Woody Allen (born December 1, 1935), is one of the leading American filmmakers. He writes his own screenplays and has acted in many of his own movies as well. Allen draws heavily on New York City, where he was born and spent all his life, for much of his inspiration; indeed, his onscreen persona is the quintessential New York Jewish intellectual: neurotic and self-absorbed, cosmopolitan yet insecure, with a self-deprecating sense of humor.
Life and work
Allen was born Allen Stewart Konigsberg in Brooklyn, New York, into a Jewish family. 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 began calling himself Woody Allen.
After high 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 directorial 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 the serious drama Interiors, in the manner of great Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, one of Allen's major influences. His most successful movies were produced in a ten year period starting with Annie Hall; other critical and financial successes were Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters.
Most of his 1980s films 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. Allen twice won the César Award for Best Foreign Film, the first in 1980 for Manhattan and the second in 1986 for The Purple Rose of Cairo.
His 1992 film Shadows and Fog is an homage to Fritz Lang, G.W. Pabst and FW Murnau, and the German expressionists.
In the 1990s he returned to lighter movies and to happy endings: Bullets Over Broadway, Everyone Says I Love You, and others.
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 (Previn is 35 years his junior) and of abusing their seven-year-old daughter Dylan. These events eerily echoed the plotline of his 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. Farrow discusses the events in What Falls Away: A Memoir, ISBN 0385471874.
Allen and Previn married in 1997, and later adopted two daughters, naming both (Bechet Allen and Manzie Tio Allen) after jazz musicians (Sidney Bechet and Manzie Johnson ).
Woody Allen continues to produce an average of one film a year. Small Time Crooks (2000), his first film with DreamWorks SKG studio, was a modest success, grossing over ten million dollars. Allen's films tend to be more popular in Europe, particularly France; in fact, he himself has said that he "survives" on the European market. In any case, he attracts diverse and talented actors for his films, including 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 1960s and 1970s, But as he gets older, the roles have been assumed by other actors such as Kenneth Branagh and more recently, Will Ferrell.
In 2002 Woody made a surprise appearance at the Academy Awards ceremony. It was part of a tribute to New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
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.
In a 2005 poll The Comedian's Comedian, Allen was voted the third greatest comedy act ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.
Selected filmography as a director:
Last updated: 10-24-2005 09:27:40