Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)

PG | 108 mins | Comedy, Mystery | 18 August 1993

Director:

Woody Allen

Producer:

Robert Greenhut

Cinematographer:

Carlo Di Palma

Editor:

Susan E. Morse

Production Designer:

Santo Loquasto

Production Company:

TriStar Pictures
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HISTORY


       Woody Allen co-wrote the screenplay for Manhattan Murder Mystery with Marshall Brickman, marking their first film collaboration since the 1979 production, Manhattan (see entry). The two also collaborated on the screenplays for Allen’s 1978 Academy-Award-winning picture, Annie Hall , and his 1973 science fiction comedy, Sleeper (see entries). According to a 15 Aug 1993 NYT article, Allen delayed making Manhattan Murder Mystery for years, thinking the material was too light, or “an airplane book read,” as Allen put it. However, Allen admittedly welcomed the opportunity to make a film driven by a mystery, rather than a relationship, in the wake of his breakup and court battles with actress Mia Farrow, his leading lady and romantic companion since 1980. Through the custody hearings over Allen and Farrow’s two jointly adopted children, it was publicized that Farrow learned of an affair between Allen and another of Farrow’s adopted daughters, then twenty-one-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, after Farrow discovered nude pictures of Soon-Yi reportedly taken by Allen.
       Although a 31 Jul 1992 Screen International news item identified Allen and Farrow as the stars of Manhattan Murder Mystery and added Joan Cusack and Daryl Hannah to the cast, only Allen appeared in the final film. A 2 Oct 1992 EW article, citing “a source close to the production,” claimed Allen “retooled the script” in reaction to his breakup and legal skirmish with Farrow and the public uproar over his relationship with Previn. Allen cast an older Anjelica Huston in the role of “Marcia Fox,” a character originally outlined as a much younger, first-time novelist. ... More Less


       Woody Allen co-wrote the screenplay for Manhattan Murder Mystery with Marshall Brickman, marking their first film collaboration since the 1979 production, Manhattan (see entry). The two also collaborated on the screenplays for Allen’s 1978 Academy-Award-winning picture, Annie Hall , and his 1973 science fiction comedy, Sleeper (see entries). According to a 15 Aug 1993 NYT article, Allen delayed making Manhattan Murder Mystery for years, thinking the material was too light, or “an airplane book read,” as Allen put it. However, Allen admittedly welcomed the opportunity to make a film driven by a mystery, rather than a relationship, in the wake of his breakup and court battles with actress Mia Farrow, his leading lady and romantic companion since 1980. Through the custody hearings over Allen and Farrow’s two jointly adopted children, it was publicized that Farrow learned of an affair between Allen and another of Farrow’s adopted daughters, then twenty-one-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, after Farrow discovered nude pictures of Soon-Yi reportedly taken by Allen.
       Although a 31 Jul 1992 Screen International news item identified Allen and Farrow as the stars of Manhattan Murder Mystery and added Joan Cusack and Daryl Hannah to the cast, only Allen appeared in the final film. A 2 Oct 1992 EW article, citing “a source close to the production,” claimed Allen “retooled the script” in reaction to his breakup and legal skirmish with Farrow and the public uproar over his relationship with Previn. Allen cast an older Anjelica Huston in the role of “Marcia Fox,” a character originally outlined as a much younger, first-time novelist. Additionally, Allen pruned the romance angle between Marcia and his character, “Larry Lipton.”
       An 8 Sep 1992 Var news item revealed that Allen was covertly scouting Madison Square Garden for locations and that he intended to film a scene during a basketball game. In the finished film, however, the opening scene at The Garden was filmed during a New York Rangers hockey game. A 15 Sep 1992 HR production chart reported that shooting started in New York on 14 Sep 1992. A 26 Aug 1992 Var news item quoted the production budget in the “mid-teens” and listed Elaine’s, the legendary Upper East Side restaurant and favorite Allen haunt, among the shooting locations. A 1 Oct 1992 Var news item reported that restaurateur Elaine Kaufman was in attendance during the shoot. Elaine’s closed its doors on 27 May 2011, according to a 17 May 2011 NYT article.
       A 16 Aug 1993 Var review revealed that, in an unprecedented move for an Allen picture, production/distribution company TriStar held nationwide sneak previews over the weekend leading up to the film’s Wednesday, 18 Aug 1993 New York and Los Angeles openings. A 23 Aug 1993 NYT article stated that, according to industry executives, Manhattan Murder Mystery initially did good business in six Los Angeles and New York theaters, but business declined as it expanded to 268 theaters around the country for the weekend. Overall, the film grossed $2.1 million during its opening weekend. A Tri-Star executive termed the film’s limited releases in New York and Los Angeles, “a good opening—for a Woody Allen film,” while an unnamed film distributor identified it as a “slow opening,” adding, “It’s the old Woody Allen story: good pictures, good reviews, not-so-good box office.” Up to the release of Manhattan Murder Mystery , Allen’s 1986 film, Hannah and her Sisters , was his biggest financial success, having grossed $40 million. According to the article, Hollywood was watching Manhattan Murder Mystery ’s success closely to see if Allen’s reputation survived his public court battles with Farrow.
       Allen additionally dissolved his professional relationship with long-time production company and distributor TriStar Pictures in the wake of his personal scandals and in the months leading up the release of Manhattan Murder Mystery . According to a 21 Jun 1993 DV article, Allen parted ways amiably with TriStar—reportedly with studio permission and one film shy of their contracted total—in lieu of a three picture deal with New York-based Sweetland Films. The deal with Sweetland contained “financial terms more favorable to Allen,” including higher budgets to be financed with private funding. Sweetland was founded by Allen’s long time friend and former Saturday Night producer, Jean Doumanian. Also reported were Doumanian’s plans to make a distribution deal for future Allen projects, with TriStar listed among the possible candidates. Allen’s 1994 period comedy, Bullets Over Broadway (see entry), marked the first film of the deal.
       An 18 Oct 1993 LADN item reported that Manhattan Murder Mystery had brought in only $11 million dollars at the box office, since its August debut, despite “excellent reviews.” The piece attributed the lackluster returns to Allen’s personal conflicts. Robert Greenhut, the film’s producer, added that the film was doing about as well as Husbands and Wives (see entry), which was released in Sep 1992 at the height of the scandal. However, Greenhut was confident that Manhattan Murder Mystery would pick up in the European markets, particularly France, where he expected it to earn $6 million alone.
       A 2 Sep 1993 DV article noted that Manhattan Murder Mystery played alongside Martin Scorsese’s film, The Age of Innocence (see entry), at the 50th Venice Film Festival, though both films were screened out-of-competition.
       Critical reception was mildly positive and often marked with qualifications and reservations. For example, in a lukewarm 18 Aug 1993 LAT review, Kenneth Turan wrote, “there is much to enjoy in this light PG-rated film, though giggles will be heard more than outright laughter.” Similarly, Janet Maslin, in her 18 Aug 1993 NYT review, suggested the film “offers glimmers of its stars’ charming, quarrelsome old teamwork” but proposed: “It would be far more interesting to watch these two work out the aftermath of ‘Annie Hall’ than to hear them theorize endlessly about an empty, genre-bound crime.” In a 16 Aug 1993 review, Var critic Todd McCarthy wrote that the “pic can be forgotten as easily as it can be digested,” and is “utterly devoid of the heavier themes Allen has grappled with in most of his recent outings.”
       For her performance as “Carol Lipton,” Diane Keaton was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical. Additionally, Huston was nominated for a BAFTA Film Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, while Allen was nominated for a César for Best Foreign Film.
       The working titles of the film were Dancing Shiva and The Couple Next Door . End credits contain an acknowledgement from the producers, thanking several companies and individuals for their assistance in making the film: The Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting; General Camera Corp.; Magno Sound & Video; Sound One Corporation; Daily News; HarperCollins Publishers Inc.; The Chelsea Hotel; Charles Chaisson; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.; Broadway/72nd Associates The Alexandria Condominium; and NHL Enterprises, Inc. A “Special Thanks” is given to Madison Square Garden Corporation; The New York Rangers Hockey Club; and The Washington Capitals Hockey Club. The acknowledgements also state that a film clip from the 1944 production, Double Indemnity (see entry), appeared courtesy of MCA/Universal. In the shootout scene, the picture screening in the movie theater was the 1948 film noir, The Lady From Shanghai (see entry).


The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Michael Thielvoldt, a student at University of Texas at Austin.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
21 Jun 1993.
---
Daily Variety
2 Sep 1993.
---
Entertainment Weekly
2 Oct 1992
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 1992.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
18 Oct 1993.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Aug 1993
p. 1.
New York Times
15 Aug 1993.
---
New York Times
18 Aug 1993
p. 13.
New York Times
23 Aug 1993.
---
New York Times
17 May 2011.
---
Screen International
31 Jul 1992.
---
Variety
26 Aug 1992.
---
Variety
8 Sep 1992.
---
Variety
1 Oct 1992.
---
Variety
16 Aug 1993
pp. 38-39.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION 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
Exec prod
Co-prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Cam trainee
Still photog
Key grip
Best boy grip
Gaffer
Best boy elec
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative matching
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
Prop master
Const coord
Head carpenter
Standby carpenter
Chief const grip
Master scenic artist
Standby scenic artist
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Cost asst
Men's ward supv
Men's ward supv
Women's ward supv
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Re-rec mixer
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting assoc
Casting asst
Addl casting
Addl casting
Loc mgr
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Scr supv
Prod auditor
Asst prod auditor
Asst to Mr. Allen
Process compositing by
Projectionist
Asst to Mr. Greenhut
Studio mgr
Loc scout
Loc scout
Loc scout
Loc scout
Loc scout
Loc scout
Loc scout
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
DGA trainee
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
SOURCES
MUSIC
"The Hallway," by Miklos Rozsa, from the motion picture Double Indemnity , courtesy of MCA/Universal
"Take Five," by Paul Desmond, performed by The Dave Brubeck Quartet on Columbia Records, courtesy of Derry Music Company
"I'm in the Mood for Love," by Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields, performed by Erroll Garner, courtesy of Octave Records, Inc.
+
MUSIC
"The Hallway," by Miklos Rozsa, from the motion picture Double Indemnity , courtesy of MCA/Universal
"Take Five," by Paul Desmond, performed by The Dave Brubeck Quartet on Columbia Records, courtesy of Derry Music Company
"I'm in the Mood for Love," by Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields, performed by Erroll Garner, courtesy of Octave Records, Inc.
"The Big Noise from Winnetka," by Bob Haggart, Ray Bauduc, Gil Rodin & Bob Crosby, performed by Bob Crosby, His Orchestra and The Bobcats, courtesy of MCA Records
"Out of Nowhere," by John Green & Edward Heyman, performed by Coleman Hawkins and His All-Star Jam Band, courtesy of EMI Records Group, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Have You Met Miss Jones," by Lorenz Hart & Richard Rodgers, performed by Art Tatum-Ben Webster Quartet, courtesy of Fantasy, Inc.
"Misty," by Erroll Garner, performed by Erroll Garner, courtesy of PolyGram Special Markets, a division of PolyGram Group Distribution, Inc.
"Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)," by Louis Prima, performed by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing.
+
SONGS
"I Happen to Like New York," by Cole Porter, performed by Bobby Short, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"The Best Things in Life Are Free," by B.G. DeSylva, Lew Brown & Ray Henderson, performed by Erroll Garner, courtesy of Octave Records, Inc.
"Der Fliegende Holländer," by Richard Wagner, performed by Chor und Orchester der Staatsoper München, vocal performance by Hans Hotter, conducted by Clemens Krauss courtesy of Laudis S.R.L.
+
SONGS
"I Happen to Like New York," by Cole Porter, performed by Bobby Short, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"The Best Things in Life Are Free," by B.G. DeSylva, Lew Brown & Ray Henderson, performed by Erroll Garner, courtesy of Octave Records, Inc.
"Der Fliegende Holländer," by Richard Wagner, performed by Chor und Orchester der Staatsoper München, vocal performance by Hans Hotter, conducted by Clemens Krauss courtesy of Laudis S.R.L.
"Overture" from Guys and Dolls , by Frank Loesser, performed by The New Broadway Cast, courtesy of RCA Victor, a division of BMG Classics.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Dancing Shiva
The Couple Next Door
Release Date:
18 August 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 18 August 1993
Production Date:
began 14 September 1992
Copyright Claimant:
TriStar Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
13 September 1993
Copyright Number:
PA677927
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
DuArt Film Laboratories
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex® cameras by Panavision®; Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
108
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32452
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During a Rangers game at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Larry Lipton reminds his wife Carol that she promised to sit through the game without looking bored. In exchange, he assures her he will attend the opera. After all, he has already bought earplugs. Following the game, the couple returns home where they meet their elderly neighbors, Paul and Lillian House, who invite them into their apartment for coffee and conversation. When the Liptons return to their own apartment, Carol questions Larry about whether he thinks they will end up like the Houses, “a pair of comfortable old shoes.” The next day, shopping at a street market with friends, the Liptons discuss recently divorced friend, Ted. Carol asks Larry if they know any woman who would be a good match for him. Larry says he always thought Ted had a crush on her, but Carol dismisses the suggestion. Upon arriving back at their apartment, the Liptons learn that Lillian has just died of a heart attack. A few days later, they encounter Paul and express their condolences, but find him unexpectedly cheerful. When the Liptons tell their friends about Lillian’s death and Paul’s odd reaction, Ted suggests that maybe Paul killed his wife, but Larry doubts the idea. Later that night, Ted phones Carol to inform her of a location he found for a restaurant they plan to open together, but the two spend more time pondering the mystery of Lillian’s death. On the pretense of sharing one of Carol’s rich desserts, the Liptons visit Paul. While in his apartment, Carol sees an urn full of ashes, which she finds curious, because the Houses previously told her they had ... +


During a Rangers game at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Larry Lipton reminds his wife Carol that she promised to sit through the game without looking bored. In exchange, he assures her he will attend the opera. After all, he has already bought earplugs. Following the game, the couple returns home where they meet their elderly neighbors, Paul and Lillian House, who invite them into their apartment for coffee and conversation. When the Liptons return to their own apartment, Carol questions Larry about whether he thinks they will end up like the Houses, “a pair of comfortable old shoes.” The next day, shopping at a street market with friends, the Liptons discuss recently divorced friend, Ted. Carol asks Larry if they know any woman who would be a good match for him. Larry says he always thought Ted had a crush on her, but Carol dismisses the suggestion. Upon arriving back at their apartment, the Liptons learn that Lillian has just died of a heart attack. A few days later, they encounter Paul and express their condolences, but find him unexpectedly cheerful. When the Liptons tell their friends about Lillian’s death and Paul’s odd reaction, Ted suggests that maybe Paul killed his wife, but Larry doubts the idea. Later that night, Ted phones Carol to inform her of a location he found for a restaurant they plan to open together, but the two spend more time pondering the mystery of Lillian’s death. On the pretense of sharing one of Carol’s rich desserts, the Liptons visit Paul. While in his apartment, Carol sees an urn full of ashes, which she finds curious, because the Houses previously told her they had twin cemetery plots. While Larry contradicts Carol’s suspicions, Ted ignites her curiosity, and the two become further entwined in a mystery that compounds with piling evidence. After observing Paul leave his apartment at one in the morning, Carol breaks into his place and discovers the urn is gone, and that Paul has two plane tickets and hotel reservations in Paris for himself and a woman named Helen Moss. Carol also overhears Paul refer to himself as Tom during a phone conversation. When Carol later realizes she dropped her reading glasses at the House apartment, the Liptons bring Paul another dessert in order to get in and recover them. After tracking down the apartment of Helen Moss, Carol and Ted stake it out and, while waiting for something to happen, reminisce about the time they had an opportunity--which they chose not to take--to spend an intimate night together. Eventually, a woman emerges from the apartment and Carol and Ted follow her to Paul’s revival movie theater. When Paul leaves on another late-night escapade, Carol again breaks into his apartment, this time dragging along a reluctant Larry. Carol hits redial on Paul’s phone, and a man on the other end of the line answers, “Waldron?” From this, Carol deduces that Paul’s alias is Tom Waldron. At a wine tasting, Carol and Ted discuss his upcoming date with Larry’s favorite client, the brilliant and “dangerously sexual” author, Marcia Fox. Ted reveals he would prefer a date with Carol, which causes her to blush. After Ted leaves, Carol spots Lillian House riding on a bus, but Larry does not believe her, given their building superintendent earlier stated he saw Lillian’s corpse. However, Ted takes her seriously and the next day, Carol and Ted scour the neighborhood where she spotted Lillian. They find the Hotel Waldron, but neither Mrs. House nor Helen Moss is registered as a hotel guest. Meanwhile, over lunch, Larry confides to Marcia that he suspects Carol is becoming attracted to Ted. Marcia advises Larry to hold on to Carol, but coyly adds that they can always “trade” by giving Ted to Carol, and leave Marcia for Larry. Considering Marcia’s advice, Larry decides to join Carol on her surveillance of the Hotel Waldron. While they observe the hotel from a parked car, Carol and Larry analyze their stagnating relationship. Spotting Lillian entering the establishment, they follow her upstairs and in the room she enters, find her freshly murdered body. While they telephone the police, Lillian’s body disappears and the detectives see no evidence of a crime. The Liptons recount the events over beers, then double back to the hotel room, where they find Lillian’s wedding ring. To Larry’s chagrin, Carol wishes that Ted were with them to help solve the mystery. As they ride down to the hotel’s entrance, the elevator stalls. They eventually escape the elevator and discover Lillian’s corpse on the elevator roof. After a few minutes of stumbling around in the dark, Carol and Larry emerge from the hotel, where they see Paul loading his wife’s corpse into his trunk. Following Paul to a dumping ground, they see him discard the corpse in a vat of molten steel. Upon returning home, Paul is in the hall claiming that he has been watching a movie with Gladys Dalton, an employee at his theater. The Liptons give no indication that they know otherwise, but they later attempt to puzzle out the mystery. When they seek out Ted and Marcia for help, Marcia concocts a theory involving opportunism, double-crosses, and infidelity, while Carol jealously watches Larry’s and Ted’s growing infatuation with her. Using a scheme she read in a murder mystery novel, Marcia suggests a plan to expose Paul by pretending to blackmail him. After learning that Helen Moss is an aspiring actress, they invite her to audition for a stage play, claiming they are staging an adaptation of a mystery novel. They record her audition and later edit the tape. By playing edited recordings of Helen’s line readings over a phone to Paul, they trick him into believing that Larry and Carol have Lillian’s body and are demanding a ransom for it. Their scheme is successful, but Paul decides to silence the Liptons rather than pay them off. Meanwhile, Carol’s jealousy over Marcia, and Larry’s jealousy over Ted comes to a head, ending with Carol storming off on her own. As part of their plan, Larry calls Paul, but learns that he kidnapped Carol and is demanding Lillian’s corpse in exchange for her safe return. To buy time, Larry agrees to Paul’s demands, although he has no corpse. When he meets Paul behind his theater, Paul sees through his bluff and, armed with a gun, pursues Larry through the theater. However, in the space behind the theater screen, Paul comes face to face with a pistol-wielding Gladys, who guns him down in a shootout that parallels the climactic scene of an Orson Welles picture being projected onto the screen. Larry frees Carol and the couple phones the police. After Gladys is arrested, and Larry and Carol give statements, Marcia clarifies the mystery for Ted. She explains that Lillian’s sister, a rich, reclusive widow, was the first body. She died of a heart attack while having dinner with the Houses, but the couple pretended it was Lillian who died so they could claim the sister’s fortune. They cremated the sister’s body, and Lillian checked into the Hotel Waldron under her sister’s identity. During that time, Lillian liquefied her sister’s assets. Paul then double-crossed Lillian, killed her, and took the money for himself, intending to run away with Helen, who was his mistress. Gladys, who was also having an affair with Paul, killed him out of jealousy over Helen. With the mystery solved, and the prospect of a new romance, Ted and Marcia go to dinner. Meanwhile, all the excitement has rekindled Larry and Carol’s marriage and they go home, laughing at their recent jealousies. +

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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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