Woody Allen’s love letter to the people and places of New York City is brilliantly realized in his 1979 comedic gem Manhattan. The lush and grandiose cityscapes of Manhattan serve as not only the backdrop, but as a character itself in this incredible film about couples falling in and out of love. Filmed in stunning black and white, the stark and beautiful images are backed by the score of New York composer George Gershwin. At the center of the story is Isaac Davis (Woody Allen), a successful TV writer who is recently divorced from his wife, Jill (Meryl Streep). Jill, in turn, has moved in with her lesbian partner and sends shockwaves through Isaac when he learns that she is penning a tell-all book about their failed marriage. Isaac soon finds himself caught up in a love affair with Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), a sensitive 17 year old high school student who has eyes only for him. As luck would have it, Isaac meets and begins to fall for Mary (Diane Keaton) who just happens to be the mistress of his best friend, Yale (Michael Murphy). Isaac is torn between the fresh-faced and naive Tracy and the pseudo-intellectual, neurotic and cynical (yet closer to his own age) Mary. Woody Allen, doing some of his best work since Annie Hall, successfully contrasts the broken, dysfunctional relationships in his characters against the exquisitely beautiful perfection of the city. Manhattan was nominated for 2 Oscars (Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay). It’s a crime that this poignant and artistic film failed to garner Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography, Director, or Picture.
Mariel Hemingway, nominee, (184), as Tracy, is truly a standout in a stellar cast. Hemingway captures Tracy’s adoring school girl with such unpretentious charm, that it’s difficult not to feel sympathy for her when she experiences her first pangs of romantic heartbreak. Hemingway became one in a long line of actresses who were vaulted into the heights of Academy Award recognition by Woody Allen in the Supporting Actress category. In fact, looking at all of the acting categories over the years, Allen has produced 16 Oscar-nominated performances and 5 Oscar wins with his actors (4 of which went to Supporting Actresses-Dianne Wiest twice, Penelope Cruz, and Mira Sorvino). In the 1979 Best Supporting Actress race, Hemingway went up against Barbara Berrie in Breaking Away, Candice Bergen in Starting Over, and dual nominees from Kramer vs. Kramer, Jane Alexander and the eventual winner in the category, Meryl Streep.