Between the formal experimentation and psychological gamesmanship of Zelig (1983) and The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), a bittersweet fantasy about the heartbreaking power of cinema, Woody Allen made Broadway Danny Rose, a straightforward and enormously funny valentine to those on the lowest rungs of the theatrical ladder. Allen plays the title character, a down-on-his-luck manager who represents such marginal "talent" as a balloon act, a blind xylophone player, skating penguins, and a water-glass musician. His one remotely successful client is Lou Canova, a singer he manages to book into the Waldorf–Astoria. When Canova insists that Danny go to New Jersey and pick up his mistress so that she can attend his show, an unexpected odyssey through suburban Jersey and Manhattan ensues, leading to a contract on Danny's life. As with many of Allen's best films, the plot of Broadway Danny Rose is intricate and carefully laid out, but it is ultimately a mere hook on which to hang the many colorful characters and funny situations at which Woody Allen excels. There is no underlying message in this film, nor does it attempt to speak to any deeper human condition. Broadway Danny Rose is, simply, a comedy, a film designed to entertain and amuse. If it also manages to convey a sense of nostalgia for vaudeville's golden age, that is just a result of its director engaging in a bit of well–earned wistfulness.
Publication excerpt from In Still Moving: The Film and Media Collections of the Museum of Modern Art by Steven Higgins, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2006, p. 290.