Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Purple Rose of Cairo


This is, IMHO, one of the better science fiction/fantasy movies ever made. It just makes you feel good … until the ending, which is a little too real, but certainly honest. It’s the 1930s, and Mia Farrow is a waitress living a hopeless life, married to a low-life drunk layabout blowhard abusive thug (Danny Aiello). She escapes to the local Bijou, where she watches a silly little movie about socialites and explorers living the good life. So deep is her concentration that one of the characters on the screen (Jeff Daniels) notices her, starts speaking to her, and climbs right out of the picture to meet her. It is one of the best magic moments in all cinema.

Woody plays all this out to its logical conclusions. The players on the screen (including Van Johnson!) are stranded, no script to work from. The audience is frustrated, wanting the picture to go on. The theater owner is distraught, and word gets back to Hollywood. They need to get this guy back into the story! So none other than the actor who plays the character goes to the theater and meets Mia, setting up a romantic conflict as he appears to fall for her, too.

The movie character is clueless. He’s never seen a pregnant woman! They didn’t exist in the films of the ‘30s. He kisses her … then is astonished that there isn’t a fade-out. You mean something happens after we kiss? Mia eventually goes into the picture and lives it up in black and white New York nightclubs.

So how do you end something like this? Sadly, is all I will say. Dreams, most of the time, don’t come true. There is usually reality at the end of the fantasy. I could have wished Woody had gone for a happily ever after ending, but the only way I could see that happening would be for her to stay in the celluloid world, because that’s the only place where endings were always happy. And there really was no place for her there. I respect Woody for pointing that out, even in such a happy movie.