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Woody Allen (born Allan Stewart Konigsberg
on December 1, 1935) is an Academy Award-winning American film director,
writer, actor, musician, and comedian.
His large body of work and cerebral film
style have made him one of the most widely respected and prolific
filmmakers in the modern era. 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, most
importantly, New York City, where he was born and in which he has lived
all his life.
Born 1 December 1935
New York City, New York, USA
Occupation Film director, Writer, Actor,
Musician, and Comedian
Allen was born in New York City to a Jewish
family of Austrian and Russian ancestry. His parents, Martin K๖nigsberg
(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
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 at 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."
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 due to poor grades. He later briefly
attended City College of New York.
Comedy writer and playwright
At nineteen, he started writing scripts for
The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show, Caesar's Hour and others
television shows. It was while working for Sid Caesar that Allen
worked alongside Danny Simon, whom Allen credits for helping him to
structure his writing style. Allen started writing short stories for
magazines (mostly the The New Yorker) and plays, the best known of which
are Don't Drink the Water (1966) and Play It Again, Sam (1969) which
both appeared on Broadway. In 1960, he also started a new career as a
stand-up comedian and 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. He soon
became an immensely popular comedian and appeared frequently in
nightclubs and on television and made the cover of Life Magazine in 1969
when Play It Again, Sam opened on Broadway.
Examples of Allen's standup act can be
heard on the albums Standup Comic and Nightclub Years 1964-1968,
including the famous routine wherein Allen describes bringing a live
moose to a costume party. The moose comes in second in the costume
contest to the Berkowitzes, a couple in a moose costume. Occasionally,
in his standup act, he referred to himself as "Heywood Allen," but it is
not clear whether he ever used this form officially in either his
professional or personal life.
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.
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,
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.
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 and Groucho Marx.
In 1976, he starred in, but did not direct,
The Front, 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 were Manhattan, The Purple Rose of Cairo (named
by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best films of all time, and one of
Allen's self-proclaimed three best films, along with Husbands and Wives
and Match Point ) and Hannah and Her Sisters (winner of three Academy
Awards). He also directed the serious drama Interiors, in the manner of
the Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, one of Allen's major influences.
Annie Hall, now a modern classic, marked a
major turn to more sophisticated humor and thoughtful drama. Allen's
1977 film won four Academy Awards. Annie Hall set the standard for
modern romantic comedy and also started a fashion trend with the unique
clothes worn by Diane Keaton in the film (the off-beat, masculine
clothing, such as ties with cardigans, was actually Keaton's own).
Most of his 1980s films, even the comedies,
have somber and philosophical undertones. Many, 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.
Stardust Memories was considered by many to
be a biting piece of work in which the main character Sandy Bates, a
successful film maker played by Allen, expresses resentment and scorn
for his fans. In the film, overcome by the recent death of a friend from
illness, Bates 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 aliens!) telling Bates that they like his films "especially the
early, funny ones."  However, by the mid-1980s, Allen had begun to
combine his love of both tragic and comic elements with the release of
such films as Hannah and Her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors. He
also produced a vividly idiosyncratic tragi-comical parody of
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, and Anjelica Huston.
In the late 1990s he returned to lighter
movies, such as the musical Everyone Says I Love You (1996), the comedy
Mighty Aphrodite, for which Mira Sorvino won an Academy Award and the
jazz mockumentary Sweet and Lowdown (1999).
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.
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 four 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
from film-review website Rotten Tomatoes and each earned less than five
million dollars 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 .
Match Point (2005) was one of Allen's most
successful films in the past ten years and generally received very
positive reviews. The film, set in London, 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
) and was nominated for an Academy Award. 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
He is currently filming his next movie in
London as well. The film reportedly stars Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor,
and Tom Wilkinson.
After finishing his third London film,
Allen is expected to head to Spain. The director, well-known for his
love of New York, has reached an agreement to film a future project in
Barcelona by early 2007. The film will star international and Spanish
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
"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
Actors in his movies
Allen has attracted diverse and talented
actors for his films, including Diane Keaton, Dianne Wiest, Judy Davis,
Sam Waterston, Michael Murphy, Julia Roberts, Sean Penn, Michael Caine,
Steve Carell, Anjelica Huston, Alan Alda, Dan Aykroyd, Drew Barrymore,
Stockard Channing, Tim Roth, Max von Sydow, Carrie Fisher, Hugh Grant,
Helen Hunt, T้a Leoni, Jon Lovitz, Amanda Peet, Natalie Portman,
Scarlett Johansson, Christina Ricci, Madonna, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chlo๋
Sevigny, Leonardo DiCaprio and Charlize Theron.
He continues to write roles for the
neurotic persona he created in the 1960s and 1970s; however, as Allen
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).
Awards, nominations and distinctions
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. 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.
Allen won the 1978 O. Henry Award for his
short story "The Kugelmass Episode" published in The New Yorker on May
Allen twice won the C้sar Award for Best
Foreign Film, the first in 1980 for Manhattan and the second in 1986 for
The Purple Rose of Cairo. Seven other of his movies were nominated for
In 1986, Allen won the Golden Globe for
Best Screenplay for The Purple Rose of Cairo. He was also nominated four
times as Best Director, four times for Best Screenplay and twice for
Best Actor (Comedy/musical).
At the 1995 Venice Film Festival, Allen
received a Career Golden Lion for lifetime achievement.
In 1996, Allen received a lifetime
achievement award from the Directors Guild of America.
In 2002 Allen won the Prince of Asturias
Award. Subsequently, the town of Oviedo, Spain erected a life-size
statue of Allen. 
In 2002, Allen received the Palme des
Palmes, a special lifetime achievement award granted by the Cannes
Festival and whose sole other recipient is Ingmar Bergman .
In a 2005 poll The Comedian's Comedian,
Allen was voted the third greatest comedy act ever by fellow comedians
and comedy insiders.
Woody Allen has more Academy Award
nominations (14) for best screenplay (original or adapted) than any
other writer and is tied for fifth all-time in the directing category
with six nominations. Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters were
nominated for best picture although, as is the tradition at the Academy,
the film's producers are the recipients in that category. Annie Hall won
four Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director) while
Hannah and Her Sisters won three, including Best Screenplay for Allen.
His actors were also among the frequently nominated in their respective
categories and Allen himself was nominated for his role in Annie Hall.
It is notable that despite his recognition from the Academy, Allen has
consistently refused to attend the Award ceremony or acknowledge his
awards. He broke this rule only once; At the 2002 Oscars, Allen was
given a standing ovation, before he introduced a montage of movie clips
featuring New York and made a plea for producers to continue filming
their movies in the Big Apple, after the 9-11 tragedy. To this day, this
remains his only appearance at the awards ceremony.
1977 Won Academy Award for Best
Director Annie Hall
1977 Won Academy Award for Writing
Original Screenplay Annie Hall (with Marshall Brickman)
1986 Won Academy Award for Writing
Original Screenplay Hannah and Her Sisters
Nominated for the Academy Award for Writing
Original Screenplay for Interiors, Manhattan (with Marshall Brickman),
Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Radio Days, Crimes and
Misdemeanors, Alice, Husbands and Wives, Bullets Over Broadway (with
Douglas McGrath), Mighty Aphrodite, Deconstructing Harry, Match Point.
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best
Director for Interiors, Broadway Danny Rose, Hannah and Her Sisters,
Crimes and Misdemeanors, Bullets Over Broadway.
Nominated for the Best Actor in a Leading
Role in Annie Hall.
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 Film Annie 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
1986 Won Best Film The Purple Rose of
1986 Won Best Screenplay The Purple
Rose of Cairo
1987 Won Best Screenplay Hannah and
1987 Won Best Direction Hannah and
1993 Won Best Screenplay Husbands and
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
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, though he refers to the ex-wife in
question as his "second wife", and that the amount that he was being
sued for was "$1 million".
Allen later married Bananas co-star Louise
Lasser in 1966 in what began a pattern of romantic involvement with his
leading ladies. Allen and Lasser were divorced in 1969 and Allen would
not marry again until 1997.
In 1970, Allen cast Diane Keaton in his
Broadway play Play It Again, Sam, which had a successful run. It was
during this time that she became romantically involved with Allen and
appeared in a number of his films, including 1977 Best Picture Annie
Hall. They never married. Allen, even after his marriage to Soon-Yi
Previn, has referred to Keaton as the great love of his life.[citation
Starting around 1980, Allen began a 12-year
relationship with actress Mia Farrow, who had leading roles in several
of his movies.
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
Allen and Farrow separated in 1992 after
Farrow discovered nude photographs Allen had taken of Previn, and Allen
admitted to a relationship with Previn. 
During a subsequent protracted legal
battle, Farrow accused Allen of sexually abusing their seven-year-old
adopted daughter Malone. The case never went to trial and Allen was
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 scrutiny for its
perceived impropriety. 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.
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. but called Allen's conduct with his
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, Allen
estimated that, despite the scandal's damage to his reputation, Farrow's
discovery of the photographs was "just one of the fortuitous events, one
of the great pieces of luck in my life. [...] It was a turning point for
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.
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).
Work about or inspired by Woody Allen
Meetin' WA is a short interview of Allen by
renowned French director Jean-Luc Godard.
Wild Man Blues (directed by Barbara
In 2002, Time Magazine film critic Richard
Schickel directed the cable-television documentary Woody Allen: a Life
in Film which interlaces interviews of Allen and clips of his films.
Waiting for Woody Allen is a 2004 short
film parody of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
From 1976 to 1984, Stuart Hample ran Inside
Woody Allen a comic strip based on Allen's film persona.
In 2006 James Michael McCann wrote a
screenplay about a young Televison writer, called Summer Wind. It was
pitched as being "Woody Allen in Manchester".
Allen spent at least 30 years undergoing
psychoanalysis, sometimes as often as three days a week. Most 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".  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.
In 2002, Allen made a surprise appearance
at the Academy Awards telecast, even though he was not nominated for any
awards. It was part of a tribute to New York after the 9/11 terrorist
attacks. He and many of his films are closely associated with New York
City and he has spent many years encouraging filmmakers to film in his
favorite city. He had long avoided the Oscars, skipping the show even
when he was winning awards.
Allen did not, as is commonly thought,
write for Your Show of Shows. 
Almost all of Allen's opening and closing
credits sequences consist of Windsor typeface white text on a black
background without scrolling. 
Don't drink the water;: A comedy in two
acts (1967), ASIN B0006BSWBW
Play It Again, Sam (1969), ISBN
Getting Even (1971), ISBN 0-394-47348-5
God: A comedy in one act (1975), ISBN
Without Feathers (1975), ISBN 0-394-49743-0
Side Effects (1980), ISBN 0-394-51104-2
Lunatic's tale (1986), ISBN 1-55628-001-7
Complete Prose of Woody Allen (1992), ISBN
0-517-07229-7. (Collection of Allen's short stories first published in
Getting Even, Without Feathers and Side Effects.)
Three One-Act Plays: Riverside Drive Old
Saybrook Central Park West (2003), ISBN 0-8129-7244-9
Writer's Block: Two One Actplays (2005),
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. 
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 
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