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The Purple Rose of Cairo is a 1985 film written and directed by Woody Allen. Inspired by Sherlock, Jr., Hellzapoppin' and Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, it is the tale of a film character who leaves the film and enters the real world.


Set in New Jerseymarker during the Great Depression, Cecilia (Mia Farrow) is a clumsy waitress who goes to the movies to escape her bleak life and loveless marriage to Monk (Danny Aiello), who she has attempted to leave on numerous occasions.

The latest film Cecilia sees is The Purple Rose of Cairo, a film-within-the-film. Its the story of a rich New York playwright (Edward Herrmann) and his companions (John Wood and Deborah Rush) going on a vacation to Egypt and meeting archaeologist Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels). Tom is brought back to New York and falls in love with a nightclub singer (Karen Akers) at the Copacabana.

When Cecilia sees the film several times, Tom literally breaks the fourth wall, emerging from the black-and-white into the colorful real world on the other side of the cinema's screen.

The producer of the film learns that Tom has left the film, and he flies cross-country to New Jerseymarker with Gil Sheperd (also played by Jeff Daniels).

This sets up an unusual love triangle involving Tom, Gil and Cecilia. The downbeat ending has Cecilia give up the chance to return with Tom to his world, choosing to stay with Gil and have a 'real' life.

Gil then abandons her and is seen quietly racked with guilt on his flight back to Hollywood. Having been left without a lover, job or home (but most likely to return to Monk), Cecilia ends up watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing to "Cheek-to-Cheek" in the film Top Hat, forgetting her dire situation and losing herself in the film.

Filming locations

A number of the scenes featuring Tom and Cecilia are set at the Bertrand Island Amusement Parkmarker, which closed just prior to the film's production. It was also filmed at the Raritan Diner in South Amboy, New Jerseymarker.


Allen's opinion

In a rare public appearance at the National Film Theatremarker in 2001, Allen listed The Purple Rose of Cairo as one of only a few of his films that ended up being "fairly close to what I wanted to do" when he set out to write it. Allen provided more detail about the film's origins in a comment he made a year earlier, during a press junket for Small Time Crooks:

Box office

The Purple Rose of Cairo opened in North America on March 1, 1985 in 3 theaters, where it grossed an exceptional $114,095 ($38,031 per screen) in its opening weekend. Box office settled down upon further expansions, and its total gross of $10,631,333 was in line with most Woody Allen films of the period.


The film won the BAFTA Award for Best Film and the C├ęsar Award for Best Foreign Film. Allen's screenplay was nominated for several major awards, including an Oscar, a BAFTA Award and a Writers Guild of America Award. It was recognized as one of the "ALL-TIME 100 best films" by Time magazine. The film won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival.


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