-Released in United States April 25, 1979

-Runtime: 96 mins

-Production Company: A Jack Rollins-Charles H. Joffe Production

-Distributor: United Artists

-Rated R

- Budget: NA

-Gross: $45.7 million [1]

- Aspect Ratio:  2.35 : 1

-This film, along with “Annie Hall” solidified Allen’s brand of movie. A New York based film dabbling between comedy and drama, centered on adult themes of love, companionship, infidelity, break-ups, and divorces.


- 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. [3]


- 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). [3]


- 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." [3]


- 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." [3]


- Allen decided to shoot his film in black and white "because that's how I remember it from when I was small. Maybe it's a reminiscence from old photographs, films, books and all that. But that's how I remember New York. I always heard Gershwin music with it, too. [4]


-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." [3]

"Manhattan" Screening Companion



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


-Woody is asked why he shot “Manhattan” in B&W and widescreen, he replied, “Because Gordan Willis and I were having dinner one night and we were thinking that it would be fun to work in black and white and it would be fun to work in anamorphic, in real wide screen. We were talking about how they did all those war pictures with tank and airplanes, and then we thought that it would be very interesting to do an intimate picture like that.” [7]


-Presentations of this film on television (broadcast, cable or home video) required preservation of the widescreen format. This presented a problem in the U.S. since certain F.C.C. technical regulations did not permit a portion of the screen to be left blank as in letterboxing. The problem was solved by making the area above and below the frame gray. The regulations have since been changed and letterboxing with black borders is now permitted. [1]


-When released on video, it was the first cassette to be encoded with the letterbox format. [1]


- The famous bridge shot was done at 5 am.[5]


-The production had to bring their own bench, because there were no park benches at the location. [6] The bridge had two sets of necklace lights on a timer controlled by the city. When the sun comes up, the bridge lights go off. Willis made arrangements with the city to leave the lights on and he would let them know when they got the shot. Afterwards, they could be turned off. As they started to shoot the scene, one string of bridge lights went out and Allen was forced to use that take. [8]


-This is the last time Woody and Diane Keaton fall in love onscreen.


- The ending of the film was inspired by the ending of City Lights. In a Charlie Chaplin documentary, Allen admitted he was inspired by the ending in which the blind girl has regained her sight after an operation and finds out that the Tramp is the one who has been helping her and the poignant smile he flashed as his response. [8]



-Jodie Foster was considered for the role of Tracy. [1]


-Woody 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. [1]


- He later said, "I just thought to myself, 'At this point in my life, if this is the best I can do, they shouldn't give me money to make movies."[6]


- Many people often speculate that he actually just didn’t want the world to see a movie in which he played such an unlikable but yet vividly realized version of himself. [2]


-This is one of the very few Woody Allen films to not have opening credits. [1]


-Mariel Hemingway is Ernest Hemingway’s grand-daughter. [2]


-Isaac’s full list of things that make life worth living: Groucho Marx, Willie Mays, the 2nd movement of the Jupiter Symphony, Louis Armstrong’s Potato Head Blues, Swedish movies, Sentimental Education by Flaubert, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, those incredible Apples and Pears by Cezanne, the crabs at Sam Wo’s, Tracy’s face. [2]


-The film was re-released in United States August 28, 1992. [3]


Critical Reception


-While this is Woody Allen's least favorite of the movies he has directed, this was the most commercially successful film of his career. He said years later that he was still in disbelief that he "got away with it". [1]


- Film critic Tom Milne wrote, "it's funny and sad in exactly the right proportions. Allen could well strive vainly ever to better this film." [3]


- Cinematographer Gordon Willis returns, once again, and makes what Roger Ebert called “one of the best-photographed movies ever made.” [2]


- Cinematographer Gordon Willis, who’s also shot The Godfather films, Annie Hall and The Purple Rose of Cairo says that this was his favorite of all his movies. [2]


- 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. [3]


- Mariel Hemingway, she received a well-deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role in this movie.


-Although it seems less commercial, Manhattan actually made even more money than Annie Hall and was the 6th biggest movie of 1979 (take that, Meatballs!). He’s had a few more minor hits and enduring popularity in Europe, but Manhattan was his last blockbuster in America. [2]


-Gary Arnold, in The Washington Post, wrote, "Manhattan has comic integrity in part because Allen is now making jokes at the expense of his own parochialism. There's no opportunity to heap condescending abuse on the phonies and sellouts decorating the Hollywood landscape. The result appears to be a more authentic and magnanimous comic perception of human vanity and foolhardiness". [8]


-In his review for Newsweek magazine, Jack Kroll wrote, "Allen's growth in every department is lovely to behold. He gets excellent performances from his cast. The increasing visual beauty of his films is part of their grace and sweetness, their balance between Allen's yearning romanticism and his tough eye for the fatuous and sentimental – a balance also expressed in his best screen play yet. [8]


-Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert wrote, "Diane Keaton gives us a fresh and nicely edged New York intellectual. And Mariel Hemingway deserves some kind of special award for what's in some ways the most difficult role in the film".[18] Ebert includes the film in his list of great movies. [8]


-Time film critic Frank Rich wrote at the time that Allen's film is "tightly constructed, clearly focused intellectually, it is a prismatic portrait of a time and place that may be studied decades hence to see what kind of people we were".[8]


-Allen was named best director for Manhattan by the New York Film Critics Circle.[8]


-This is the third straight movie (and the third straight year), Woody Allen got a Best Original Screenplay nomination. This time, like with “Annie Hall,” he shared it with Marshall Brickman.


-The British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) named Manhattan the Best Film of the year. [2]


- The film was #46 on American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 Laughs".


-In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.


-98% Rotten Tomatoes Rating

[1] – imdb.com

[2] – Every Woody Allen Movie website

[3] – Turner Movie Classics

[4] - Palmer, Myles (1980). "Woody Allen". Proteus. p. 112.

[5] - Willis, Gordon (April 6, 2004). "Made in Manhattan". Moviemaker.

[6] - PBS American Masters "Woody Allen, part I", 2011

[7] - Bjorkman, Stig (1993). "Woody Allen on Woody Allen". Grove Press. p. 108.

[8] – Wikipedia