Radio Days (1987)

PG | 85 or 88 mins | Comedy, Drama | 30 January 1987

Director:

Woody Allen

Writer:

Woody Allen

Producer:

Robert Greenhut

Cinematographer:

Carlo Di Palma

Editor:

Susan E. Morse

Production Designer:

Santo Loquasto
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HISTORY

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant John Theofanis, a student at University of Texas at Austin, with Janet Staiger as academic advisor.

Director-writer Woody Allen, speaking as the adult "Joe," is heard in uncredited voice-over narration throughout the film. As the 28 Jan 1987 Var reviewer noted, Radio Days is not a "straight autobiography" of Allen; however, sequences involving Joe's family may have been based on his childhood experiences in New York City and actor Seth Green, who portrayed young Joe in the film, bears a physical resemblance to Allen. Many real-life events are referenced in the film, such as Orson Welles's 1939 radio broadcast of H. G. Wells's novel, The War of the Worlds , and news reports emanating from European and Pacific battle fronts during World War II. The sequence about "Polly Phelps" was based on radio and television broadcasts that reported live on the failed attempts to rescue Kathy Fiscus (1945--1949) from the Los Angeles area well into which she had fallen. As noted in the Box review, the radio show about the baseball player was a parody of the story of Monty Stratton, a player for the Chicago White Sox who continued to play ball after a leg amputation.
       In a 28 Sep 1986 LAT Outtakes column, John L. Wilson reported that Allen, who was known for shooting on closed sets, made an exception with Radio Days by allowing the French writer and UCLA graduate, Thierry de Navacele, full access to sets, dailies and ... More Less

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant John Theofanis, a student at University of Texas at Austin, with Janet Staiger as academic advisor.

Director-writer Woody Allen, speaking as the adult "Joe," is heard in uncredited voice-over narration throughout the film. As the 28 Jan 1987 Var reviewer noted, Radio Days is not a "straight autobiography" of Allen; however, sequences involving Joe's family may have been based on his childhood experiences in New York City and actor Seth Green, who portrayed young Joe in the film, bears a physical resemblance to Allen. Many real-life events are referenced in the film, such as Orson Welles's 1939 radio broadcast of H. G. Wells's novel, The War of the Worlds , and news reports emanating from European and Pacific battle fronts during World War II. The sequence about "Polly Phelps" was based on radio and television broadcasts that reported live on the failed attempts to rescue Kathy Fiscus (1945--1949) from the Los Angeles area well into which she had fallen. As noted in the Box review, the radio show about the baseball player was a parody of the story of Monty Stratton, a player for the Chicago White Sox who continued to play ball after a leg amputation.
       In a 28 Sep 1986 LAT Outtakes column, John L. Wilson reported that Allen, who was known for shooting on closed sets, made an exception with Radio Days by allowing the French writer and UCLA graduate, Thierry de Navacele, full access to sets, dailies and editing throughout the production of the film, so that he could write a diary of the filming of the picture. Restrictions included that De Navacele would not be granted a formal interview and that Allen maintained complete control of the book project. However, De Navacele stated that Allen made no changes to the book, which was published in 1987 as Woody Allen on Location . A 10 Apr 1987 HR news item observed that it was "a shame" that this kind of documentation did not exist for other films of the past.
       According to the book, principal photography began on 5 Nov 1985, a date confirmed by a 28 Sep 1986 LAT news item, and ended in early May 1986. Among the locations used during principal photography were several areas of Manhattan, New York City and Rockaway, Queens, NY, as well as in Jersey City, NJ.
       Actors cast in major roles and cameos were many of Allen's "stock" players, among them, Tony Roberts, Danny Aiello and Diane Keaton, as well as New York celebrities, such as the actress Kitty Carlisle Hart. Although shooting occurred during winter, the film's story was set in summer, prompting some actors, who were required to wear summer attire for their shots, to complain about the cold and cause Allen to vow he would never again shoot a summer story in winter, according to a 24 Jan 1986 Los Angeles Daily News item.
       As noted in an 8 Jan 1987 HR news item, the premiere of Radio Days was held at the United States Film Festival in Park City, Utah, which made it the third consecutive Allen film to open at that festival. Radio Days followed on the heels of the critical success of Allen's 1986 production, Hannah and Her Sisters (see entry), which was then under consideration for--and later won--several Academy Awards.
       Radio Days received generally positive critical attention, although some reviewers found the film less ambitious than previous Allen efforts. Allen received praise for the weaving of two seemingly disparate worlds--radio broadcasters and listeners--and his suggestion that there was more commonality than one might suppose. In a 23 Jan 1987 HR review, Duane Byrge observed that Radio Days lacked the "surreal non-sequiturs" of Allen's other films and did not "reverberate with the zippy Allen energies," but added that the director had "not gone mellow, he's gone romantic." Noting Allen's treatment of the past, the critic stated that the film, "is not simply about nostalgia, but the quality of memory and how what one remembers informs one's present life." The reviewer saw advantages in Allen's "intercuts between the glamour world of high society Manhattan and his own Brooklyn world; at once...both romantic and satirical as if that's a way of keeping his own romanticized look from afar." Byrge also liked the message expressed through the character Sally, played by Mia Farrow: "The notion that wonderful things can happen to cigarette girls who take diction lessons is the film's wise and every-uplifting message."
       According to the Apr 1987 Box review, Radio Days grossed $5.2 million after eighteen days in 180 theaters. Radio Days received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction: Set Decoration and Best Writing: Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Allen also received a nomination for a WGA Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Apr 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 1987
p. 3, 86.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 1987.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
24 Jan 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
28 Sep 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Jan 1987
p. 1.
New York Times
30 Jan 1987
p. 1.
Variety
28 Jan 1987
p. 20.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Ira Wheeler
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffe Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cameraperson
2d asst cameraperson
Cam trainee
Key grip
Dolly grip
Gaffer
Best boy
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept res
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative matching
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Set dresser
Prop master
Master scenic artist
Standby scenic artist
Const coord
Chief const grip
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Men's ward supv
Women's ward supv
Cost asst
Cost asst
Cost asst
Cost asst
MUSIC
Mus supv
Musicians coord
Mus rec eng
Asst eng
Mus rec supv
Mus rec supv
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Projectionist
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Make-up des
Hair des
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting assoc
Addl casting
Scr supv
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod assoc
Asst prod mgr
Asst to Mr. Allen
Prod auditor
DGA trainee
Transportation capt
Studio mgr
Vocal coach for Ms. Farrow & Ms. Keaton
Loc scout
Loc scout
Loc scout
Loc scout
Loc scout
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
SOURCES
MUSIC
Radio show themes by Dick Hyman.
SONGS
"The Flight of The Bumblebee," by N.A. Rimsky-Korsakoff, performed by Harry James, courtesy of CBS Records
"September Song," by Kurt Weill & Maxwell Anderson
"Dancing In The Dark," by Arthur Schwartz & Howard Dietz
+
SONGS
"The Flight of The Bumblebee," by N.A. Rimsky-Korsakoff, performed by Harry James, courtesy of CBS Records
"September Song," by Kurt Weill & Maxwell Anderson
"Dancing In The Dark," by Arthur Schwartz & Howard Dietz
"Body and Soul," by John W. Green, Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, & Frank Eyton, performed by Benny Goodman, courtesy of RCA Records
"Chinatown, My Chinatown," by William Jerome & Jean Schwartz
"In The Mood," by Joe Garland, performed by Glenn Miller, courtesy of RCA Records
"Let's All Sing Like The Birdies Sing," by Robert Hargreaves, Stanley J. Damerell & Tolchard Evans
"I Double Dare You," by Jimmy Eaton & Terry Shand, performed by Larry Clinton, courtesy of RCA Records
"Carioca," by Vincent Youmans, Gus Kahn & Edward Eliscu
"Tico Tico," by Zequinha Abreu, Aloysio Oliveira & Ervin Drake
"You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me," by Harry Warren & Al Dubin
"Begin The Beguine," by Cole Porter
"La Cumparsita," by Matos Rodriguez, performed by The Castilians, courtesy of MCA Records
"Opus One," by Sy Oliver, performed by Tommy Dorsey, courtesy of RCA Records
"Frenesi," by A. Dominguez, performed by Artie Shaw, courtesy of RCA Records
"You And I," by Meredith Willson, performed by Tommy Dorsey, courtesy of RCA Records
"All Or Nothing At All," by Jack Lawrence & Arthur Altman
"Paper Doll," by Johnny S. Black, performed by The Mills Brothers, courtesy of MCA Records
"The Donkey Serenade," by Herbert Stothart, Rudolf Friml, Bob Wright & Chet Forrest, performed by Allan Jones, courtesy of RCA Records
"Pistol Packin' Mama," by Al Dexter, performed by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters, courtesy of MCA Records
"South American Way," by Al Dubin & Jimmy McHugh, performed by Carmen Miranda, courtesy of MCA Records
"If I Didn't Care," by Jack Lawrence, performed by The Ink Spots, courtesy of MCA Records
"Schloff mein Kind," performed by Emil Decameron, courtesy of Vanguard Recording Society, Inc.
"Mairzy Doats," by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman & Jerry Livingston, performed by The Merry Macs, courtesy of MCA Records
"I Don't Want To Walk Without You," by Jule Styne & Frank Loesser
"If You Are But A Dream," by Moe Jaffe, Jack Fulton & Nat Bonx, performed by Frank Sinatra, courtesy of CBS Records
"Remember Pearl Harbor," by Sammy Kaye & Don Reid, performed by Sammy Kaye, courtesy of RCA Records
"Babalu," by Margarita Lecuona & S.K. Russell, performed by Xavier Cugat, courtesy of PolyGram Records
"(There'll Be Blue Birds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover," by Walter Kent & Nat Burton, performed by Glenn Miller, courtesy of RCA Records
"They're Either Too Young or Too Old," by Arthur Schwartz & Frank Loesser
"Goodbye," by Gordon Jenkins, performed by Benny Goodman, courtesy of RCA Records
"That Old Feeling," by Lew Brown & Sammy Fain, performed by Guy Lombardo, courtesy of RCA Records
"I'm Gettin' Sentimental Over You," by Ned Washington & George Bassman, performed by Tommy Dorsey, courtesy of RCA Records
"Re-Lax Jingle," by Dick Hyman
"Lullaby of Broadway," by Al Dubin & Harry Warren, performed by Richard Himber, courtesy of RCA Records
"You'll Never Know," by Harry Warren & Mack Gordon
"One, Two, Three, Kick," by Xavier Cugat & Al Stillman, performed by Xavier Cugat, courtesy of RCA Records
"American Patrol," by F.W. Meacham, performed by Glenn Miller, courtesy of RCA Records
"Just One Of Those Things," by Cole Porter
"You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," by Cole Porter
"Take The 'A' Train," by Billy Strayhorn, performed by Duke Ellington, courtesy of RCA Records
"Night and Day," by Cole Porter.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
30 January 1987
Premiere Information:
United States Film Festival, Park City, UT: 24 January 1987
Production Date:
5 November 1985--early May 1986
Copyright Claimant:
Orion Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
23 March 1987
Copyright Number:
PA318228
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
DuArt Film Laboratories, Inc.
Lenses/Prints
lenses and Panaflex cameras by Panavision; prints by DeLuxe
Duration(in mins):
85 or 88
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28337
SYNOPSIS

In the mid-1930s, under the cover of darkness, two thieves are robbing the Needleman residence in Queens, New York when the telephone rings. One of the crooks answers and is asked by the host of a radio program, Guess That Tune , to name the titles of songs the orchestra plays. The thieves correctly identify three tunes and win the prize. When the Needlemans later return, they find their home ransacked, but the following day a truck pulls up and delivers brand new furniture, the winnings from the game show. In the present, Joe, a former neighbor of the Needlemans, recalls how the radio was constantly playing when he was a child in the Rockaway area of Queens. He admits he romanticizes the past, but he loves old radio stories. He collects anecdotes, gossip and inside stories about radio stars, but also remembers his own experiences. For instance, his mother, Tess, never missed her favorite show, Breakfast with Irene and Roger . While Tess washed dishes, she listened to the married Irene and Roger discuss the elegant opening night they attended the previous evening. As the radio couple in their chic Manhattan townhouse talked about their sophisticated lifestyle, Joe came to learn about two contrasting worlds--the glamorous stars working in Manhattan broadcast studios, and more humble folk, the listeners living in the outer boroughs. Joe has other memories of long gone radio days: His Uncle Abe brings fish from Sheepshead Bay to his Aunt Ceil, who dreams of better things than filleting flounder. Joe's teenaged cousin, Ruthie, listens ... +


In the mid-1930s, under the cover of darkness, two thieves are robbing the Needleman residence in Queens, New York when the telephone rings. One of the crooks answers and is asked by the host of a radio program, Guess That Tune , to name the titles of songs the orchestra plays. The thieves correctly identify three tunes and win the prize. When the Needlemans later return, they find their home ransacked, but the following day a truck pulls up and delivers brand new furniture, the winnings from the game show. In the present, Joe, a former neighbor of the Needlemans, recalls how the radio was constantly playing when he was a child in the Rockaway area of Queens. He admits he romanticizes the past, but he loves old radio stories. He collects anecdotes, gossip and inside stories about radio stars, but also remembers his own experiences. For instance, his mother, Tess, never missed her favorite show, Breakfast with Irene and Roger . While Tess washed dishes, she listened to the married Irene and Roger discuss the elegant opening night they attended the previous evening. As the radio couple in their chic Manhattan townhouse talked about their sophisticated lifestyle, Joe came to learn about two contrasting worlds--the glamorous stars working in Manhattan broadcast studios, and more humble folk, the listeners living in the outer boroughs. Joe has other memories of long gone radio days: His Uncle Abe brings fish from Sheepshead Bay to his Aunt Ceil, who dreams of better things than filleting flounder. Joe's teenaged cousin, Ruthie, listens on the telephone party line to the phone conversations of the Waldman family next door. Every morning Joe's Grandpa helps his Grandma fit into her corset. Tess and Joe's father constantly bicker about any subject, but are united in refusing to reveal to Joe what his father does for a living. They also tell Joe not to listen to the radio so much and when he argues that they listen, Tess explains that the older generation's lives are already ruined. Joe's favorite show is the Masked Avenger, but he is unaware that the bold and courageous hero he admires is really a short and bland actor. Determined to get the Masked Avenger secret compartment ring advertised on the show, Joe pretends to collect funds for the new state in Palestine on behalf of his Hebrew School, but schemes to spend the money on the ring. The Rabbi calls in Joe's parents for a conference, but things go badly when Joe refers to the Rabbi as his "faithful Indian companion," a phrase he learned on a radio show. Although Joe's unmarried aunt, Bea, has high hopes for a big date with her new acquaintance, Sidney Manulis, her romantic interlude is interrupted by Orson Welles's War of the Worlds radio broadcast. Mr. Manulis, terrified of a Martian invasion, bolts out of the car and leaves Bea to make a long walk home on her own. Meanwhile, at a sophisticated Manhattan nightclub, Roger and Irene listen to the sounds of a popular Latin band. Wanting to rendezvous with Sally White, a cigarette girl who wants to be an actress, Roger sneaks off with her to the rooftop. When the door locks behind them, Roger and Sally are unable to return until Irene and the Latin playboy with whom she has been dancing, also sneak up to the roof. Although Sally gets fired for abandoning her post during her work shift, Roger, Irene and her Latin playboy go to Havana to share a hotel suite. While observing a Jewish high holiday, Joe's family members are offended that the Communists next door, who don't recognize holidays, play the radio loudly. Abe goes to their house to confront them, but instead becomes convinced of their arguments and breaks his fast by eating a large meal with them. However, the heartburn he experiences afterward prompts him to return to his former ways. Everyone in Joe's family has a favorite radio show. Abe likes sports programs and Ceil enjoys a ventriloquist on the radio, a notion that makes no sense to Abe. Ruthie and her friends love the voice of a romantic crooner, while Joe's parents listen to The Court of Human Emotions , in which ordinary people are helped with their personal problems. Joe has a fantasy that his parents make an appearance on the show and the host, hearing them bicker, concludes that they deserve each other. Aunt Bea likes music shows, and she and her date take Joe to a broadcast at Radio City Music Hall. In later years, songs that Joe first heard on the radio will evoke vivid memories for him. When Sally gets a job as a coat check girl in a nightclub run by mobsters, she witnesses the murder of the club's owner. The hit man grabs Sally, planning to knock her off, but first takes her home to his mother. When the mother realizes that Sally's family is from her old neighborhood of Canarsie, Brooklyn and that she is not bright enough to cause trouble, she tells her son to spare the girl and get her a job on the radio. Despite her Brooklyn accent, the mobster gets Sally cast in a Chekhov play, but her radio debut is canceled by news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Sally eventually sings publicly at a USO dance hall. Now, Japanese and Germans are the villains on radio shows, and Joe and his friends enjoy following the radio exploits of the character, Biff Baxter G-Man, who suggests his listeners keep a sharp eye for enemy planes. The boys, sharing a set of binoculars, watch from the rooftop, but instead of spotting national enemies, they see a woman at a nearby window, disrobing as she dances to the radio. Later, the boys walk on the beach, where Joe alone sees what he assumes to be a German submarine surface and submerge. Some time later, Joe's school principal introduces a substitute teacher, Ms. Gordon, who the boys recognize as the woman at the window. At home, the family listens to wartime broadcasts of Americans fighting Nazis and the Japanese at Guadalcanal. Tess, now pregnant with a second child, suggests to Bea that she lower her standards in her pursuit of a husband. Late one night Joe wakens to hear Bea talking to her date, Fred. When she confesses she has a "crush" on him, Fred breaks into tears and describes his strong feelings for a guy named Leonard. After taking diction lessons to lose the Brooklyn accent, Sally is cast in her own celebrity gossip show, Sally White and Her Gay White Way , in which she relates stories, including sightings of Clark Gable at El Morocco and Rita Hayworth at the Stork Club. Joe is given the task of taking the family radio to the repair shop. After struggling down the street with the heavy appliance, he hails a cab and is stunned to discover his father behind the wheel. Although his father is ashamed of his occupation, Joe is not and gives him a big tip. When Tess goes into labor, Bea and her date take Joe into Manhattan, where they visit an Automat and the broadcast of the Silver Dollar radio show. There, Bea wins fifty dollars by correctly answering questions about fish, using knowledge she gleaned from Uncle Abe. With the money, Bea purchases a chemistry set for Joe, which he uses to dye his mother's fur coat. Joe's father gives him a whipping, but stops beating him when a radio report announces the story of a child, Polly Phelps, falling down a well. The entire nation listens and mourns collectively upon hearing the news of Polly's death. On New Year's Eve, Joe's family celebrates at home. At the Manhattan nightclub where she used to work, Sally celebrates with the stylish crowd she once served and invites her companions to join her on the roof. Above Times Square, the group admires the city. Although they express hope for 1944, some comment how quickly time passes. Sally's date, the actor who achieved fame playing the Masked Avenger, wonders if future generations will hear about them. When the clock strikes twelve, everyone, whether in Manhattan or Queens, feels joy. In the present, Joe says that he has never forgotten that New Year or the voices of the people on the radio, but he admits that with the passage of time, their voices grow dimmer. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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