Behind the Scenes

 

The screenplay for Manhattan Murder Mystery started out as Annie Hall but Woody Allen did not feel that it was substantial enough even though he loved mysteries. He decided to go in a different direction.[7] [4] He had put off making the film for years because he felt it was too lightweight, "like an airplane book read."[8] [4]

 

- In the fall of 1992, Allen called Diane Keaton and asked her to fill in for Farrow, and she immediately accepted.[3] When asked if he had re-written the script to fit Keaton's talents, Allen said, "No, I couldn't do that. In a regular script I would have done that upon hiring Diane Keaton. But I couldn't [here] because it's a murder mystery, and it's very tightly plotted, so it's very hard to make big changes....I had written [the part] more to what Mia likes to do. Mia likes to do funny things, but she's not as broad a comedian as Diane is. So Diane made this part funnier than I wrote it" [4], [5]

 

- Making the film was a form of escape for Allen because the "past year was so exhausting that I wanted to just indulge myself in something I could relax and enjoy". He also found it very therapeutic working with Keaton again. After getting over her initial panic in her first scene with Alan Alda, Keaton and Allen slipped back into their old rhythm. After she had trouble with that scene, Allen decided to re-shoot it. In the meantime, she worked with her acting coach and did other scenes that went well. According to Allen, Keaton changed the dynamic of the film because he "always look(s) sober and normal compared to Keaton. I turn into the straight man". Huston said that the set was "oddly free of anxiety, introspection and pain", and this was due to Keaton's presence.[2] [4]

 

-The reunion of Woody and Diane seemed to be an inspired move, resulting in a kind of Annie Hall 2 that would conjure up the magnificent chemistry of their best work. Unfortunately, nostalgia aside, the idea backfired because audiences found it hard to believe that Annie and Alvy were now middle-aged.  Woody looked run-down and Diane was still pretty overweight and unquestionably matronly. Together they could pass for a retired couple on Social Security. [6]

- Released August 18, 1993

-Runtime: 104 Minutes

-Production Company: TriStar Pictures

-Distributor: TriStar Pictures

-Rated: PG

-Budget: $13.5 Million [1]

-Gross: $11.2 Million [1], $10.4 Million [3]

- Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1

-The opinion that Woody Allen should’ve stuck to comedy was one that had picked up a lot of momentum by 1993. Back then, memories of his wildly popular slapstick movies, comedy albums and talk-show appearances of the 1970s would’ve been relatively fresh, and the man Allen had turned into was challenging, aloof and capable of shocking moral bankruptcy. [2]

 

“…I feel it’s an unambitious undertaking. I feel it’s a trivial picture, but fun for me. It’s sort of like giving myself a little personal reward. Just an indulgence. It’s something I always wanted to do. I just felt I had done – I don’t know -  twenty-two, twenty-three pictures – and I just wanted to take part of a year and do this little thing for fun. Like a dessert or something. Not a real meal. And I’m glad I did it, because it has been a pleasurable experience to do it. And it seems to me that it’s successful in its own terms, I do think that it does realize its modest ambitions.” –Woody Allen [5]

"Manhattan Murder Mystery"  Screening Companion

The Aftermath *

 

-Lead role written for Mia Farrow, but Diane Keaton got the role following Farrow's breakup with the film's director Woody Allen. Farrow reportedly showed up for the first day's shooting much to Allen's consternation. [1]

 

-“I thought it was important in this time of stress to work, that it was healthy for me to work and healthy for me to focus on my work. And I’m a good worker, a disciplined worker. Between August and now I’ve done this film, and I think it’s a very, very funny film. So that was no problem. It’s been a lot of work, because I’ve had a lot of film work and legal work to do. But it has not been difficult. To work.” –Woody Allen [5]

 

-Despite Woody’s ability to compartmentalize his life, Manhattan Murder Mystery was made under trying conditions. Shooting on location in Bryant Park, he was booed by bystanders. Off the set, he had only to step out of his building to face a three-ring circus. [6]

 

-On the Sunday before Thanksgiving of 1992, Woody gave an interview to 60 Minutes. The ground rules: Woody was free to make whatever point he wished, but there would be no deals, no questions off-limits. [6]

 

-In the interview Woody claimed he had no idea how the Polaroids came to be on the mantel. Steve Kroft asked, “I presumed that was not the way you wanted her to find out.” Woody suinted. “Or did you want her to find out?” “I never really thought about it,” he answered. He guessed that he would have told her “eventually.” Kroft later recalled, “But there was a total blind spot about the impropriety of his relationship with Soon-Yi. He seemed not to care about what people thought.” [6]

 

-Kroft asked Woody if there was any truth to allegations regarding the inappropriate behavior alleged against him, “Look, be logical about this. I’m fifty-seven. Isn’t it illogical that at the height of a very bitter, acrimonious custody fight, I’m going to drive up to Connecticut, where nobody likes me and I’m in a house full of enemies, and suddenly, on visitation, pick this moment in my life to become a child molester? It’s just incredible. It’s so insane.” [6]

 

-His legal problems had become increasingly time-consuming. Not only was he suing Mia for custody and petitioning to broaden his visitation rights but also fighting her suit, in Surrogate’s Court, to invalidate his adoption of Dylan and Moses. In addition, he was threatening a civil suit against Mia, her mother, and her sister for libeling him in a November 1992 article in Vanity Fair, “Mia’s Story,” which painted him as a pervert. [6]

 

-In March 1993, after 6 months, the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic at Yale-New Haven Hospital was ready to issue a report. The panel attempted to answer two main questions. Was Dylan sexual abused? Was she telling the truth? In the opinion of the experts, the answers to both questions was no. There was no physical evidence of child abuse and therefore no chance that Woody had molested his daughter. Dylan’s account appeared to be the fantasies of an emotional vulnerable child living in a disturbed family, a response to stress she was unable to handle. The fonding in the attic was “concocted or imagined.” [6]

 

-The doctor heading the investigation, Johh Levanthal, who had interviewed Dylan numerous times, called her accounts inconsistent, and he also noted that “those were not minor inconsistencies.” Dylan’s descriptions had “a rehearsed quality,” he said. [6]

 

-The panel approved of his visits with Dylan, even overnight visits at his apartment, and saw no problem with his continuing to see Soon-Yi as well.  [6]

 

-The office of the Connecticut State’s Attorney was far from convinced. In Frank Maco’s opinion, there was enough evidence for him to order the actor’s arrest. [6]

Allen v. Farrow

 

-The custody proceeding of Woody Allen, Petitioner, v. Maria Villiers Farrow opened on Friday, March 19, 1993. [6]

 

-The smart money argued Woody was unlikely to win. “Under New York law, he didn’t have a case,” said [veteran court reporter] Hal Davis. “No evidence suggested Mia was unfit. On the stand, Woody Allen impressed me as sincere fifty-seven-year-old guy with an emotional age of nineteen. Just your average adolescent male. Nobody with a brain in their head could honestly say he would be a fine parent.” [6]

 

-The hearing lasted six and a half weeks. Some thirty witnesses tramped through Courtroom 341: psychiatrists, lawyers, social workers, nannies, tutors, teachers and maids. [6]

 

-Alter [Mia’s lawyer] blast[ed] away at Woody’s affair with Soon-Yi as proof that he lacked a moral compass; Abramowitz insisting that Woody had never molested Dylan – he had simply been using the bathroom – and it was her mother’s Medea-like wrath that had led her to smear his client, using her children as “soldier and pawns.” To the judge, Abramowitz suggested that Woody would be satisfied with a modified custody arrangement that allowed the children to spend half the time with him. [6]

 

-On June, 7th 1993 at 10:30am, Judge Elliott Wilk rendered his decision. In a 33 page ruling, he rejected Woody Allen’s request for custody of Dylan, Satchel and Moses because there was no evidence of his parenting ability. He determined that Woody might have limited visitation with Satchel three times a week, for two hours at a time, under the supervision of a third-party. He would not force Moses to see Woody and left the choice up to him. As for Dylan, separated from her father for ten months, Wilk had qualms. He refused to grant immediate visiting privileges but did leave open the door for future contact by placing the matter in the hands of professional. Visitation would be conditioned upon psychological counseling for Dylan. Six month hence, a therapist would determine whether a father-daughter relationship would be harmful to Dylan, at which time Wilk would evaluate the progress of her therapy and review the case. [6]

 

-In spite of the New Haven report, [Wilk] was not convinced that [Dylan] had not been sexually abused. In his opinion, the evidence was inconclusive. [6]

 

-…even though his good name had taken “an enormous hit,” Abramowitz admitted, the molestation allegation had been absolutely disproved. “I don’t think any one person could do more to prove that this did not happen,” he said. [6]

 

-That [Monday] night, Wilk’s decision was the leading story on every New York local television news program. Woody didn’t watch TV. He headed down to Michael’s Pub to play his clarinet. [6]

Trivia

 

- The film was shot in the fall of 1992 on the streets of Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. [4]

 

-Carol Lipton, played by Diane Keaton, claims to hate wearing a tie with a skirt. She made that look famous playing Annie Hall in Annie Hall. [1]

 

-Woody Allen was inspired in part by The Thin Man series of movies, modeling his main characters after Nick and Nora Charles. [1]

 

-"Manhattan Murder Mystery" was actually the generic working title during production - Allen films usually have generic titles during production like "Woody Allen Fall Project" - but since no new title could be thought of, Woody Allen decided to leave that as the title. [1]

-The only one of the many movies they made together, in which Woody Allen and Diane Keaton's characters have a child together. [1]

 

-In the scene when Diane Keaton's character sees her "dead" neighbor riding a bus, you can read VERTIGO as bus advertisement. It's one of the many references to Hitchcock's film that appear in the movie. [1]

 

-Zach Braff's film debut. [1]

 

-When Larry and Carol go to the theater, the play they are seeing is "Guys and Dolls". The original Broadway production of "Guys and Dolls" in 1950 starred Robert Alda, whose son Alan Alda is in this film. [1]

*[Editor Note: WAW is a web site that celebrates the art of Woody Allen. Although at times we mention aspects of his social life, we try and keep it to a minimum. The majority of critics would probably agree that a person's social/home life has an effect on one's work. As we move into Woody's infamous period of his life which most mainstream audiences only know him by, it would be foolish to completely ignore this time of his life. Our goal is to present a well-rounded and judge-free account of these turbulent times in Woody Allen's life.]

Critical Reception

 

-Allen is not someone who would ever admit to bowing to pressure, but Manhattan Murder Mystery must have looked uncannily like a concession. If he were, theoretically, to throw up his hands and say “okay, I’ll give you what you want!” there would be no better way than to try and recapture the magic of his most beloved and popular film, Annie Hall, and this movie reunites Allen with Annie Hall’s star (Diane Keaton), its co-writer (Marshall Brickman), and even uses bits and pieces of its screenplay that never made it into the original incarnation. [2]

 

-While the end result is incredibly entertaining, it might not have been exactly what people were hoping for. It’s not a return to pure comedy the way Oedipus Wrecks was — it has the same jokey dialogue of the ‘70s comedies, but MMM also revisits the big-hearted adventurism of Broadway Danny Rose, the mature relationship drama of Allen’s late ‘80s movies, the cramped corridor suspense of Another Woman, and the shaky-cam intensity of Husbands and Wives. It feels a little bit like Woody Allen’s Greatest Hits, but it somehow comes together for a surprisingly cohesive, funny and surprisingly exciting movie. [2]

 

Manhattan Murder Mystery is not fast and wacky enough to be considered a return to Allen’s slapstick movies, nor is it a real sequel to Annie Hall. I don’t think Manhattan Murder Mystery is a concession on Allen’s part, despite how it might appear. Instead, it combines a variety of his skills and trademarks into something new, and incredibly entertaining. [2]

 

- Allen had cinematographer Carlo Di Palma rely on hand-held cameras, "swiveling restlessly from one room to another, or zooming in abruptly for a close look "in a style Janet Maslin, for The New York Times (August 18, 1993) called "meaningless affectation." [4]

 

- In his review for Newsweek, David Ansen wrote, "On screen, Keaton and Allen have always been made for each other: they still strike wonderfully ditsy sparks".[4]

 

- USA Today gave the film four out of four stars, and advised fans to forget Allen's tabloid woes because "there's a better reason why Allen fans should give it a shot. It's very, very funny, and there's no mystery about that". [4]

 

- Janet Maslin called it a "dated detective story" but also wrote, "it achieves a gentle, nostalgic grace and a hint of un-self-conscious wisdom."[4]

 

-Desson Howe, in the Washington Post, complained that there was "little 'new' in this film. Allen and Keaton are essentially playing Alvy Singer and Annie Hall gone middle-aged." [4]

 

- Diane Keaton was nominated for a Golden Globe. Anjelica Huston was nominated for a BAFTA. [2]

 

-91% Rotten Tomatoes rating

 

[1] - imdb.com

[2] - www.EveryWoodyAllenMovie.com

[3] - Dowd, Maureen (August 15, 1993). "Diane and Woody, Still a Fun Couple". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-28.

[4] – Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manhattan_Murder_Mystery

[5] – Bjorkman, Stig (2004). "Woody Allen on Woody Allen: Revised Edition".

[6] – The Unruly Life of Woody Allen by Marion Meade

[7] - Fine, Marshall (August 18, 1993). "Woody's Take". USA Today.

[8] - Dowd, Maureen (August 15, 1993). "Diane and Woody, Still a Fun Couple". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-28