey Nelkin (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, 1983). Reportedly, Allen met Nelkin on the set of Annie Hall (1977) when she was a mere 17-year-old extra (Her small part ended up on the cutting room floor). Certain aspects of the Isaac-Tracy relationship may also have been inspired by Allen's real-life correspondence with 13-year-old pen pal, Nancy Jo Sales.

Cast in the role of Tracy, Mariel Hemingway surprised critics with her appealing, unself-conscious performance. It was only her second film (Her first was a supporting role in Lipstick (1976), an exploitation thriller starring her sister, Margaux) and she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Coincidentally, she lost to Meryl Streep for Kramer vs. Kramer who also appeared in Manhattan as a bisexual feminist and former wife of Isaac Davis. Manhattan is also notable as Diane Keaton's last appearance in an Allen film until Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) and some of the more interesting cameos include US Congresswoman Bella Abzug as herself, New York Magazine critic Judith Crist, Anne Byrne, ex-wife of Dustin Hoffman, Karen Allen as a TV actress, and Tisa Farrow, the sister of Mia.

Although it's hard to believe now, Allen admitted he was so appalled by Manhattan after completing it that he had his agent Sam Cohn offer United Artists another film for nothing if they would not release it. Luckily, he changed his mind shortly thereafter but Allen has always been his own worst critic. The majority view of the film is perhaps best expressed by critic Tom Milne who wrote "it's funny and sad in exactly the right proportions. Allen could well strive vainly ever to better this film."

Director: Woody Allen
Producer: Charles H. Joffe
Screenplay: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Cinematography: Gordon Willis
Editor: Susan E. Morse
Music: George Gershwin
Cast: Woody Allen (Isaac Davis), Diane Keaton (Mary Wilke), Michael Murphy (Yale), Mariel Hemingway (Tracy), Meryl Streep (Jill), Anne Byrne (Emily).
BW-97m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Jeff Stafford
Manhattan

Manhattan

Universally praised by critics and a favorite among Woody Allen fans, Manhattan (1979) remains one of the key films of the seventies, one that is still relevant and astute in its observations of life in Gotham. In Woody Allen's own words, it is about 'the problems of trying to live a decent life amidst the junk of contemporary culture - the temptations, the seductions.' It is also uncharacteristically romantic for an Allen movie with its "May-December" affair between Isaac Davis (Allen), a twice-divorced 42-year-old comedy writer, and Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), a 17-year-old high school student. Equally important is the city of New York which plays a central role in the film. This is not the grimy, gritty Big Apple glimpsed in the films of Martin Scorcese (Mean Streets, 1972), Sidney Lumet (Serpico, 1973), or Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant, 1992). This is an idealized view of the city which travels from the Central Park to the Russian Tea Room to the Hayden Planetarium with stops at the Guggenheim, the Whitney, and other cultural landmarks. Allen said, "I presented a view of the city as I'd like it to be and as it can be today, if you take the trouble to walk on the right streets." In a conversation with Silvio Bizio, the director revealed that the idea for Manhattan "evolved from the music. I was listening to a record album of overtures from famous George Gershwin shows, and I thought 'This would be a beautiful thing to make a movie in black-and-white, you know, and make a romantic movie." United Artists initially had some reservations about allowing Allen to shoot in monochrome due to commercial considerations but eventually gave in to his demands. Allen promptly hired cinematographer Gordon Willis who decided the best way to capture New York City was in the wide-screen Panavision process. It proved to be an inspired creative decision which is evident from the exhilarating opening montage set to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." When Manhattan was first released, there was some criticism leveled at the film for its depiction of a romance between a teenager and a 42-year-old man but several biographical sources have suggested that the relationship had a real-life parallel in Allen's two-year romance with actress Stacey Nelkin (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, 1983). Reportedly, Allen met Nelkin on the set of Annie Hall (1977) when she was a mere 17-year-old extra (Her small part ended up on the cutting room floor). Certain aspects of the Isaac-Tracy relationship may also have been inspired by Allen's real-life correspondence with 13-year-old pen pal, Nancy Jo Sales. Cast in the role of Tracy, Mariel Hemingway surprised critics with her appealing, unself-conscious performance. It was only her second film (Her first was a supporting role in Lipstick (1976), an exploitation thriller starring her sister, Margaux) and she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Coincidentally, she lost to Meryl Streep for Kramer vs. Kramer who also appeared in Manhattan as a bisexual feminist and former wife of Isaac Davis. Manhattan is also notable as Diane Keaton's last appearance in an Allen film until Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) and some of the more interesting cameos include US Congresswoman Bella Abzug as herself, New York Magazine critic Judith Crist, Anne Byrne, ex-wife of Dustin Hoffman, Karen Allen as a TV actress, and Tisa Farrow, the sister of Mia. Although it's hard to believe now, Allen admitted he was so appalled by Manhattan after completing it that he had his agent Sam Cohn offer United Artists another film for nothing if they would not release it. Luckily, he changed his mind shortly thereafter but Allen has always been his own worst critic. The majority view of the film is perhaps best expressed by critic Tom Milne who wrote "it's funny and sad in exactly the right proportions. Allen could well strive vainly ever to better this film." Director: Woody Allen Producer: Charles H. Joffe Screenplay: Woody Allen, Marshall BrickmanCinematography: Gordon Willis Editor: Susan E. Morse Music: George Gershwin Cast: Woody Allen (Isaac Davis), Diane Keaton (Mary Wilke), Michael Murphy (Yale), Mariel Hemingway (Tracy), Meryl Streep (Jill), Anne Byrne (Emily). BW-97m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Corn beef should not be blue
- Isaac Davis
I feel like we're in a Noel Coward play. Someone should be making martinis.
- Isaac Davis
I think people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics.
- Isaac Davis
Chapter One. He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Beneath his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat. I love this. New York was his town, and it always would be...
- Isaac Davis
Let's fool around. Let's do it some strange way that you've always wanted to, but nobody would do with you.
- Tracy

Trivia

This was Woody Allen's first film shot using the widescreen (2.35:1) anamorphic Panavision process.

Allen disliked his work in this film so much he offered to direct another film for United Artists for free if they kept "Manhattan" on the shelf for good.

Director's Trademark (Woody Allen):[writer] Jill is a novelist.

'Nelkin, Stacey' , whom Woody Allen dated while she was at New York's Stuyvesant High School, was reportedly the inspiration for the character of Tracey.

There is a clause in the studio's contract that stipulates that the film must always be shown in letterbox format in any home release or broadcast/cable airing.

Miscellaneous Notes

Re-released in United States August 28, 1992

Selected in 2001 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Released in United States 1998

Released in United States March 1979

Released in United States Spring April 25, 1979

1979 British Aceademy Award Winner for Best Picture and Best Screenplay

Voted Best Director (tied with Robert Benton for "Kramer vs. Kramer) and Best Supprting Actress (Streep - shared with her work in "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "The Seduction of Joe Tynan") by the 1979 National Society of Film Critics.

Voted Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (Streep - also for her work in "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "The Seduction of Joe Tynan") by the 1979 New York Film Critics Association

Voted Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Streep - shared with her work in "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "The Seduction of Joe Tynan) by the 1979 National Board of Review.

Voted Best Supporting Actress (Streep - also for her work in "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "The Seduction of Joe Tynan") by the 1979 Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Released in United States 1998

Released in United States March 1979

Released in United States Spring April 25, 1979

Re-released in United States August 28, 1992 (New York City, Los Angeles and Brookline, Massachusetts)