Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

In writer/director Woody Allen's comedic, romantic fantasy and Depression-era ode - a 'film within a film' - inspired by Buster Keaton's silent comedy Sherlock, Jr. (1924):

  • the introduction of meek, mid-1930s, klutzy New Jersey diner waitress Cecilia (Mia Farrow) - a movie-devotee who often attended Jewel, the local movie theatre to watch escapist Hollywood romance films; the theater manager (Irving Metzman) promised her that she'd love the next movie, an RKO black and white film 'The Purple Rose of Cairo' (a fictitious film): ("You're gonna like this one. lt's better than last week's. lt's more romantic")
  • the many domestic issues faced by Cecilia, who escaped to the theatre to momentarily get away from her dreary and loveless marriage to philandering, unemployed, abusive, thuggish, gambling husband Monk (Danny Aiello)
  • Cecilia found solace by attending the movie theatre's opening of 'The Purple Rose of Cairo' - in the film's plot, three American travelers were vacationing in Egypt: rich, high-society Manhattan playwright Henry (Edward Herrmann), and socialites Jason (John Wood) and Rita (Deborah Rush); they met handsome adventure hero and archaeologist Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels); Tom explained his search in the tombs for a mythical purple rose: ("I've come in search of the Purple Rose of Cairo. It's an old legend that's fascinated me for years. A Pharaoh had a rose painted purple for his queen and now the story says purple roses grow wild at her tomb!"); when invited by the socialites back to NY for night-clubbing (a "madcap Manhattan weekend"), he agreed: "What's life without a little risk-taking? Who knows? A fortune teller predicted l'd fall in love in New York"; at the Copacabana, he fell in love with the singing of chanteuse Kitty Haynes (Karen Akers)
The Main Characters in "The Purple Rose of Cairo"
Egyptian Archaeologist Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels)
(l to r): Henry, Jason, and Rita
  • Cecilia was romantically entranced by the film and its exotic places, and found herself day-dreaming the next day at work about it: ("A penthouse, the desert, and kissing on a dance floor....The people were so beautiful. They spoke so cleverly and do such romantic things. The guy playing Tom Baxter - he was so cute!")
  • after returning from her second viewing of the film with her sister (Stephanie Farrow), she found her husband with drunken Olga (Camille Saviola) and finally decided to pack her suitcase and move out; she accused him of abusive treatment: ("You treat me bad, and you beat up on me!") which he clearly acknowledged: ("l hit you when you get out of line. And l never just hit you. l always warn you first. Then if you don't shape up, you get whacked!"); he dared her to leave as she departed: "l can`t reason with you. All right, go ahead. See how far you get. Go on. Go on. You won't last. You see how it is out in the real world. Go on, you'll come back. You're just bluff. You're all phony. You'll be back" - he was right - she soon returned home, and found herself fired the next day for incompetence by the diner boss (David Kieserman)
The Character of Tom Baxter Exiting the Film Screen
  • distraught by her circumstances, a tearful Cecilia entered the theatre to watch three back-to-back showings of the film (during her third visit) - and suddenly, in a surprise sequence, character Tom Baxter stepped out of the screen, leaving his fellow performers behind, and spoke to Cecilia in the audience; he professed that after seeing her several times in the theatre that he had fallen in love with her: ("My God, you must really love this picture... You've been here all day. And I've seen you here twice before....This is the fifth time you're seeing this....I gotta speak to you"); he told the actors back on the screen: "I want to have a look around. You go on without me"; as he and Cecilia raced from the theatre, Tom was ecstatic: "l'm free. After 2,000 performances of the same monotonous routine, l'm free!...l want to live and be free to make my own choices."
  • although astonished by what had happened, the theatre manager let the movie play on - but the audience became irritated that the plot suddenly came to a standstill on-screen: ("What the hell kind of movie is this?...Look at this. They sit around and talk, and no action? Nothing happens? l want my money back"); the characters argued back and forth with audience members, who became aggravated and demanded their money back ("We want our money back. l don`t pay to watch those socialites sitting around up there staring back at us making nasty remarks"); there were worries about "the Tom Baxter character" and that the movie couldn't be shut off with him wandering around in the real world ("We can't continue the story until Tom gets back")
  • a controversy developed due to Tom's defection from the film, halting the film's storyline and action; studio executive Raoul Hirsch (Alexander Cohen) and his lawyer (John Rothman) at RKO in Hollywood became worried about their liabilities - "That's all you need - hundreds of Tom Baxters on the loose... As your lawyer, l advise you to control it fast. A character from one of your productions on the loose? Who knows what he's capable of? Robbery, murder. l see lawsuits"
  • the fact of Tom's innocence and naivete about life in the 'real world' and his curiosity about it - (he'd never eaten popcorn, hadn't experienced old age, poverty or war, illness, or "true love"); he explained: "Where l come from, people don't disappoint. They're consistent. Always reliable"; he struggled with the 'real world' as he explored life with Cecilia (i.e., his fake movie stage money was different than real money when paying for dinner, and a key was required to start a car, etc.)
  • when kissing Cecilia in a dreamy and romantic setting, he asked about movie 'fade-outs' for their love scene: ("Where's the fade-out?...Always when the kissing gets hot and heavy just before the lovemaking, there's a fadeout....Then we're making love in some private, perfect place....What, there's no fade out?...How fascinating. You make love without fading out?")
  • the introduction of the real-life Hollywood actor who was playing Tom Baxter -- a selfish, aspiring actor named Gil Shepherd (also Jeff Daniels), who was informed: "There's a double of you on the loose"; Gil was incredulous ("How could he do that? lt's not physically possible"); he was furious that Tom had left the screen and would potentially hurt his acting career - he was cautioned to take care of things immediately: ("The last thing we need is for you to get a reputation as somehow difficult...if you can't control your own creation, nobody's gonna risk a picture on you...This is the scandal of all time")
  • the sequence of RKO head Raoul Hirsch and Gil Shepherd trying to dampen the crisis and keep it contained; they spoke to the actors on screen in the theatre who also were tempted to leave: ("l want to go, too. l want to be free! l want out!"), but were threatened: ("l`m warning you, that's Communist talk"); there was tremendous concern: ("lf this is the start of a new trend, our industry's as good as dead. The real ones want their lives fiction, and the fictional ones want their lives real")
  • the coincidental meeting of Cecilia and Gil Shepherd in a coffee-shop, when she thought he was Tom Baxter: (Cecilia: "What's the matter with you? You're acting so peculiar"); after a few moments, she realized he was the real-life Hollywood 'actor' playing Tom Baxter; it was the beginning of an awkward love triangle that developed between Tom, Cecilia and Gil; Gil insisted that the stubborn-minded Tom get back into the film and give up his love for Cecilia; Gil insisted that Cecilia support his viewpoint: ("Would you tell him to go back? Tell him that you don't love him. Tell him you can't love him. He's fictional. Do you want to waste your time with a fictional character? I mean, you're a sweet girl. You deserve an actual human...What good is perfect if the man's not real?")
  • Tom's further experiences in the 'real world' with Cecilia, where he saw a soup kitchen line, a pregnant woman and a crucifix in a church; there, Tom was approached by Cecilia's abusive husband Monk - and the two men had a fist-fight at the altar and Tom was injured; for once, the inspired Cecilia stood up for herself and refused to return home: ("l'm gonna stay and see that Tom's OK. You`re a bully, Monk...l'm tired of taking your orders. You could have killed him.....You can't just go through life beating people up"), after Monk left, Tom said he was fine: ("I don't get hurt or bleed, hair doesn't muss; it's one of the advantages of being imaginary")
  • Tom encountered "working girl" (prostitute) Emma (Dianne Wiest), who tempted him to have a "good time" with "new experiences"; she brought him to her brothel's hookers, where Tom confused the ladies with his sophisticated views on life rather than an interest in sex: ("I was thinking about some very deep things. About God and his relation with Irving Saks and R.H. Levine. And I was thinking about life in general. The origin of everything we see about us. The finality of death and how almost magical it seems in the real world, as opposed to the world of celluloid and flickering shadows...for example, the miracle of birth")
  • the hookers were entranced with him, as he naively asked: ("What kind of a club is this, anyhow?"); Tom was offered free-of-charge sex for his first time: (Hooker: "I wouldn't mind doin' him for nothin'", Hooker 2: "We're going to take you into the bedroom and give you an experience you'll never forget"); however, he ultimately declined their offer to have sex, citing his love for Cecilia - to their astonishment: ("I can't make love with you...Don't think I'm not appreciative of your offer. But, I must say the concept is totally new to me. But I'm just - I'm hopelessly head over heels in love with Cecilia. She is all I want. My devotion is to her, my loyalties. Every breath she takes makes my heart dance"); Emma was incredulous: "Are there any other guys like you out there?"
  • meanwhile, Cecilia was flattered and seduced by selfish, ambitious, imperfect and deceptive actor Gil, who took her to Lawson's Music Store, where he bought her a ukulele; he serenaded her with two 1925 songs, Alabamy Bound and I Love My Baby, My Baby Loves Me, and then recreated with her one of his romantic kissing scenes from the musical Dancing Doughboys
  • the studio executives wanted to get Tom back into the picture and then turn off the projector to end the fiasco: ("We gotta get him back in the picture, then we turn off the projector and burn the prints. And the negative"), but were stymied when Tom - to prove his love and end Cecilia's doubts ("You`re some kind of phantom") - brought Cecilia back into his film world; he introduced her as his fiancee, and they magically toured around NYC (a montage sequence) where the two fancifully fell in love after a whirlwind evening of night-clubbing
Tom and Cecilia Enter Film World
Tom Addressing the Film's Performers From the Front of the Theatre
Tom Dragging Cecilia from the
Theatre into the Picture
Love in NYC
Interrupted Mid-Kiss
Gil in the Theatre
  • the two were interrupted mid-kiss by the arrival of Gil in the theatre; Cecilia listened to Tom's confession of love: ("I love you. I'm honest, dependable, courageous, romantic, and a great kisser"); however, Gil was more convincing as the better choice because he was real: "And I'm real"; ultimately, Cecilia said goodbye to Tom: "You'll be fine. ln your world, things have a way of always working out right. l'm a real person. No matter how tempted l am, l have to choose the real world. l loved every minute with you. l'll never forget our night on the town. Good-bye"
  • Cecilia began packing to move to Hollywood, to desert her husband, and she affirmed to Monk: "Love at first sight doesn't only happen just in the movies"; he shouted after her: "lt's real life, and you'll be back. Mark my words. You'll be back!"
  • in the concluding scene, it was depressingly revealed that Gil's profession of love for Cecilia was phony - Gil was only attempting to reject the fictional character for the real man so his acting career could be saved from the scandal; the Jewel theater owner told Cecilia that Gil Shepherd had abandoned her to return to Hollywood - and that 'The Purple Rose of Cairo' had been discontinued: ("They all gone...They went back to Hollywood....Mr. Shepherd, yeah. Soon as Tom Baxter went back up on the movie screen - couldn't wait to get outta here. He said this was a close call for his career. I think he's gonna play Charles Lindbergh"); seeing her disheartened face, the theatre owner added: "Don't forget, Cecilia, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers start today"
Abandoned by Gil:
"They all gone"
Entranced by Top Hat's "Cheek to Cheek" Dance
  • in the dark and downbeat ending, wounded, mistreated and forsaken Cecilia found further comfort at the movie theatre while watching the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film Top Hat (1935) as they sang and danced "Cheek to Cheek" (I'm in Heaven) - before the final fade-out

Cecilia's Love of Old Movies at the Jewel Theatre

Daydreaming at Work About the Movie

Cecilia's Abusive Husband Monk

The Astonished Theatre Manager

Tom Baxter In the 'Real World' with Cecilia

Tom's Kiss without a Movie 'Fade-Out'

The 'Real World' Actor Gil Shepherd (also Jeff Daniels)

Studio Exec. Hirsch and Gil Speaking to Actors on the Screen

Meeting for the First Time: Gil Shepherd and Cecilia

The Two Characters Together: Tom and Gil

Fight Between Monk and Tom in Church

Brothel Madam Emma (Dianne Wiest)

Tom with Two Brothel Hookers

Gil in a Music Store with Cecilia

Gil Urging Cecilia to Stay with Him

Tom's Last Plea and Confession of Love to Cecilia

Cecilia's Heartfelt Goodbye to Tom


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