Radio Days is a 1987 comedy film directed by Woody Allen. The film looks back on an American family's life during the Golden Age of Radio using both music and memories to tell the story.
Joe (Woody Allen), the narrator, explains how the radio influenced his childhood in the days before TV. The young Joe (Seth Green) lives in New York City in the late 1930s. The tale mixes Joe's experiences with his remembrances and anecdotes, inserting his memories of the urban legends of radio stars, and is told in constantly changing plot points and vignettes.
Even though Joe's Jewish-American family lives modestly in Rockaway Beach, each member at one point during the film finds in radio shows an escape from reality through the gossip of celebrities, sports legends of the day, game shows, and crooners, with the majority of the stories taking place in the glitz and glamour of Manhattan. For Joe, the action adventure shows on the radio inspire him as he daydreams about buying a secret decoder ring, an attractive substitute teacher, movie stars (who may or not be as honest as they appear), and World War II.
Meanwhile, several other parallel stories are told, from an aspiring radio star named Sally White (Mia Farrow), Joe's Aunt Bea (Dianne Wiest) and her (mostly fruitless) search for love, and during the middle of the film on the radio the tragic story is told about a little girl named Polly Phelps, who falls into a well near Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. It becomes a big national story and as the family listens to it. Sadly, Polly does not survive.
Woody Allen as Joe, the Narrator,
Seth Green as Young Joe,
Danny Aiello as Rocco,
Sydney Blake as Mrs. Gordon,
Leah Carrey as Grandma,
Jeff Daniels as Biff Baxter,
Larry David as Communist Neighbor,
Gina DeAngelis as Rocco's mother,
Denise Dumont as Latin singer,
Mia Farrow as Sally White,
Todd Field as Crooner,
Kitty Carlisle Hart as Maxwell House (Coffee) Radio Jingle Singer,
Paul Herman as Burglar,
Julie Kavner as Mother,
Diane Keaton as New Year's Singer,
Renée Lippin as Aunt Ceil,
Martin Sherman as Radio Actor,
William Magerman as Grandpa,
Judith Malina as Mrs. Waldbaum,
Kenneth Mars as Rabbi Baumel,
Josh Mostel as Uncle Abe,
Don Pardo as "Guess That Tune" Host,
Tony Roberts as "Silver Dollar" Emcee,
Rebecca Schaeffer as Communists' Daughter,
Wallace Shawn as Masked Avenger,
Mike Starr as Burglar,
Michael Tucker as Father,
Kenneth Welsh as Radio Voice,
Dianne Wiest as Aunt Bea,
The film's soundtrack, which features songs from the 1930s and 40s, plays an integral and seamless part in the plot. An important part of one of the vignettes is inspired by Orson Welles' famous 1938 CBS radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. It was titled Radio Days: Selections from the Original Soundtrack of the Motion Picture and released on cassette, as well as compact disc in 1987:
"In the Mood"
"I Double Dare You"
"Opus No. 1"
"The Donkey Serenade"
"Body and Soul"
"You and I"
"Remember Pearl Harbor"
"That Old Feeling"
"(There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover"
"I'm Gettin' Sentimental Over You"
"Lullaby of Broadway"
"Take the "A" Train"
"One, Two, Three, Kick"
The film was screened out of competition at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. Film critic Roger Ebert called it Allen's answer to Federico Fellini's Amarcord. In his four-star review, he also referred to it as "so ambitious and so audacious that it almost defies description. It's a kaleidoscope of dozens of characters, settings and scenes - the most elaborate production Allen has ever made - and it's inexhaustible, spinning out one delight after another." It currently holds a 'fresh' 95% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 7.9/10. In a poll held by Empire magazine of the 500 greatest films ever made, Radio Days was voted number 304.
Awards and nominations:
1987 Academy Awards (Oscars):
Nominated - Best Achievement in Art Direction:,
Art Direction: Santo Loquasto,
Set Decoration: Carol Joffe, Les Bloom, George DeTitta, Jr.,
Nominated - Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen,
1987 BAFTA Film Awards:
Won - Best Costume Design : Jeffery Kurland,
Won - Best Production Design: Santo Loquasto,
Nominated - Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Dianne Wiest,
Nominated - Best Editing: Susan E. Morse,
Nominated - Best Film: Robert Greenhut, Woody Allen,
Nominated - Best Screenplay Original: Woody Allen,
Nominated - Best Sound: Robert Hein, James Sabat, Lee Dichter,
1988 Writers Guild of America Awards:
Nominated - WGA Screen Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Woody Allen,
Woody Allen On Location by Thierry de Navacelle (Morrow, 1987); a day-to-day account of the making of Radio Days