Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
Bullets over Broadway
Bullets over Broadway is a 1994 American black comedy crime film directed by Woody Allen, written by Allen and Douglas McGrath and starring an ensemble cast including John Cusack, Dianne Wiest, Chazz Palminteri and Jennifer Tilly.
The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Allen and co-writer Douglas McGrath for Original Screenplay, Allen for Director, Tilly for Supporting Actress and Palminteri for Supporting Actor. Wiest won Best Supporting Actress for her performance, the second time Allen directed her to an Academy Award.
In 1928, David Shayne is an idealistic young playwright newly arrived on Broadway. Desperate to gain financing for his play, God of Our Fathers, he is convinced by producer Julian Marx to cast actress Olive Neal, the girlfriend of gangster Nick Valenti, in a minor role.
Compensating for his frustration with the demanding and talentless Olive, Shayne is thrilled to cast alcoholic faded star Helen Sinclair in the lead role, along with the dieting British thespian Warner Purcell. Rehearsals are soon thrown into chaos when Olive shows up escorted by Cheech, a mob henchman, who insists on watching rehearsals.
Eventually Cheech starts giving notes on the script to Shayne, who is initially angered by the intrusion but quickly realises the ideas are excellent. Cheech, who barely learned to read before burning down his school, has a natural talent for playwriting, but is not interested in taking any credit. The cast members herald the revised script as genius, disparaging his initial draft as dull and pompous.
Buoyed by their imminent success, Shayne and the actors succumb to their vices. His partner, Ellen, catches him cheating on her with Helen. Warner indulges in overeating and begins an affair with Olive, which he attempts to break off when Cheech threatens his life. Growing increasingly frustrated with Olive's poor acting, Cheech tries to have her fired from the production. After Shayne reminds him he can't get rid of Olive, Cheech murders her and dumps her body in a river.
Olive's murder is widely assumed to be part of an inter-gang conflict, but Shayne immediately senses the truth and argues with Cheech. Regretting his mistakes, Shayne is dismayed to learn that Ellen is leaving him for his hedonistic Marxist friend Sheldon Flender.
On opening night, Valenti accuses Cheech of the murder, which he denies. Henchmen Rocco and Aldo chase Cheese backstage while the play is being performed, shooting him. With his dying words, Cheech gives Shayne a new final line for the play. The play is a critical and commercial hit, but Shayne skips the after party to confront Flender. He confesses his lack of talent and proposes marriage to Ellen, who accepts his newfound desire to leave high society.
- John Cusack as David Shayne
- Dianne Wiest as Helen Sinclair
- Jennifer Tilly as Olive Neal
- Chazz Palminteri as Cheech
- Mary-Louise Parker as Ellen
- Jack Warden as Julian Marx
- Joe Viterelli as Nick Valenti
- Rob Reiner as Sheldon Flender
- Tracey Ullman as Eden Brent
- Jim Broadbent as Warner Purcell
- Harvey Fierstein as Sid Loomis
- Stacey Nelkin as Rita
- Edie Falco as Lorna
- Benay Venuta as Adoring Theatre Patron
- Debi Mazar as Violet
- Małgorzata Zajączkowska as Lili
- Tony Sirico as Rocco
- Tony Darrow as Aldo
- Shannah Laumeister Stern as Movie Theatre Victim
The film's locales include the duplex co-op on the 22nd floor of 5 Tudor City Place in Manhattan.
The film's title may have been an homage to a lengthy sketch of the same title from the 1950s television show Caesar's Hour; one of Allen's first jobs in television was writing for Sid Caesar specials after the initial run of the show. The film featured the last screen appearance of Benay Venuta. Allen cast her in a cameo role as a well-wishing wealthy theatre patron. She died of lung cancer months after the film opened.
Bullets over Broadway received a positive response from critics. The review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reports 97% positive reviews from 58 critics, with the consensus "A gleefully entertaining backstage comedy, Bullets Over Broadway features some of Woody Allen's sharpest, most inspired late-period writing and direction."
Janet Maslin of The New York Times described the film as "a bright, energetic, sometimes side-splitting comedy with vital matters on its mind, precisely the kind of sharp-edged farce has always done best." Todd McCarthy of Variety similarly called it "a backstage comedy bolstered by healthy shots of prohibition gangster melodrama and romantic entanglements" and wrote, "In its mixing of showbiz and gangsters, this is a nice companion piece to Allen's Broadway Danny Rose, and about as amusing." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised, "Bullets Over Broadway shares a kinship with a more serious film by Allen, Crimes and Misdemeanors, in which a man committed murder and was able, somehow, to almost justify it. Now here is the comic side of the same coin. The movie is very funny and, in the way it follows its logic wherever it leads, surprisingly tough."
- 4th – National Board of Review
- 4th – Glenn Lovell, San Jose Mercury News
- 4th – Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune
- 5th – Robert Denerstein, Rocky Mountain News
- 8th – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
- 8th – Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
- 8th – John Hurley, Staten Island Advance
- 10th – Yardena Arar, Los Angeles Daily News
- 11th – Janet Maslin, The New York Times
- Top 9 (not ranked) – Dan Webster, The Spokesman-Review
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) – Bob Ross, The Tampa Tribune
- Top 10 (not ranked) – Dennis King, Tulsa World
- Top 10 (not ranked) – Howie Movshovitz, The Denver Post
- Top 5 runners-up (not ranked) – Scott Schuldt, The Oklahoman
- Honorable mentions – Mike Clark, USA Today
- Honorable mention – Duane Dudek, Milwaukee Sentinel
- Honorable mention – Michael MacCambridge, Austin American-Statesman
- Guilty pleasure – Douglas Armstrong, The Milwaukee Journal
Awards and nominations
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress – Dianne Wiest
- American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture – Dianne Wiest
- Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress – Dianne Wiest
- Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress – Dianne Wiest
- Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture – Dianne Wiest
- Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female – Dianne Wiest
- Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male – Chazz Palminteri
- Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress – Dianne Wiest
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress – Dianne Wiest
- National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress – Dianne Wiest
- New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress – Dianne Wiest
- Sant Jordi Award for Best Foreign Actor – Chazz Palminteri
- Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role – Dianne Wiest
- Society of Texas Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress – Dianne Wiest
- Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress – Dianne Wiest
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor – Chazz Palminteri
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Tilly
- Academy Award for Best Director – Woody Allen
- Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay – Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath
- Academy Award for Best Production Design – Santo Loquasto and Susan Bode
- Academy Award for Best Costume Design – Jeffrey Kurland
- BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay – Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath
- Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress – Dianne Wiest
- Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor – Chazz Palminteri
- Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement – Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath
- Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role – Chazz Palminteri
Allen adapted the film as a stage Jukebox musical, titled Bullets Over Broadway the Musical. The musical is directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, produced by Julian Schlossberg and Allen's younger sister Letty Aronson, with a score from the American songbook using songs from the 1920s and 1930s. The new musical premiered on Broadway at the St. James Theatre on April 10, 2014. A staged reading was held in June 2013. The cast features Zach Braff as David Shayne, Brooks Ashmanskas, Betsy Wolfe, Lenny Wolpe, and Vincent Pastore. Marin Mazzie stars as Helen Sinclair, and Karen Ziemba appears as "Eden Brent." Musical supervisor Glen Kelly has adapted and written additional lyrics for songs including "Tain't Nobody's Bus'ness," "Running Wild," "Let's Misbehave" and "I Found A New Baby". The musical closed on August 24, 2014, after 156 performances and 33 previews.