Vanya on 42nd Street

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Vanya on 42nd Street
Vanya On 42nd Street.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLouis Malle
Written byAndre Gregory
Based onUncle Vanya
by Anton Chekhov, adapted by David Mamet
Produced byFred Berner
CinematographyDeclan Quinn
Edited byNancy Baker
Music byJoshua Redman
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release date
  • September 13, 1994 (1994-09-13)
Running time
119 minutes
Box office$1,746,050

Vanya on 42nd Street is a 1994 American film directed by Louis Malle, written by Andre Gregory, and starring Wallace Shawn and Julianne Moore. The film is an intimate, interpretive performance of the 1899 play Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov as adapted by David Mamet.[1]


New York actors rehearse Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" in a dilapidated theatre.


The film also features Madhur Jaffrey and Andre Gregory as himself. Shawn, Gregory, and Malle had previously collaborated on the 1981 film My Dinner with Andre. Several actors known to the New York stage are featured, including George Gaynes, Larry Pine, Phoebe Brand, Brooke Smith, and Lynn Cohen.

Moore, whose film career was gaining critical attention because of her performance in Short Cuts, was prominently featured in the advertising campaign for the film.

The soundtrack features music by the Joshua Redman Quartet, with Redman on tenor saxophone, Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass, and Brian Blade on drums.


Over the course of three years, director Andre Gregory and a group of actors came together on a voluntary basis in order to better understand Chekhov's work through performance workshops. Staged and filmed entirely within the vacant shell of the then-abandoned New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street in New York City, they enacted the play rehearsal-style on a bare stage with the actors in street clothes. Free from any commercial demands, their performances were for an invited audience only. Gregory and director Louis Malle decided to document the play as they had developed it. The film was the result of the collaborative process. It was the last film of Malle's career.


Workshop rehearsals with Gregory and the cast originally took place at the abandoned Victory Theater on 42nd Street in New York City. The filmed version was shot entirely within the New Amsterdam Theatre, also on 42nd Street. Built in 1903, the theatre was the original home of the Ziegfeld Follies, a historical tidbit mentioned in the film during some pre-show banter. In the late 1930s, the New Amsterdam Theatre was transformed into a movie palace. The theatre remained a movie palace until it "temporarily" closed in 1982.

At the time Vanya on 42nd Street was filmed, the theatre had been abandoned for over ten years and was in a state of severe disrepair. Rats had chewed through much of the stage rigging, and flooding and mice made the stage unusable, so that they were restricted to a section of what had been the orchestra.[1]

For the film production, some rows of seats were removed and a small platform was built for the cast and film crew. Shortly after the production of Vanya, the New Amsterdam was leased to The Walt Disney Company. Disney restored the theatre to its grand original design and reopened it in 1997.


Critical response[edit]

Vanya on 42nd Street received mostly positive reviews from critics.[2] Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times. "As he did with My Dinner with Andre", Ebert wrote, "[Malle shows] he is the master of a visual style suited to tightly-encompassed material. There is not a shot that calls attention to itself, and yet not a shot that is without thought."[3]

Year-end lists[edit]


  1. ^ a b Vineberg, Steven. "Vanya on 42nd Street: An American Vanya". Criterion Collection. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  2. ^ Rotten Tomatoes
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 23, 1994). "Vanya On 42nd Street Movie Review (1994)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Turan, Kenneth (December 25, 1994). "1994: YEAR IN REVIEW : No Weddings, No Lions, No Gumps". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  5. ^ Hunter, Stephen (December 25, 1994). "Films worthy of the title 'best' in short supply MOVIES". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  6. ^ Mills, Michael (December 30, 1994). "It's a Fact: 'Pulp Fiction' Year's Best". The Palm Beach Post (Final ed.). p. 7.
  7. ^ Strauss, Bob (December 30, 1994). "At the Movies: Quantity Over Quality". Los Angeles Daily News (Valley ed.). p. L6.
  8. ^ Elliott, David (December 25, 1994). "On the big screen, color it a satisfying time". The San Diego Union-Tribune (1, 2 ed.). p. E=8.
  9. ^ Siskel, Gene (December 25, 1994). "The Year's Best Movies". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  10. ^ Denerstein, Robert (January 1, 1995). "Perhaps It Was Best to Simply Fade to Black". Rocky Mountain News (Final ed.). p. 61A.
  11. ^ Clark, Mike (December 28, 1994). "Scoring with true life, 'True Lies' and 'Fiction.'". USA Today (Final ed.). p. 5D.
  12. ^ Pickle, Betsy (December 30, 1994). "Searching for the Top 10... Whenever They May Be". Knoxville News-Sentinel. p. 3.
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 27, 1994). "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; The Good, Bad and In-Between In a Year of Surprises on Film". The New York Times. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  14. ^ Lovell, Glenn (December 25, 1994). "The Past Picture Show the Good, the Bad and the Ugly -- a Year Worth's of Movie Memories". San Jose Mercury News (Morning Final ed.). p. 3.
  15. ^ Arnold, William (December 30, 1994). "'94 Movies: Best and Worst". Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Final ed.). p. 20.

External links[edit]