AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Director: Woody Allen (Dir)
Release Date:   25 Apr 1979
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 18 Apr 1979
Production Date:   began Aug 1978
Duration (in mins):   96
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Cast: Starring Woody Allen (Isaac)  
  Starring Diane Keaton (Mary)  
  Starring Michael Murphy (Yale)  
  Starring Mariel Hemingway (Tracy)  
  Starring Meryl Streep (Jill)  
  Starring Anne Byrne (Emily)  
  Featured cast: Karen Ludwig (Connie)  
    Michael O'Donoghue (Dennis)  
    Gary Weis (Television director)  
    Kenny Vance (Television producer)  
    Tisa Farrow (Party guest)  
    Damion Sheller (Ike's son)  
    Wallace Shawn (Jeremiah)  
    Helen Hanft (Party guest)  
    Bella Abzug (Guest of honor)  
  [and] Victor Truro (Party guest)  
    Charles Levin (Television actor #1)  
    Karen Allen (Television actor #2)  
    David Rasche (Television actor #3)  
    Mary Linn Baker (Shakespearean actor)  
    Frances Conroy (Shakespearean actress)  
    Bill Anthony (Porsche owner #1)  
    John Doumanian (Porsche owner #2)  
    Ray Serra (Pizzeria waiter)  

Summary: While attempting to begin a new novel, forty-two-year-old Isaac, a successful television comedy writer, struggles to describe his main character’s view of Manhattan and its inhabitants. At Elaine’s restaurant, Isaac has dinner with his seventeen-year-old girlfriend, Tracy, and his friends, the married couple, Yale and Emily. The four discuss luck, art, courage, and, after Tracy leaves for the restroom, the remaining three discuss her age. Isaac tells his friends that his ex-wife, Jill, who left him for a woman, is writing a book about the breakup of their marriage. This troubles Isaac, because the work will reveal personal details about him and their relationship. Leaving early because Tracy has a high school exam the next morning, the group walks along the sidewalk. As Emily and Tracy follow a few steps behind Yale and Isaac, Yale reveals to Isaac that he is having an affair. One day, Isaac confronts Jill and begs her not to publish the book and expresses concern about their son, Willy, who is now being raised by Jill and her girlfriend. At his apartment in the evening, Isaac and Tracy discuss her past relationships and she tells Isaac that she is in love with him. He is less committal and suggests that she not be so quick to jump to that conclusion. She questions his feelings for her but he in turn argues that at her age she should not be limited to just him. At an art exhibit, Isaac and Tracy encounter Yale and his mistress, Mary. The four talk about art and philosophy, about which Isaac and Mary, a writer, disagree vehemently. Afterwards, Tracy and Isaac are shopping and he, still angry, complains about Mary. At the television studio where he works, Isaac becomes frustrated with the results of his material and quits his job. Meeting with Yale afterward, Isaac worries about his newfound unemployment and his financial burdens, which include alimony, child support, and costly rent. Talk also turns to the book Isaac is working on. In the evening, at a Museum of Modern Art fundraiser, Isaac runs into Mary. They talk briefly with some of her friends and then the two leave together. While walking, they talk about Isaac quitting his job, his writing, her friends, and her past marriage. After picking up Mary’s dog, the two take it for a walk, eventually sitting on a bench together watching the sun come up over the Queensboro Bridge. That morning, Isaac phones Yale and tells him about his evening with Mary and attempts to discern how committed Yale is to her, without admitting that he has become interested in her. Later, Yale and Mary talk about their affair and what direction it is heading. Isaac picks up his son from Jill’s house and again pleads with her to not publish the book. She reminds him of his past erratic behavior, including the time he tried to run over her new lover. A day or so later, Mary calls Yale to see if he wants to go out. When he declines, she calls Isaac. They decide to meet, and as they walk together a violent thunderstorm breaks out, causing them to seek shelter in a planetarium. As they walk through the darkness, their relationship develops and Mary confides her frustration with Yale, who is not ready to break up with Emily. Later at dinner, Tracy tells Isaac about an opportunity she has to study acting in London. Although she is reluctant to leave him, he encourages her, saying how good it would be for her. At Bloomingdales one day, Mary and Yale converse about her growing anxiety over their affair. Tracy helps Isaac move to a cheaper apartment. On his first night there, they are in bed together, and Isaac complains about the intrusive sounds in the new building, and is similarly bothered by the brown water from the tap. Meanwhile, Tracy relates her concerns about their future together, but he remains noncommittal, claiming he wants the best for her. Mary and Yale agree that they have to stop seeing each other, and Yale tells Isaac that he should pursue Mary. Isaac is flattered by the suggestion, but also hesitant. When Isaac and Mary decide to see a movie, they argue again. Back at her home, Isaac tries to kiss Mary, but she resists and instead they discuss their budding relationship. Mary and Isaac spend a day together, visiting a museum and having dinner, eventually spending the night with each other. During a later afternoon, Isaac meets Tracy outside her school, where she gives him a harmonica as a gift. Isaac again talks about Tracy’s age and questions her understanding of love. He says they should not see each other any longer and that he has fallen in love with someone else. Tracy is quite upset, realizing that his earlier expressions of concern for her were really masking his ambivalence. However, Isaac feels the decision should have been expected. In the country together, Mary and Isaac talk about the positive path their relationship is taking, Mary going so far as to say that she could imagine having kids with Isaac. Sometime later, Yale invites Isaac and Mary to spend an evening with him and Emily. The result is an awkward evening for the four of them. While shopping one day, Isaac and Mary run into Jeremiah, her previous romantic partner. Based on Mary’s description of him as a great lover, Jeremiah is physically not what Isaac imagined. One night together, Isaac tells Mary she is wasting her talent writing novelizations of movies. Their talk is interrupted by a phone call from Yale, who wants to meet Mary. She refuses, but tells Isaac the call was from someone offering free dance lessons. Later, Isaac tells Emily that publishers have responded favorably to the first four chapters of his book. While shopping in the country, Isaac and Mary, and Yale and Emily notice and purchase a copy of Jill’s book. Yale reads aloud from it to everyone’s amusement, except, of course, Isaac, who is offended by what he hears. Back in the city, Isaac confronts Jill, who reveals to him that there has already been interest in making the book into a movie. Isaac arrives home to tell Mary about the encounter, but she tells him that she is still in love with Yale, that she has been seeing him again, and that he is actually moving out so that they can be together. Isaac is shocked and promptly rushes to meet Yale at the university where he teaches. Isaac angrily chides his friend and questions his actions. Days later, Emily tells Isaac that she knew about the affair and, unaware of Yale and Mary’s previous attachment, says she thinks their breakup was due to Isaac introducing Mary to Yale. Isaac tells Emily that he misses Tracy, noting the pleasant times they spent together. At home alone, Isaac records ideas for a book. In doing so, he contemplates what makes life worthwhile and this line of thought eventually causes him to think about Tracy. He plays briefly on the harmonica then tries to call her. Abruptly, he races out the door and runs several blocks and catches Tracy just before she leaves for London. Isaac tells her about his feelings. He says he made a mistake and does not want her to go and that he loves her. However, it is too late, as her arrangements have already been made. She reassures him that she will only be gone for six months, and then they can be together, concluding that he just needs to have a little faith in people. 

Production Text: A Jack Rollins-Charles H. Joffe Production
Distribution Company: United Artists (Transamerica Corp.)
Director: Woody Allen (Dir)
  Martin Danzig (Prod mgr)
  Fredric B. Blankfein (Asst dir)
  Joan Spiegel Feinstein (2d asst dir)
Producer: Charles H. Joffe (Prod)
  Robert Greenhut (Exec prod)
Writer: Woody Allen (Wrt)
  Marshall Brickman (Wrt)
Photography: Gordon Willis (Dir of photog)
  Fred Schuler (Cam op)
  James Hovey (Asst cam)
  Dusty Wallace (Gaffer)
  Robert Ward (Key grip)
  Brian Hamill (Still photog)
  Panavision® (Filmed in)
Art Direction: Mel Bourne (Prod des)
Film Editor: Susan E. Morse (Film ed)
  Michael R. Miller (Asst film ed)
Set Decoration: Leslie Bloom (Prop master)
  Joseph Badaluco (Carpenter)
  Cosmo Sorice (Scenic artist)
  James Sorice (Scenic artist)
  Robert Drumheller (Set dec)
  Justin Scoppa, Jr. (Set dresser)
  Morris Weinman (Set dresser)
Costumes: Albert Wolsky (Cost des)
  Clifford Capone (Cost)
  C. J. Donnelly (Ward supv)
  Ralph Lauren (Mr. Allen's ward by)
Music: Zubin Mehta (The New York Philharmonic cond by)
  Tom Pierson (Mus adpt and arr by)
  Don Rose (Arr for Buffalo Philharmonic)
  Andrew Kazdin (Audio prod for the New York Philharmonic)
  Ray Moore (Mus rec eng)
  Bud Graham (Mus rec eng)
  Paul Jacobs ("Rhapsody in Blue" piano soloist)
Sound: James Sabat (Sd mixer)
  Vito Ilardi (Boom man)
  Jack Higgins (Re-rec mixer)
  Dan Sable (Sd ed)
  Lowell Mate (Asst sd ed)
Make Up: Romaine Greene (Hair stylist)
  Fern Buchner (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: Juliet Taylor (Casting)
  Howard Feuer (Casting assoc)
  Jeremy Ritzer (Casting assoc)
  Aaron Beckwith Casting (Extras casting)
  Michael Peyser (Unit supv)
  Kay Chapin (Scr supv)
  Jennifer Ogden (Prod office coord)
  Gail Sicilia (Asst to Mr. Allen)
  Kathleen McGill (Loc auditor)
  James Fanning (Transportation capt)
  Scott MacDonough (Unit pub)
  Bernstein and Freedman (Prod accountant)
  Robert E. Warren (Prod asst)
  Charles Zalben (Prod asst)
  Cheryl Hill (Prod asst)
  Lewis H. Gould (DGA trainee)
  Dawn Animal Agency ("Waffles" trained by)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: "Rhapsody in Blue," music by George Gershwin, performed by The New York Philharmonic, music director Zubin Mehta; "Love Is Sweeping the Country," music by George Gershwin, performed by The New York Philharmonic, music director Zubin Mehta; "Land of the Gay Caballero," music by George Gershwin, performed by The New York Philharmonic, music director Zubin Mehta; "Sweet and Low Down," music by George Gershwin, performed by The New York Philharmonic, music director Zubin Mehta; "I've Got a Crush on You," music by George Gershwin, performed by The New York Philharmonic, music director Zubin Mehta; "Do-Do-Do," music by George Gershwin, performed by The New York Philharmonic, music director Zubin Mehta; "S'Wonderful," music by George Gershwin, performed by The New York Philharmonic, music director Zubin Mehta; "Oh, Lady Be Good," music by George Gershwin, performed by The New York Philharmonic, music director Zubin Mehta; "Strike Up the Band," music by George Gershwin, performed by The New York Philharmonic, music director Zubin Mehta; "Embraceable You," music by George Gershwin, performed by The New York Philharmonic, music director Zubin Mehta; "Someone to Watch Over Me," music by George Gershwin, performed by The Buffalo Philharmonic, music director Michael Tilson Thomas; "He Loves and She Loves," music by George Gershwin, performed by The Buffalo Philharmonic, music director Michael Tilson Thomas; "But Not for Me," music by George Gershwin, performed by The Buffalo Philharmonic, music director Michael Tilson Thomas.
Composer: George Gershwin
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
United Artists Corporation 15/5/1979 dd/mm/yyyy PA31598

PCA NO: 25643
Physical Properties: Sd:
  Lenses/Prints: Prints by Technicolor®

Genre: Comedy
Subjects (Major): Adolescents
  New York City
  Romantic rivalry
  Urban life
Subjects (Minor): Apartments
  Fathers and sons
  Separation (Marital)

Note: The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Jeremy Carr, Visiting Research Fellow with the Arizona State University Center for Film, Media and Popular Culture.

According to a 16 Aug 1978 Var news item, filming on Manhattan began the previous week in New York. The same news item reported that Allen Eisner, the proprietor of a foreign periodicals store, was paid $1,000 to stay open for filming. However, in a 13 Sep 1978 Var news item, Eisner stated that he received only $100 the first night and $125 the second night of shooting. In addition to New York City locations, portions of the film were shot in Englewood, NJ, according to a 3 Nov 1978 HR news item that referred to writer-director Woody Allen as “New York’s most loyal New Yorker.”
       A 26 Jul 1978 LAT article proposed that the scheduled release of Manhattan would coincide with a New York City “image-brightening, morale-building advertising campaign.” The world premiere of the film, as noted in an 18 Apr 1979 DV article, was held that evening at Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City as a benefit for the Film and Video Department of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Regular engagements were planned to begin in New York and Los Angeles on 25 Apr 1979.
       A 25 Apr 1979 DV article reported that attempts to appeal the picture’s R rating were unsuccessful and that the film violated the Motion Picture Association of America’s “’F’ words prohibition.” A 30 April 1979 LAT news item reported that the appeals board voted 11-7 to re-rate the film PG. However, as a two-thirds majority was required to overturn a rating, and a final appeal to another board resulted in a 2-8 vote, the R rating remained.
       A 23 Apr 1979 HR early review of the film by Arthur Knight stated that Manhattan was a “dark comedy,” the darkest “since the halcyon days of Preston Sturges.” Cinematographer Gordon Willis’ “evocative opening shots” were commented upon and Knight proposed that the final shot was as “masterful as Chaplin’s in ‘City Lights.’” He concluded that the film marked “yet another advance for Woody Allen as one of the boldest, most innovative artists of the American film today.”
       Further enthusiasm for the film came from NYT film critic Vincent Canby in a 25 Apr 1979 review, in which he declared the picture to be Allen’s “most moving and expansive work to date.” He praised the music choices, particularly the opening montage of iconic New York imagery, which was underscored with George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue . A Var review published on the same day declared the film an “irresistible yarn of personal relationships that draws skillfully on the best comic moments of Annie Hall and the raw emotions he portrayed in his last picture, Interiors ” (see entries).
       A 1 May 1979 HR column by Robert Osborne reported that New York City traffic had to be rerouted because of crowds outside the 430-seat Baronet Theatre and two other venues where the film was showing. A 16 May 1979 HR news item reported that the high demand of New York City audiences to see the film resulted in a special limited engagement at the Coronet Theatre, in the East Side, while continuing at eight other theatres in the Greater New York area. On 31 May 1979, HR reported that Manhattan was the “season’s leading box office hit with a gross of $14,738,949,” ahead of Annie Hall in a similar period and with a similar number of play dates.
       Manhattan was also successful internationally. A 24 Dec 1979 DV article reported that there was a foreign box office gross of $10,874,747 in fourteen overseas markets, according to United Artists senior vice president and foreign manager, Norbert T. Auerbach. The film played particularly well in Paris, with $518,330 in sixteen theatres, while simultaneously playing Annie Hall , which was in its 120th consecutive week of play. Despite some initial resistance from Argentinean censors over the film’s depiction of lesbianism, a 24 Mar 1980 DV news item reported that in Buenos Aires the film opened in three houses to “fabulous” box office. Twelve years later, however, around the time of Allen’s child custody battle with romantic companion, Mia Farrow, and the revelation of his relationship with her twenty-one-year-old adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, a re-release of Manhattan fared poorly at the box office, according to a 1 Sep 1992 DV article. The film earned $759 during three days of a solo reissue in Los Angeles, and $958 in New York. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   18 Apr 1979.   
Daily Variety   25 Apr 1979.   
Daily Variety   24 Dec 1979.   
Daily Variety   24 Mar 1980.   
Daily Variety   1 Sep 1992.   
Hollywood Reporter   3 Nov 1978.   
Hollywood Reporter   23 Apr 1979   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   1 May 1979.   
Hollywood Reporter   16 May 1979.   
Hollywood Reporter   31 May 1979.   
Los Angeles Times   26 Jul 1978.   
Los Angeles Times   22 Apr 1979   p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   30 Apr 1979.   
New York Times   25 Apr 1979   p. 17.
Variety   16 Aug 1978.   
Variety   13 Sep 1978.   
Variety   25 Apr 1979   p. 18.
Village Voice   3 Dec 1979.   

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