Woody Allen

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Woody Allen

Birth name Allen Stewart Konigsberg
Born December 1, 1935 (age 71)
Flag of United States New York City, New York, USA
Years active 1950 - present
Spouse(s) Soon-Yi Previn (December 22, 1997 - present) 2 children
Louise Lasser (February 2, 1966 - 1969) (divorced)
Harlene Rosen (March 15, 1956 - 1962) (divorced)
Notable roles Alvy Singer in Annie Hall (1977)
Isaac Davis in Manhattan (1979)
Academy Awards
Best Director
1977 Annie Hall
Best Original Screenplay
1977 Annie Hall
1986 Hannah and Her Sisters
Golden Globe Awards
Best Screenplay
1985 The Purple Rose of Cairo
BAFTA Awards
Best Direction
1977 Annie Hall
Best Film
1985 The Purple Rose of Cairo
César Awards
Best Foreign Film
1985 The Purple Rose of Cairo

Woody Allen (born Allen Stewart Konigsberg on December 1, 1935) is a three-time Academy Award-winning American film director, writer, actor, musician, comedian, playwright.

His large body of work and cerebral film style have made him one of the most respected and prolific filmmakers in the modern era.[1] Allen writes and directs his movies and has also acted in the majority of them. For inspiration, Allen draws heavily on literature, philosophy, psychology, European cinema and New York City, where he was born and has lived his entire life.


[edit] Early years

Allen was born in New York City to a family of jewish Austrian and Russian ancestry. His parents, Martin Königsberg (born on December 25, 1900 in New York; died on January 13, 2001) and Netty Cherrie (born in 1908 in New York; died in January 2002), and his sister, Letty (born 1943), lived in Flatbush, Brooklyn. He attended Hebrew school for eight years, and then went to Public School 99 and to Midwood High School. During that time, he lived in part on Avenue K, between East 14th and 15th Streets. Nicknamed "Red" because of his red hair, he impressed students with his extraordinary talent at card and magic tricks.[3]

To raise money he began writing gags for the agent David O. Alber, who sold them to newspaper columnists. Reportedly, Allen's first published joke was "I am two with Nature."

At sixteen, he started writing for stars like Sid Caesar and began calling himself Woody Allen. He was a gifted comedian from an early age and would later joke that when he was young he was often sent to inter-faith summer camps, where he "was savagely beaten by children of all races and creeds."[4]

After high school, he went to New York University where he studied communication and film, but, never much of a student, he soon dropped out[2] due to poor grades. He later briefly attended City College of New York.

Philippe Halsman portrait of Woody Allen on the LIFE cover
Philippe Halsman portrait of Woody Allen on the LIFE cover

[edit] Comedy writer and playwright

At 19, he started writing scripts for The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show, Caesar's Hour and other television shows[3]. It was while working for Sid Caesar that Allen worked alongside Danny Simon, whom Allen credits for helping him to structure his writing style.

In 1960, he started a new career as a stand-up comedian, contributed sketches to the Broadway revue From A to Z, and began writing for the popular Candid Camera television show, even appearing in some episodes. Together with his managers, Allen turned his weaknesses into his strengths, developing his neurotic, nervous, and intellectual persona. He quickly became a successful comedian, and appeared frequently in nightclubs and on television. Allen was popular enough to appear on the cover of Life Magazine in 1969 when Play It Again, Sam opened on Broadway.

Allen started writing short stories for magazines (most notably, the The New Yorker) as well as plays, the best known of which are the Broadway productions Don't Drink the Water (1966) and Play It Again, Sam (1969).[4].

Examples of Allen's standup act can be heard on the albums Standup Comic and Nightclub Years 1964-1968, including the fanciful routine in which Allen describes accidentally hitting a live moose with his car, and then bringing it to a costume party. (The moose comes in second to a couple in a moose costume.)

[edit] Film career

Woody Allen has an extensive filmography, available in its entirety at List of Woody Allen films. The remainder of this section includes most of its highlights.

[edit] Early films

His first movie production was What's New, Pussycat? in 1965, for which he wrote the initial screenplay.

Allen's first directorial effort was What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), in which an existing Japanese spy movie was redubbed in English by Allen and his friends with completely new, comic dialogue. In 1967, he also appeared in the offbeat James Bond spoof, Casino Royale.

[edit] 1960s and 1970s

His first conventional effort was Take The Money and Run (1969), which was followed by Bananas, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), Sleeper, and Love and Death.

Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in the movie Love and Death
Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in the movie Love and Death

In 1972, he also starred in the film version of Play It Again, Sam, which was directed by Herbert Ross. All of Allen's early films were pure comedies that relied heavily on slapstick, inventive sight gags, and non-stop one-liners. Among the many notable influences on these films are Bob Hope, Groucho Marx and Humphrey Bogart.

In 1976, he starred in, but did not direct, The Front (that task was handled by Martin Ritt), a humorous and poignant account of Hollywood blacklisting during the 1950s.

Allen's most successful movies were produced in a 10-year period starting with Annie Hall. Other critical and financial successes included Manhattan, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Hannah and Her Sisters (winner of three Academy Awards). Purple Rose was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best films of all time, and Allen has described it as one of his three best films, along with Husbands and Wives and Match Point.[5]

Annie Hall marked a major turn to more sophisticated humor and thoughtful drama. Allen's 1977 film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Annie Hall set the standard for modern romantic comedy, and also started a minor fashion trend with the unique clothes worn by Diane Keaton in the film (the offbeat, masculine clothing, such as ties with cardigans, was actually Keaton's own).

Allen and Diane Keaton in the movie Annie Hall, here the film Face to face, by Ingmar Bergman, is mentionated.
Allen and Diane Keaton in the movie Annie Hall, here the film Face to face, by Ingmar Bergman, is mentionated.

Manhattan is regarded by many critics to be Allen's best work. The black and white film can be viewed as an homage to New York City, which has been described as the true main character of the movie. As in many other Allen films, the main characters are upper class academics and literati, but Allen's attitude towards the class is ambivalent. Even as it makes fun of pretentious intellectuals, the story is packed with obscure references which makes it less accessible to a general audience. This love-hate opinion of cerebral persons is characteristic of many of Allen's movies including Crimes and Misdemeanors and Annie Hall.

Between Annie Hall and Manhattan, Allen wrote and directed the gloomy drama Interiors, in the style of the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, one of Allen's major influences.

[edit] 1980s

Allen's 1980s films, even the comedies, have somber and philosophical undertones. Some, like September and Stardust Memories, are often said to be heavily influenced by the works of European directors, most notably Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini.[citation needed]

Allen and Mia Farrow starring a comic sequence of the film Hannah and her Sisters
Allen and Mia Farrow starring a comic sequence of the film Hannah and her Sisters

Stardust Memories features a main character, a successful filmmaker played by Allen, who expresses resentment and scorn for his fans. Overcome by the recent death of a friend from illness, the character states, "I don't want to make funny movies any more," and a running gag throughout the film has various people (including a group of visiting space aliens) telling Bates that they appreciate his work, "especially the early, funny ones." [6]

However, by the mid-1980s, Allen had begun to combine tragic and comic elements with the release of such films as Hannah and Her Sisters, one of his most awarded movies starring British actor Michael Caine, and Crimes and Misdemeanors, in which he tells two different stories that connect at the end. He also produced a vividly idiosyncratic tragi-comical parody of documentary: Zelig.

He also made three films about show business. The first movie is Broadway Danny Rose, in which he plays a Hollywood manager; then, The Purple Rose of Cairo, a movie that shows the importance of the cinema in the Depression in the character of the naive Cecilia. The last movie of these is Radio Days, which is a film about the people that worked in the radio business and how they become rich and famous.

Before the end of the eighties he made other movies that are strongly inspired in Ingmar Bergman's films. September is a remake of Autumn Sonata, and in Another Woman Allen takes many elements from Persona[citation needed].

Anjelica Huston helps Woody Allen, Diane Keaton and Alan Alda in the pursuit of a murderer Manhattan Murder Mystery.
Anjelica Huston helps Woody Allen, Diane Keaton and Alan Alda in the pursuit of a murderer Manhattan Murder Mystery.

[edit] 1990s

His 1992 film Shadows and Fog is a black and white homage to German expressionists and features the music of Kurt Weill. His 1993 film Manhattan Murder Mystery combined suspense with dark comedy, and starred Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Zach Braff, and Anjelica Huston.

In the late 1990s he returned to lighter movies, such as Bullets Over Broadway, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. The musical Everyone Says I Love You was a challenge for Allen, because he never did a musical before, but the result was great. The singing and dancing scenes are similar to the musical starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but the plot is comical. The comedy Mighty Aphrodite, in which the Greek and Roman tragedies are very importants, for which Mira Sorvino won an Academy Award and the jazz mockumentary Sweet and Lowdown (1999), although he veered scathingly satirical in 1997's Deconstructing Harry.

Allen made his only sitcom "appearance" via telephone in the 1997 episode, "My Dinner with Woody" of the show Just Shoot Me!, an episode paying tribute to several of his films.

[edit] 2000s

Small Time Crooks (2000) was his first film with DreamWorks SKG studio and represented a change in direction: Allen began giving more interviews and made an apparent return to his strictly comedy roots. Small Time Crooks was a relative success, grossing over $17 million domestically, but Allen's next 4 films floundered at the box office, including Allen's most expensive film to date, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (with a budget of $33 million). Hollywood Ending, Anything Else, and Melinda and Melinda were given "rotten" ratings[5] from film-review website Rotten Tomatoes and each earned less than $5 million domestically. Most critics agreed that Allen's films since 1999's Sweet and Lowdown were subpar, and some critics expressed concern that Allen's best years were now behind him [6].

Scarlett Johansson stars the best movie by Allen since Husbands and Wives, Match Point.
Scarlett Johansson stars the best movie by Allen since Husbands and Wives, Match Point.

Match Point (2005) was one of Allen's most successful films in the past ten years and generally received very positive reviews. Set in London, it starred Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Scarlett Johansson. It is also markedly darker than Allen's first four films under the DreamWorks SKG banner. Match Point earned more than $23 million domestically (more than any of his films in nearly 20 years [7]) and earned over $62 million in international box office [8]. Match Point earned Allen his first Academy Award nomination since 1998 for Best Writing, Original Screenplay and directing and writing nominations at the Golden Globes, his first Globe nominations since 1987. In an interview with Premiere Magazine, Allen stated this was the best film he has ever made.

Allen returned to London to film Scoop, which also starred Johansson, as well as Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane, Kevin McNally. The film was released on July 28, 2006, and received mixed reviews. He is currently filming Cassandra's Dream in London as well. This reportedly stars Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Wilkinson. After finishing his third London film, Allen is expected to head to Spain. He has reached an agreement to film a future project in Barcelona by early 2007. This will star international and Spanish actors, including Penélope Cruz [9][10].

Allen has said that he "survives" on the European market. Audiences there have tended to be more receptive to Allen's films, particularly France, a country where he has a large fan base. "In the United States things have changed a lot, and it's hard to make good small films now," Allen said in a 2004 interview. "The avaricious studios couldn't care less about good films - if they get a good film they're twice as happy, but money-making films are their goal. They only want these $100 million pictures that make $500m." [11]

[edit] "Woody Allen" character

Allen continues to write roles for the neurotic persona he created in the 1960s and 1970s; however, as he gets older, the roles have been assumed by other actors such as John Cusack (Bullets Over Broadway), Kenneth Branagh (Celebrity), Jason Biggs (Anything Else), and Will Ferrell (Melinda and Melinda).

[edit] Awards, nominations and distinctions

Life-size statue of Woody Allen in Oviedo.
Life-size statue of Woody Allen in Oviedo.
Close up of Allen's statue in Oviedo
Close up of Allen's statue in Oviedo

Over the course of his career Allen has received a considerable number of awards and distinctions in film festivals and yearly national film awards ceremonies, saluting his work as a director, screenwriter and actor[3]. When premiering his films at festivals, Allen does not screen his motion pictures in competition, thus deliberately taking them out of consideration for possible awards.

[edit] Academy Awards

Woody Allen has more screenwriting Academy Award nominations (14) than any other writer. All are in the "Best Original Screenplay" category. He is tied for fifth all-time with six Best Director nominations. His actors have regularly received both nominations and Academy Awards for their work in Allen films, particularly in the Best Supporting categories.

Annie Hall won four Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actress). The film received a fifth nomination, for Allen as Best Actor. Hannah and Her Sisters won three, for Best Screenplay and both Best Supporting Actor categories; it was nominated in four other categories, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Despite friendly recognition from the Academy, Allen has consistently refused to attend the ceremony or acknowledge his Oscar wins. He broke this rule only once; at the 2002 Oscars, Allen made an unannounced appearance, making a plea for producers to continue filming their movies in New York City after the 9-11 tragedy [13]. He was given a standing ovation before introducing a montage of movie clips featuring New York.

  • Allen has received Academy Award nominations for Best Director for 1978's Interiors, 1984's Broadway Danny Rose, 1986's Hannah and Her Sisters, 1989's Crimes and Misdemeanors, and 1994's Bullets Over Broadway.
  • Four actors have won five Academy Awards for their work in Allen films: Diane Keaton (Best Actress, Annie Hall), Michael Caine (Best Supporting Actor, Hannah and Her Sisters), Dianne Wiest (Best Supporting Actress, Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway), and Mira Sorvino (Best Supporting Actress, Mighty Aphrodite).
  • Ten actors have received Academy Award nominations for their work in Allen films: Allen himself (Best Actor, Annie Hall), Geraldine Page (Best Actress, Interiors), Martin Landau (Best Supporting Actor, Crimes and Misdemeanors), Chazz Palminteri (Best Supporting Actor, Bullets Over Broadway), Maureen Stapleton (Best Supporting Actress, Interiors), Mariel Hemingway (Best Supporting Actress, Manhattan), Judy Davis (Best Supporting Actress, Husbands and Wives), Jennifer Tilly (Best Supporting Actress, Bullets Over Broadway), Sean Penn (Best Actor, Sweet and Lowdown), and Samantha Morton (Best Supporting Actress, Sweet and Lowdown).

[edit] BAFTA

Allen has won a number of British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards and nominations for best picture, best director, best actor and best screenplay. In 1997, he received the honorary BAFTA Fellowship for his work.

  • 1978 — Won — Best FilmAnnie Hall
  • 1978 — Won — Best Screenplay — Annie Hall (with Marshall Brickman)
  • 1978 — Won — Best Direction — Annie Hall
  • 1980 — Won — Best Film — Manhattan
  • 1980 — Won — Best Screenplay — Manhattan (with Marshall Brickman)
  • 1985 — Won — Best Screenplay — Broadway Danny Rose
  • 1986 — Won — Best Film — The Purple Rose of Cairo
  • 1986 — Won — Best Screenplay — The Purple Rose of Cairo
  • 1987 — Won — Best Screenplay — Hannah and Her Sisters
  • 1987 — Won — Best Direction — Hannah and Her Sisters
  • 1993 — Won — Best Screenplay — Husbands and Wives
  • Nominated for best film for Hannah and Her Sisters, Radio Days, Crimes and Misdemeanors.
  • Nominated for best actor for Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters.
  • Nominated for best director for Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanors.
  • Nominated for best screenplay for Zelig, Radio Days, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Bullets Over Broadway (with Douglas McGrath).

[edit] Relationships

[edit] Harlene Rosen

In 1956, at age 20, Allen married Harlene Rosen, a philosophy student. The two acrimoniously divorced in 1962.

Rosen, whom Allen referred to in his standup act as "the Dread Mrs. Allen," later sued Allen for defamation due to comments at a TV appearance shortly after their divorce. Allen tells a different story on his mid-1960s standup album Standup Comic. In his act, Allen said that Rosen sued him because of a joke he made in an interview. Rosen had been sexually assaulted outside her apartment, and according to Allen, the newspapers reported that she "had been violated." In the interview, Allen said, "Knowing my ex-wife, it probably wasn't a moving violation." In a later interview on The Dick Cavett Show, Allen brought the incident up again where he repeated his comments and that the amount that he was being sued for was "$1 million".

[edit] Louise Lasser

Allen later married Louise Lasser in 1966. Lasser would go on to co-star with Allen in Take the Money and Run, in what began a pattern of romantic involvement with his leading ladies. Allen and Lasser divorced in 1969 and Allen did not marry again until 1997. Lasser starred in two Allen films after the divorce, Bananas and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).

Diane Keaton was the love of Allen's entire life.
Diane Keaton was the love of Allen's entire life.

[edit] Diane Keaton

In 1970, Allen cast Diane Keaton in his Broadway play Play It Again, Sam, which had a successful run. During this time she became romantically involved with Allen and appeared in a number of his films, including 1977 Best Picture Annie Hall. They never married, but Allen says that she was the love of his life.

Keaton starred Play it again, Sam as Tony Roberts's lover; Sleeper as a futuristic poet; Love and Death as a female character from any Russian novel by Tólstoi or Doestoyevsky. Annie Hall was very important in Allen and Keaton's carreers. Then she starred Interiors as a poet again, but with childhood traumas; Manhattan. Then, she broke up with Allen.

After the break up, she had a cameo in Radio Days, and later, she starred Manhattan Murder Mystery, because Allen wanted to do it when he did Annie Hall.

She hasn't worked with Woody Allen since Manhattan Murder Mystery, although they are good friends.

[edit] Mia Farrow

Starting around 1980, Allen began a 12-year relationship with actress Mia Farrow, who had leading roles in several of his movies from 1982 to 1992.

Farrow and Allen never married, but they adopted two children together: Dylan Farrow (who changed her name to Eliza and is now known as Malone) and Moses Farrow (now known as Misha); and had one biological child, Satchel Farrow (now known as Ronan Seamus Farrow). Allen did not adopt any of Farrow's other biological and adopted children, including Soon-Yi Farrow Previn (now known as Soon-Yi Previn).

Allen and Farrow separated in 1992 after Farrow discovered nude photographs Allen had taken of Previn. In her autobiography, What Falls Away (New York: Doubleday, 1997), Farrow says Allen admitted to a relationship with Previn.

During a subsequent protracted legal battle, Farrow accused Allen of sexually abusing their adopted daughter Malone. The case never went to trial and Allen was never indicted.

[edit] Soon-Yi Previn

Shortly after separating from Farrow in 1992, Allen openly continued his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn, Farrow's adopted daughter. Even though Allen and Previn denied he was ever her stepfather, the relationship drew much public and media scrutiny. At the time, Allen was 57 and Previn was 22.

Allen and Previn married in 1997. The couple later adopted two daughters, naming them Bechet and Manzie after jazz musicians Sidney Bechet and Manzie Johnson.

[edit] Custody battle and abuse allegations

After Allen and Farrow separated, a long public legal battle for the custody of their three children began. During the proceedings, Farrow alleged that Allen had sexually molested their adopted daughter Malone, who was then seven years old.

The judge eventually concluded that the sex abuse charges were inconclusive,[8] but called Allen's conduct with Soon-Yi "inappropriate."[9]

Farrow ultimately won the custody battle over their children. Allen was denied visitation rights with Malone and could only see Ronan under supervision. Misha, who was then 14, chose not to see his father.

In a 2005 Vanity Fair interview[10], Allen estimated that, despite the scandal's damage to his reputation, Farrow's discovery of Allen's attraction to Soon-Yi Previn, by accidentally finding nude photographs of her, was "just one of the fortuitous events, one of the great pieces of luck in my life. [...] It was a turning point for the better."

Of his relationship with Farrow, he said "I'm sure there are things that I might have done differently. [...] Probably in retrospect I should have bowed out of that relationship much earlier than I did." Just one year after the legal battle, Allen briefly considered Farrow for the role of his wife in his film Mighty Aphrodite, a suggestion quickly rejected by the casting director.

Woody Allen with Jerry Zigmont and Simon Wettenhall performing at Vienne Jazz Festival, Vienne, France.
Woody Allen with Jerry Zigmont and Simon Wettenhall performing at Vienne Jazz Festival, Vienne, France.

[edit] Clarinet hobby

Allen is a passionate fan of jazz which is often featured prominently in his movies' soundtracks. He has played the clarinet since adolescence and chose his stage name from an idol, famed clarinetist Woody Herman. He has performed publicly at least since the late 1960s, notably with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on the soundtrack of Sleeper. One of his earliest televised performances was on The Dick Cavett Show on October 20, 1971.

Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band play every Monday evening at Manhattan's Carlyle Hotel, specializing in classic New Orleans jazz from the early twentieth century. The documentary film Wild Man Blues (directed by Barbara Kopple) documents a 1996 European tour by Allen and his band, as well as his relationship with Previn. The band has released two CDs: The Bunk Project (1993) and the soundtrack of Wild Man Blues (1997).

[edit] Work about or inspired by Woody Allen

[edit] Psychoanalysis

Allen spent at least 30 years undergoing psychoanalysis, sometimes as often as three days a week. Many of his films contain a psychoanalysis scene. Even the film Antz, a cartoon where he only voices Z, the lead character, begins with a classic piece of Allen analysis schtick.

Moment Magazine says "it drove his self-absorbed work". [14] John Baxter, author of Woody Allen - A Biography, wrote "Like Catholic confession, Allen's form of analysis let the penitent go free to sin again," and that "Allen obviously found analysis stimulating, even exciting."

Allen says he ended his psychotherapy visits around the time he began his relationship with Previn. He says he still is claustrophobic and agoraphobic.[10]

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Allen's place among the great directors of all-time discussed at filmsite.org
  2. ^ Biography on Yahoomovies
  3. ^ a b IMDb profile
  4. ^ Biography at BooksFactory.com
  5. ^ "Woody Speaks!", Premiere Magazine interview by Jason Matloff. [1]
  6. ^ http://triviana.com/film/sfilm/stmem.htm
  7. ^ Profile of Woody Allen on the Cannes Festival's website (in French)
  8. ^ Brozan, Nadine. "Chronicle," The New York Times, May 13, 1994.
  9. ^ Henneberger, Melinda. "Connecticut Prosecutor Won't File Charges Against Woody Allen," The New York Times, September 25, 1993
  10. ^ a b Biskind, Peter. "Reconstructing Woody," Vanity Fair, December 2005 [2]

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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NAME Allen, Woody
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Konigsberg, Allan Stewart
SHORT DESCRIPTION Actor, writer, and director
DATE OF BIRTH December 1, 1935
PLACE OF BIRTH New York City, New York, United States