ALLEN, WOODY


ALLEN, WOODY
ALLEN, WOODY (originally Allen Stewart Konigsberg; 1935– ), U.S. comedian, filmmaker. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Allen started selling one-liners to gossip columns at the age of 15. He began his career writing jokes for television comedians, such as Garry Moore and Steve Allen. He then appeared as a stand-up comedian and in comedy sequences based on the theme of failure. Short, slight of build, and wearing heavy glasses, he developed what he called "formless farce," exemplified by his film scripts for What's New, Pussycat? and What's Up, Tiger Lily? His play Don't Drink the Water opened on Broadway in 1966. He played the lead in the film Take the Money and Run in 1969. Allen soon emerged as one of the most notable figures in the film industry. From 1969, he directed and scripted an average of one film per year. His most successful was Annie Hall (1977), which won an Oscar for the best picture of the year; in addition, he took two other prizes for best director and best screenwriter. In 1978 he produced his first serious drama, Interiors. It has been compared in style and tone to the films of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, whose work has influenced Allen greatly. In 1987 Allen won the best screenplay Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters, as well as the American Comedy Award for Funniest Lead Actor. That year the American Comedy Awards also presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy. Allen's other films include Bananas (1971), Play It Again, Sam (1972), Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask (1972), Sleeper (1973), Love and Death (1975), Manhattan (1979), Stardust Memories (1980), Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982), Zelig (1983), Broadway Danny Rose (1984), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Radio Days (1987), September (1987), Another Woman (1988), New York Stories (1989), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Alice (1990), Shadows and Fog (1992), Husbands and Wives (1992), Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), Bullets over Broadway (1994), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Everyone Says I Love You (1996), Deconstructing Harry (1997), Celebrity (1998), Sweet and Lowdown (1999), Small Time Crooks (2000), Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001), Hollywood Ending (2002), Anything Else (2002), and Melinda and Melinda (2004). In 1990, along with such fellow filmmakers as Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese, Allen helped establish the Film Foundation, a group dedicated to preserving the heritage of American films. In 1992 Allen caused a stir when it was discovered that he had been having a relationship with Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his long-time girlfriend, actress Mia Farrow. In 1997 Allen, who was 62, and Soon-Yi, 27, were married in Venice. Allen caused another stir in 1998, this time among the Jewish community, when he wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times (January 28) saying that he was appalled by Israel's treatment of the rioting Palestinians (during the first Intifada). He expressed incredulity at what he understood from the media to be "state-sanctioned brutality and even torture." Stressed Allen, "I can't believe it, and I don't know exactly what is to be done, but I'm sure pulling out my movies is again not the answer … to bring this wrongheaded approach to a halt." As the perennial onscreen personification of angst and neurosis, Allen projects a love-hate relationship with himself and with his fellow Jews. Taking more of an amiable swipe than a nasty jibe, he peoples his films and peppers his dialogues with more Jewish wiseacres and wisecracks than most American directors or screenwriters ever have. A New Yorker to the core, Allen bases most of his films in his beloved hometown. His dour, deadpan humor is just as funny off-screen as it is in his films. He is quoted as saying, "Most of the time I   don't have much fun. The rest of the time I don't have any fun at all." And "If my film makes one more person miserable, I'll feel I've done my job." Capturing that humor in print, Allen has written a number of books and plays as well. They include his short story collections Getting Even (1971) and Without Feathers (1975); his essays Side Effects (1980); and in addition to his theatrical fare Don't Drink the Water, such plays as Death Knocks (1971), Death: A Comedy in One Act (1975), God: A Comedy in One Act (1975), The Floating Light Bulb (1982), and Three One-Act Plays: Riverside Drive, Old Saybrook, and Central Park West. He also published Woody Allen on Woody Allen: In Conversation with Stig Björkman (1995). Another of Allen's creative talents, his clarinet playing, is highlighted in the 1997 documentary film Wild Man Blues, directed by Barbara Koppel. The film follows Allen and his New Orleans jazz band on their European tour. A serious jazz musician, Allen has been performing for more than 25 years at a downtown club in New York. -ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Lax, Woody Allen: A Biography (1991); S.B. Girgus, The Films of Woody Allen (20022); S. Lee, Woody Allen's Angst (1997); R. Blake, Woody Allen: Profane and Sacred (1995); F. Hirsh, Love, Sex, Death and the Meaning of Life in the Films of Woody Allen (1992); M.P. Nichols, Reconstructing Woody: Art, Love and Life in the Films of Woody Allen (1982). (Jonathan Licht and Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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