Following the example of Charlie Chaplin, he usually writes, directs, and acts in most of his films. Also like Chaplin, Allen's best movies combine humor with tenderness and pathos. But Allen's film persona is a modern and very verbal one, self-absorbed, full of neuroses, psychobabble, and insecurity. Almost all of his own films have been set in Manhattan, providing a sophisticated and somewhat romanticized image of the city as background to his story line.
Allen was born Allen Stewart Konigsberg in Brooklyn, New York. His parents Martin and Nettie lived in Flatbush, where he attended a Hebrew school for eight years. After that, he went to Public School 99 and then to Midwood High, where "Red" (as he was called because of his hair) impressed students with his extraordinary talent at cards. To raise money, he began writing gags for the agency David O. Alber, who sold them to newspaper columnists. At sixteen, he started writing for show stars like Sid Caesar and started calling himself Woody Allen.
After school, he went to New York University, where he took a Communication Arts course, but soon dropped out. At nineteen, he married Harlene Rosen and started writing scripts for The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show and others. In 1957, he won his first Emmy Award; about the same time, he divorced Harlene.
He started writing prose and plays, and in 1960, started a new career as a stand-up comedian and also began writing for the popular Candid Camera television show, even appearing in some episodes. Together with his managers he turned his weaknesses into his strengths and developed the neurotic, nervous and shy figure famous from his later movies.
His first movie production was What's New, Pussycat? in 1965. His first directoral effort was What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), in which an existing Japanese movie was redubbed in English with completely new, comic dialogue. In 1967, he appeared in the offbeat James Bond film, Casino Royale. His first conventional directing effort was Take The Money and Run (1969); some of his early films include Bananas, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex, Sleeper, and Love and Death. These films relied on slapstick, sight gags, and one-liners.
In 1976, he starred in, but did not direct, The Front, a serious look at Hollywood blacklisting during the 1950s. He returned to directing in 1977's Annie Hall, a film that marked a major turn away to more sophisticated humor (the movie won four Academy Awards). He also directed some serious dramas, like Interiors. His most successful movies were produced in the ten year period starting with Annie Hall; other critical and financial successes were Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters.
His 1980s films are frequently compared to Russian and Polish films; most of them have sad endings, like The Purple Rose of Cairo. His dramas, like September, are often said to imitate those of European directors, most of all Ingmar Bergman.
In 1992, his personal life became very public, when he left his long-term partner Mia Farrow after she discovered his secret affair with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. Farrow accused him of being a pedophile (she is 35 years his junior) and of abusing their seven-year-old daughter Dylan. These events eerily echoed the plotline of the film released at the time, Husbands and Wives. In that film, Woody and Mia play a couple whose decade-long relationship is falling apart, with Woody's character becoming attracted to one of his 20-year-old students. Mia discusses the events in What Falls Away: A Memoir, ISBN 0385471874.
Woody Allen continues to write and direct on average one film a year, with box office grosses over $10,000,000 considered a relative success. His only recent film to reach that milestone was Small Time Crooks (2000), his first film with DreamWorks SKG studio. In spite of the lack of box office success, his 21st century films continue to attract diverse and talented actors. Examples include Stockard Channing, Helen Hunt, Téa Leoni, Christina Ricci, Chloë Sevigny, Wallace Shawn, and David Ogden Stiers. He continues to write roles for the neurotic persona he created in the 60s and 70s, But as he gets older, the roles have been assumed by other actors such as Kenneth Branagh and more recently, Jason Biggs.
Allen is also a talented clarinettist who has been performing publicly at least since the late 1960s. He makes regular New York appearances with a band specializing in early twentieth century and New Orleans jazz. The documentary film Wild Man Blues (directed by Barbara Kopple) documents a European tour by Allen and band, as well as his relationship with Soon Yi.
|Table of contents|
2 Books by Woody Allen
3 External link
Filmography as director includes
- Anything Else (2003)
- Hollywood Ending (2002)
- The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)
- Small Time Crooks (2000)
- Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
- Celebrity (1998)
- Deconstructing Harry (1997)
- Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
- Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
- Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
- Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
- Husbands and Wives (1992)
- Shadows and Fog (1992)
- Alice (1990)
- Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
- New York Stories (1989) (segment "Oedipus Wrecks")
- Another Woman (1988)
- September (1987)
- Radio Days (1987)
- Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
- The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
- Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
- Zelig (1983)
- A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982)
- Stardust Memories (1980)
- Manhattan (1979)
- Interiors (1978)
- Annie Hall (1977)
- Love and Death (1975)
- Sleeper (1973)
- Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (1972)
- Bananas (1971)
- Take the Money and Run (1969)
- What's Up, Tiger Lily (1966)
Books by Woody Allen
- Woody Allen on Woody Allen (1995), ISBN 080211556X
- Without Feathers (1975), ISBN 0394497430
- Side Effects (1980), ISBN 0394511042
- Getting Even (1971), ISBN 0394473485