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Theatrical poster
Directed by Woody Allen
Produced by Charles H. Joffe
Written by Woody Allen
Marshall Brickman
Starring Woody Allen
Diane Keaton
Michael Murphy
Mariel Hemingway
Meryl Streep
Anne Byrne
Music by George Gershwin
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Editing by Susan E. Morse
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) April 25, 1979
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $39,900,000 (USA)

Manhattan is a 1979 American romantic comedy film about Isaac Davis (Woody Allen), a twice-divorced 42-year-old comedy writer dating a 17-year-old high school girl (Mariel Hemingway). Isaac eventually falls in love with his best friend's mistress (Diane Keaton). The movie was written by Allen and Marshall Brickman, who had also successfully collaborated on Annie Hall, and directed by Allen. Manhattan was filmed in black and white and 2.35:1 widescreen.

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mariel Hemingway) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. It also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film. The film was #46 on American Film Institute's "100 Years... 100 Laughs". This film is number 63 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies". In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.



The film opens with a montage of images of Manhattan accompanied by George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. TV writer Isaac Davis (Allen), is introduced as a man writing a book about his love for New York City. He is a twice-divorced 42-year-old dealing with the women in his life who gives up his unfulfilling job as a comedy writer.

He is dating Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), a 17-year old high school girl. His best friend Yale (Michael Murphy), married to Emily (Anne Byrne) is having an affair with Mary Wilkie (Diane Keaton); her ex-husband and former teacher Jeremiah (Wallace Shawn) also appears. Isaac's lesbian ex-wife, Jill (Meryl Streep), is writing a confessional book about their marriage.

When Isaac meets Mary, he immediately takes a dislike to her. Isaac runs into her again at an Equal Rights Amendment fund raising event at the Museum of Modern Art and he walks her home. Mary asks to go out with him for a Sunday afternoon when Yale is unavailable. They stay out all night until dawn culminating in the iconic shot of Queensboro Bridge.

Isaac continues his relationship with Tracy. He also encourages her to pursue an educational opportunity in London. In another iconic scene, at Tracy's request, they go on a carriage ride through Central Park.

Yale breaks up with Mary feeling he can't ruin his marriage over her. At the Squash court, Yale suggests Isaac ask her out. Isaac does, always having felt Tracy is too young for him. Isaac breaks up with Tracy much to her dismay. After several meetings between the two couples, including one where Emily reads out portions of Jill's book on her marriage with Isaac, Yale and Mary resume their relationship with Yale splitting with Emily.

A betrayed Isaac confronts Yale at his job, but he says he found Mary first. Isaac responds by discussing Yale's extra-marital affairs with Emily, but she thinks Isaac introduced Mary to Yale. In the denouement, Isaac writes a part of his book about "why is life worth living," climaxing with "Tracy's face."

He runs to tell Tracy he loves her and catches her just as she is leaving for England. He says that she doesn't have to go and that he doesn't want that special thing about her to change. She replies that the plans have already been made and reassures him that not everyone gets corrupted, she says, "you've got to have faith in people". He gives her a slight smile segueing into final shots of the skyline with Rhapsody in Blue playing again.

Cast and characters


The iconic bridge shot

According to Allen, the idea for Manhattan originated from his love of George Gershwin's music. He was listening to one of the composer's albums of overtures and thought, "this would be a beautiful thing to make ... a movie in black and white ... a romantic movie".[1] Allen has said that Manhattan was "like a mixture of what I was trying to do with Annie Hall and Interiors".[2] He also said that his film deals with the problem of people trying to live a decent existence in an essential junk-obsessed contemporary culture without selling out, admitting that he himself could conceive of giving away all of "[his] possessions to charity and living in much more modest circumstances", continuing, "I've rationalized my way out of it so far, but I could conceive of doing it".[3]

Allen talked to cinematographer Gordon Willis about how fun it would be to shoot the film in black and white, Panavision aspect ratio (2.35:1) because it would give "a great look at New York City, which is sort of one of the characters in the film".[4] 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. In Manhattan I really think that we — that's me and cinematographer Gordon Willis — succeeded in showing the city. When you see it there on that big screen it's really decadent".[5] Allen shot the film on location but for the scenes in the planetarium they built part of it with three-quarters of it being the real place.[6]

The iconic bridge shot was done at 5 am.[7] 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.[7]

After finishing the film, Allen was very unhappy with it and asked United Artists not to release it. He offered to make a film for free instead.[8]


Manhattan opened in North America on April 25, 1979 in 29 theaters. It grossed $485,734 ($16,749 per screen) in its opening weekend, and earned $39.9 million in its entire run.[9]

The film was shown out of competition at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival in May.[10]

The film received largely positive reviews and currently has a rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes[11] . 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".[12] 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".[13] In his review for the 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".[14]

Alexander Walker of the London Evening Standard wrote, "So precisely nuanced is the speech, so subtle the behaviour of a group of friends, lovers, mistresses and cuckolds who keep splitting up and pairing off like unstable molecules".[15] 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". Recently, J. Hoberman wrote in the Village Voice, "The New York City that Woody so tediously defended in Annie Hall was in crisis. And so he imagined an improved version. More than that, he cast this shining city in the form of those movies that he might have seen as a child in Coney Island—freeing the visions that he sensed to be locked up in the silver screen".[16]

Allen was named best director for Manhattan by the New York Film Critics Circle.[17] The National Society of Film Critics also named Allen best director along with Robert Benton who directed Kramer vs. Kramer.[18] The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mariel Hemingway) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.[19] It also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film.

The film was #46 on American Film Institute's "100 Years... 100 Laughs". This film is number 63 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies." In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. It is also ranked #4 on Rotten Tomatoes' 25 Best Romantic Comedies.[20]

American Film Institute recognition

Manhattan also inspired the song "Remember Manhattan" written by Richard Marx and Fee Waybill from Marx's debut album.

Home video

Allen wanted to preserve Willis's compositions and insisted that the aspect ratio be preserved when the film was released on video (an unusual request in a time when widescreen films were normally panned and scanned for TV and video release). As a result, all copies of the movie on video (and most television broadcasts) were letterboxed, originally with a gray border.[1]


  1. ^ a b Fox, Julian (September 1, 1996). "Woody: Movies from Manhattan". Overlook Hardcover.  
  2. ^ Brode, Douglas (1987). "Woody Allen: His Films and Career". Citadel Press.  
  3. ^ Rich, Frank (April 30, 1979). "An Interview with Woody". Time.  
  4. ^ Bjorkman, Stig (1993). "Woody Allen on Woody Allen". Grove Press. pp. 108.  
  5. ^ Palmer, Myles (1980). "Woody Allen". Proteus. pp. 112.  
  6. ^ Bjorkman 1993, p. 112.
  7. ^ a b Willis, Gordon (April 6, 2004). "Made in Manhattan". Moviemaker. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  
  8. ^ Bjorkman 1993, p. 116.
  9. ^ "Manhattan". Box Office Mojo. May 2, 1979. Retrieved 2007-01-11.  
  10. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Manhattan". Retrieved 2009-05-25.  
  11. ^ "Manhattan". Rotten Tomatoes. May 2, 1979. Retrieved 2009-05-27.  
  12. ^ Arnold, Gary (May 2, 1979). "Woody Allen's Comic High: A Delightful and Deluxe Rhapsody of Wry Romance". Washington Post.  
  13. ^ Kroll, Jack (April 30, 1979). "Woody's Big Apple". Newsweek.  
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1979). "Manhattan". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-01-11.  
  15. ^ Palmer 1980, p. 114.
  16. ^ Hoberman, J (July 10, 2007). "Defending Manhattan". Village Voice.,hoberman,77195,20.html. Retrieved 2007-07-11.  
  17. ^ "Kramer vs. Kramer selected best film". Globe and Mail. December 21, 1979.  
  18. ^ Arnold, Gary (January 3, 1980). "Film Critics' Pick of the Year". Washington Post.  
  19. ^ Arnold, Gary (February 26, 1980). "Kramer, Jazz Lead Nominees". Washington Post.  
  20. ^ "25 Best Romantic Comedies". Rotten Tomatoes. 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-12.  

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
BAFTA Award for Best Film
Succeeded by
The Elephant Man


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Manhattan is 1979 film directed by Woody Allen. Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman


Isaac Davis

  • Chapter One. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion - er, no, make that: he - he romanticized it all out of proportion. - Yes. - To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin. - Er, tsch, no, missed out something. - Chapter One. He was too romantic about Manhattan, as he was about everything else. He thrived on the hustle bustle of the crowds and the traffic. To him, New York meant beautiful women and street-smart guys who seemed to know all the angles. - No, no, corny, too corny for a man of my taste. Can we ... can we try and make it more profound? - Chapter One. He adored New York City. To him, it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. The same lack of individual integrity that caused so many people to take the easy way out was rapidly turning the town of his dreams in ... - no, that's a little bit too preachy. I mean, you know, let's face it, I want to sell some books here. - Chapter One. He adored New York City, although to him it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. How hard it was to exist in a society desensitized by drugs, loud music, television, crime, garbage ... - Too angry. I don't want to be angry. - Chapter One. He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Behind his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat. - I love this. - New York was his town, and it always would be ...
  • An idea for a short story about ... um ... people in Manhattan who ... er ... are constantly creating these real unnecessary neurotic problems for themselves - because it keeps them from dealing with more unsolvable terrifying problems about ... er ... the universe - Um, tsch -- it's, uh ... well, it has to be optimistic. Well, all right, why is life worth living? That's a very good question. Um. Well, there are certain things I - I guess that make it worthwhile. Uh, like what? Okay. Um, for me ... oh, I would say ... what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing ... uh ummmm and Willie Mays, and um, uh, the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony, and ummmm ... Louie Armstrong's recording of "Potatohead Blues" ... umm, Swedish movies, naturally ... "Sentimental Education" by Flaubert ... uh, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra ... ummm, those incredible apples and pears by Cézanne ... uh, the crabs at Sam Woo's ... tsch, uh, Tracy's face ...
  • You rely too much on the brain. The brain is the most overrated organ.
  • Talent is luck. The important thing in life is courage.
  • You shouldn't ask me for advice. When it comes to relationships with women, I'm the winner of the August Strindberg Award.


  • "He was given to fits of rage, Jewish, liberal paranoia, male chauvinism, self-righteous misanthropy, and nihilistic moods of despair. He had complaints about life, but never solutions. He longed to be an artist, but balked at the necessary sacrifices. In his most private moments, he spoke of his fear of death which he elevated to tragic heights when, in fact, it was mere narcissism" - What Issac's ex-wife wrote about him in her tell all book.


Female Party Guest: I finally had an orgasm, and my doctor told me it was the wrong kind.
Isaac Davis: Did you have the wrong kind? Really? I've never had the wrong kind, ever. My worst one was right on the money.

Isaac Davis: Has anybody read that Nazis are gonna march in New Jersey? Ya know? I read it in the newspaper. We should go down there, get some guys together, ya know, get some bricks and baseball bats, and really explain things to 'em.
Party Guest: There was this devastating satirical piece on that on the op-ed page of the Times, just devastating.
Isaac Davis: Whoa, whoa. A satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point of it.
Party Guest Helen: Oh, but really biting satire is always better than physical force.
Isaac Davis: No, physical force is always better with Nazis.

Mary Wilke: I guess I should straighten my life out, huh? I mean, Donnie my analyst is always telling me---
Isaac Davis: You call your analyst Donnie?
Mary Wilke: Yeah, I call him Donnie.
Isaac Davis: Donnie, your analyst? I call mine Dr. Chomsky, you know? Either that or he hits me with a ruler.

Mary Wilke: Don't psychoanalyze me. I pay a doctor for that.
Isaac Davis: Hey, you call that guy that you talk to a doctor? I mean, you don't get suspicious when your analyst calls you at home at three in the morning and weeps into the telephone?
Mary Wilke: Alright, so he's unorthodox. He's a highly qualified doctor.
Isaac Davis: He done a great job on you, you know? Your self-esteem is a notch below Kafka.

Isaac Davis: What kind of dog do you have?
Mary Wilke: The worst. It's a dachshund. You know, it's a penis substitute for me.
Isaac Davis: I would've thought then in your case it would've been a Great Dane.

Mary Wilke: I'm honest, what do you want? I say what's on my mind and if you can't take it, well then fuck off!
Isaac Davis: And I like the way you express yourself too, you know? It's pithy yet degenerate. You get many dates?

Yale: You are so self-righteous, you know. I mean we're just people. We're just human beings, you know? You think you're God.
Isaac Davis: I... I gotta model myself after someone.


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