Woody Allen

Woody Allen is a prominent actor, writer, director, and Native New Yorker, who is famous for his paradoxical and dark-themed storylines. His best-known films are Annie Hall, Cafe Society, Irrational Man, and Blue Jasmine. He has been at the center of numerous controversies involving Mia Farrow, Allen’s ex-partner, and two of her daughters.

Published Categorized as Biography
Woody Allen in a musical show
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen

A Woody Allen biography

Woody Allen (1935 – present) – Director, Writer, Comedian

My dad loved to watch movies, but he never wanted to watch one alone. As a little girl, the last thing I wanted to do was spend my weekend watching a classic film. But my dad would offer me $3.00 to watch a movie with him and an additional $2.00 if I genuinely liked the movie. For an eight-year-old child, $5.00 might as well be $500.00, so I always jumped at this opportunity.  To be honest, Arsenic and Old Lace, It’s a Wonderful Life and, Stalag-17 were just a few of the movies I did enjoy. My favorite film of all was Annie Hall.

It was the 1990s when I became truly obsessed with Annie Hall’s style. I started wearing my mom’s old vests and begged for a floppy beach hat to emulate her chic style. Woody Allen has made many controversial choices but his decision to write, direct and star in Annie Hall was not one of them.

Allan Stewart Konisberg was born in the Bronx on December 1, 1935. He was born to low-income immigrant parents from Russia and Vienna. In 1952, Allan decided to pursue a career in comedy writing. Allan’s father held many different jobs throughout his life. When Allan turned a year old, his mother went back to work, which meant Allan stayed home with nannies.

For every great babysitter Allan had, he had two who were awful. One nanny even tried to suffocate him. He never mentioned this incident to his parents and recalls playing happily with blocks after this near-death experience. At the same time, Allan’s parents were constantly bickering. Allan’s father, Martin, was very lax with money whereas, Nettie, Allans’s mom, held her money close to her chest.

Allan’s mom also hit him in a way to gain control over him. Allan was an intelligent child. He might have been too smart for his own good because he was always getting himself into trouble. Allan’s mother even admitted that it was hard to handle him. She was more lenient towards his sister, Letty, than she was to him.

The year 1941 was important in young Allan’s life. It was the first time he had ever traveled to Manhattan. Allan fell in love with New York City. He was also enamored with movies set in the city that never sleeps. He would later state that he found it hard to connect with films that were not set in Manhattan. Allan loved films so much that he went to the movies every weekend. Bob Hope films were his favorite to watch as a young boy. Fate would come full circle for young Allan when he would later present Bob Hope with a lifetime achievement award.

During his elementary school years, Allan faced anti-Semitism from his Catholic teachers. They would purposely hold the Jewish students back so they would be late for Hebrew school. Although Allan had a strained relationship with his mother, he had a great relationship with his sister. Since both of their parents worked full time, all they had was each other against the evil nannies.

As a teen Allan was quite spontaneous, he moved around a lot. At first, he had no issues with moving so much. Eventually, by the end of his teenage years, he was sick of it. He spent his teen years playing the saxophone and going to the movie theater. In 1953 he began taking courses at New York University. He rarely went to class and instead spent his time browsing magic shops and seeing films in Times Square.

Allan eventually was asked to leave NYU because he missed so many classes and was failing every class. He began taking night courses at the City College of New York. Allan considered becoming a director, so he enrolled in a photography course in Manhattan. He repeatedly spent more time strolling the streets of New York than attending school, so dropped out. He continued to write for radio shows and deciding to take a shot at college one more time, he took summer classes at NYU.

At the age of 17, Allan felt as if his name wasn’t funny enough so, he decided to change it. Following the footsteps of the other actors before him, he changed his name to something more suitable for the stage. He decided on Woody Allan to pay homage to his original name. Allan, now going by Woody Allen, was dating a woman named Harlene. The two were a perfect match and went to poetry readings and art shows together.

After getting laid off from his writing gig, Woody was hired by NBC. He was hired for a writing development program writing jokes. Woody was excited about this opportunity. However, his dream was to work in the film business, not the television business. Today television stars and movie stars are the same people but back in the 1960′ the film industry was considered superior to the television industry.

When the program ended, Woody went to Hollywood to write for a Colgate-sponsored show. This experience helped Woody build characters from his jokes. Woody and Harlene were now engaged and, after a couple of months in California, Woody called Harlene and asked her to join him.

Harlene and Woody’s marriage started off bumpy. The pair were always fighting. Woody’s professional life at this time was taking off as his marriage was going downhill. He was becoming well known and well-liked in the Hollywood scene.

Woody began writing sketches for a comedy show at the Tamiment hotel. Woody’s dream job was the same as every other comedy writer at the time, to write jokes for Sid Caesar. In 1958 his dream came true. He was hired by Sid himself to write for Sid Caesar’s variety show Sid Caesar Invites You. Throughout the decade from 1950 to 1960, Woody was writing for the Garry Moore show. Woody Allen was starting to get antsy. He was ready to move into the film industry.

After leaving the Gary Moore show, Woody Allen began performing in Las Vegas. He had the crowd laughing immediately. Woody became well known for his bits and jokes. One of his most famous jokes was a long story about anti-communist senator Joseph McCarthy. Woody could be shy around people he didn’t know but he thrived on stage. He played an awkward, nervous character on stage that secured his stand-up and television jobs. 

A pensive Woody Allen
Publicity photo of Woody Allen taken in Chicago

In 1962 Woody Allen and Harlene divorced. In 1967, Harlene sued Woody and NBC for allowing Woody to perform ex-wife jokes while on the Tonight Show.  Woody’s next lover was Lousie Lasser, who Woody credits with making him a ‘human being’.

In 1966 Woody began his career in playwriting. In 1968 he wrote the play, Play it again, Sam. He starred in this play as well. This role cemented Woody’s role as a leading man with a neurotic personality. It also showed a leading man with an unconventional look. The main protagonists from that time were men who looked like Robert Redford. Woody Allen and his unique look showed you don’t have to be society’s version of handsome to find love.

1n 1972 Woody Allen would direct and star in an early success, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). This film was a comedy anthology that was loosely based on a book of the same name. Some people refer to this as one of Woody’s silliest films ever. Megastars Regis Philbin and Gene Wilder made appearances in this Woody Allen classic.

Diane Keaton was a long-time friend of Woody Allen. He cast her in the role of Linda in Play it again, Sam. The two then began dating. After the breakup a year later, the pair remained good friends. Diane went on to star in several of Woody Allen’s films, such as Annie Hall and Interiors. After Woody Allen’s scandals, Diane Keaton would remain by his side and stay a supportive friend. 

In 1969 Woody Allen wrote the screenplay for Take the Money and Run, a mockumentary-style comedy film starring Woody Allen and Mickey Rose. In 1977, Woody Allen made what most consider to be his best film, Annie Hall. This film starred Diane Keaton and Woody Allen. Annie Hall won 4 academy awards including, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Picture, and Best Director. These Academy Awards would only be the first awards for Woody Allen, who would go on to win numerous awards.

Alvy, played by Woody Allen, was the lead love interest in Annie Hall. The film encircled Alvy’s reflection back on his relationship with Annie. He tries to figure out why the relationship ended and why he doesn’t have luck with women. Woody Allen plays the neurotic, anxious character the audiences have come to associate with him.

In 1980 Woody began seeing Mia Farrow. Mia Farrow was a movie star best known for her role as Rosemary in the horror classic Rosemary’s baby. Mia, who starred in twelve of Woody Allen’s films in twelve years, had seven children when she met Woody. Mia had adopted and biologically had her children. Woody would go on to have a son with Mia Farrow named Ronan. Woody Allen also adopted one of Mia’s adopted sons, Moses. He never adopted Farrow’s daughter; Soon Li. Allen says he had no part in Soon Li’s upbringing at all.

Four years after the pair started dating, Mia adopted a daughter, Dylan. Woody Allen assumed a parental role in her life, but he did not want to have anything to do with her adoption. In 1992 Mia Farrow came across nude photographs of her daughter, Soon Li, with Woody’s things. Woody told Mia that he and Soon-Li had been intimate and that they were in love. The couple immediately separated. Woody says he was never a father figure to Soon-Li and that since he and Mia never even lived together, he had no part of her life growing up.

1990 started with a Woody Allen film, Alice, that opened to lackluster reviews. Alice starred Mia Farrow in a fantasy/drama. At this point in their relationship, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow were not living together. They lived right across Central Park from each other and shared custody of Moses, Dylan, and Ronan.

In 1992 Dylan Farrow said Woody Allen had touched her inappropriately. After more than a year of investigations, the case was closed, citing no evidence. After Woody Allen won a lifetime achievement award, Ronan Farrow and his mother, Mia, took to Twitter to speak out against Woody Allen. Woody’s adopted son Moses stands by and defends his father, saying he may even change his name from Moses Farrow to Moses Allen.

(left to right) Jerry Zigmont, Simon Wettenhall and Woody Allen
Woody Allen Band Performing at The Vienne Jazz Festival 2003

Age wasn’t slowing Woody Allen down, and in the 2000s, he made 18 movies including, Academy Award winner Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris. In 2015 Allen released a film called The Irrational Man starring Joaquin Phoenix. Crime and punishment must’ve had an impact on Woody Allen’s life because The Irrational Man is his fourth film of the genre. Throughout his long career, Woody Allen has racked up more than 50 Academy Award nominations. In 1997 Soon-Li and Woody Allen married in Venice, Italy. The couple adopted two daughters and now reside in Woody Allen’s favorite place, New York City.

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