Woody Allen

Woody Allen books and biography


Woody Allen

Woody Allen
Born 1 December 1935
New York City, New York, USA
Occupation Film director, Writer, Actor, Musician, and Comedian

Woody Allen (born Allen 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.[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, most importantly, New York City, where he was born and in which he has lived all his life.


Early years

Allen was born in New York City to a Jewish family of 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.[4]

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."[5]

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

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. 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[4]. 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.

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.

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.


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.

Annie Hall.
Annie Hall.

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[5]) and Hannah and Her Sisters (winner of three Academy Awards). He also wrote and directed the serious drama Interiors, in the manner of the Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, one of Allen's major influences.

The Front.
The Front.

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). [citation needed]



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." [6] 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 documentary: Zelig.



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 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[6] 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 [7].

Match Point (2005) was one of Allen's most successful films in the past 10 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 4 films under the DreamWorks SKG banner. Match Point earned more than $23 million domestically (more than any of his films in nearly 20 years [8]) and was nominated for an Academy Award. In an interview with Premiere Magazine, Allen stated this was the best film he has ever made.

Scoop (2006) marked Allen's first acting appearance since Anything Else (2003).  The film received mixed reviews.
Scoop (2006) marked Allen's first acting appearance since Anything Else (2003). The film received mixed reviews.

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. 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 actors.[9]

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." [10]

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, Téa Leoni, Jon Lovitz, Amanda Peet, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Christina Ricci, Madonna, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chloë 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

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.

  • Allen won the 1978 O. Henry Award for his short story "The Kugelmass Episode" published in The New Yorker on May 2, 1977.
  • 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. Seven other of his movies were nominated for the prize.
  • 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. [11]
  • 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 [7].
  • In a 2005 poll The Comedian's Comedian, Allen was voted the third greatest comedy act ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

Academy Awards

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. 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 [12].

  • 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 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).


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, 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".

Louise Lasser

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 divorced in 1969 and Allen did not marry again until 1997.

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. Allen, even after his marriage to Soon-Yi Previn, has referred to Keaton as the great love of his life.[citation needed]

Mia Farrow

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 Previn).

Allen and Farrow separated in 1992 after Farrow discovered nude photographs Allen had taken of Previn, and Allen admitted to a relationship with Previn. [citation needed]

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 never indicted.

Soon-Yi Previn

Allen and Helena Bonham Carter as a couple in Mighty Aphrodite.
Allen and Helena Bonham Carter as a couple in Mighty Aphrodite.

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.[8] but called Allen's conduct with his daughter "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 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 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.


This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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Annie Hall

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