Woody Allen

Woody Allen is one of the most well known and respected names in the movie industry. His career of being a writer, director, actor and producer spans over 30 years and still thrives. His films have linked the boarders of drama and comedy, while continually being entertaining and honest. A very quiet man, Woody frequently declines the offer to make an appearance to promote his upcoming films. Details to his films are also kept relatively quiet, the trailers viewed in the theaters usually being the only information the viewer will see before the movie is released into the theaters. Although this is the case, most Woody Allen films are well worth the wait, time and money.

Woody was born on December 1st, 1935 in Brooklyn New York and was given the name Allen Stewart Konigsberg. Woody is the son of Martin and Nettea Cherrie Konigsberg, both of whom were Orthodox Jews. His father was continually changing jobs, from waiter to cab driver and even became involved in organized crime for a time being, while his mother was a book-keeper in a flower shop. With his one sibling Letty, his sister, Woody was raised in the Flat bush section of Brooklyn.
Even as a little child, before he could even read, he was making up stories.

The first film he ever saw was Disney’s Snow White at the age of three, although his first real memories of film were when his parents would take him to the movies around the age of five. He lived in a lower-middle class section of Brooklyn where he recalls being in walking distance of 25 or so movie theaters. He was entranced by movies and spent endless hours at the theaters, especially during the summers when there was no school. In the winter he would spend his entire weekend at the theaters, taking in pictures with such faces as James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and the Marx Brothers and loving every minute of it.

It was at the age of 7 or 8 while watching a movie called The Black Swan, when it first occurred to Woody that he could make a film, although at that time it was more of a passing thought. What he really wanted to do was write, and even as a little child, before he could read, he was making up stories. The only subject in school that really interested him was English Composition.
At the age of 15, he changed his name to Woody Allen.

Once in his teens, Woody began to grow more conscious of directors and the roles that they played in the movie industry. Specifically interested in foreign directors and films, Woody and a group of friends from school became very devoted to European Cinema. These films seemed more “grown up,” and not only got them more interested in directors, but in film history as well.

At the age of 15, he changed his name to Woody Allen, and at 16 while still in school, Woody was hired to write jokes for radio and television performers. In 1957 he joined the cast of Sid Caesar.

From 1961-1964, Woody himself worked the cabaret circuit as a stand-up comedian, writing his own material along with a few short stories on the side. While performing his routine in a club one night, Woody drew the attention of a producer who later approached him and asked him to write a film script. They hired him and in 1965 Woody wrote and acted in his first film, What’s New, Pussycat? After writing what he felt was a pretty good script, the producers took it and rearranged it, making it into a film that Woody was very unhappy with but could not do anything about. Although he had no experience in directing films, Woody vowed at that time that he would never write another script unless he was the director of the film.

Woody threatened to sue the producer to try and keep the movie from actually entering the theaters because he disliked the movie so much.
After What’s New, Pussycat, Woody’s next film was Casino Royale, a film in which he was just an actor. The part in which Woody played was small, but he was paid a good deal of money, and therefore spent the next 6 months in London for the role. During that time, Woody wrote a great deal of material including short stories that were published in the New Yorker Magazine.

Once back in New York, Woody made his first film, which ironically wasn’t even his film to begin with- What’s Up, Tiger Lily? Originally. This film was a Japanese picture which Woody and a few others dubbed into English and changed the original story almost completely. Just before the movie hit the theaters, Woody threatened to sue the producer to try and keep the movie from actually entering the theaters because he disliked the movie so much. Woody followed up on his threat and initiated a lawsuit. While the case was still pending, the movie opened in theaters and got rave reviews. Woody decided to drop the case.
United Artists signed Woody to a contract to write whatever he wanted and do whatever he wanted to do.

With his next film Take the Money and Run Woody finally got his first directing experience, and that was when Woody felt his career in film really began. The script was written with a friend of Woody’s named Mickey Rose and was given to British director Val Guest, but the film company didn’t want him to direct it. Next the script was given to Jerry Lewis but the film company still didn’t want to do it. Finally a new company was formed, Palomar Pictures, and they told Woody that he could direct the picture as long as he kept it under $1 million budget and he agreed.

After Take the Money and Run, United Artists signed Woody to a contract to “write whatever he wanted and do whatever he wanted to do.” The result of this was a script called The Jazz Baby. Stunning executives that thought they would receive another comedy, Woody gave them a very serious story about a period of Jazz. Even though they had signed a contract, the executives felt a need to tell Woody that they really didn’t like the story. Woody compromised, asked for the script back and quickly wrote out a new one, Bananas.
The characters being mostly upper class, educated, neurotic, white New Yorkers.

Bananas, Woody’s second film (1971), was a satire on a revolutionary situation in a fictitious Latin country. Being his second film, Woody felt much more confident directing a project. He already had one film under his belt, and now had some idea of how to avoid mistakes and use time wisely. By this time, Woody was taking full part in his films, being directly involved in the writing, directing, acting and casting. There seemed to be a trend appearing in his films now, the characters being mostly upper class, educated, neurotic, white New Yorkers. When asked why this was so, Woody replied simply that this is what he knows. He doesn’t know enough about he black or Hispanic experience to justify writing about their life.

After writing and acting in the play, Play it again Sam, Woody wrote the script, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, based on a book by Dr. David Rueben. Elliot Gould had purchased the rights to the book, but he wasn’t doing anything with it, so he sold the rights to Woody. The only part of the book that was actually used in the movie was the questions, such as Do aphrodisiacs work, and Woody gave his version for the answers.
In 1973, Woody wrote, directed and acted in his next film, Sleeper. Originally, Woody went to United Artists and said that he wanted to make a big, expensive film, four hours long. The movie would be a comedy, and would start out in New York. The first two hours would end with a man getting frozen in a cryogenic machine. There would then be an intermission, and following would be the next two hours of the film where the man wakes up 500 years in the future. United Artists loved the idea for the film, but after some time, Woody decided it was too big of a project, and he ended up only using the second half of the script to make the final movie. The movie ended up being quite inexpensive, less than $3 million.

DreamWorks SKG has now signed Allen to a 3-picture deal.
After making a series of comedies and dramas (Interiors, Manhattan, Stardust Memories A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy), 1986 brought along with it the return of Woody Allen to previously visited territory. Following the likes of Annie Hall and Manhattan, Woody wrote and directed Hannah and her Sisters, which once again received Academy Award praise.

Although Woody had been in the filmmaking industry for 20 years, this was a film of many firsts for him. This was the first film in which Woody worked with photographer Carlo Di Palma, in which he has collaborated with many times since. It was also the first film where Allen created a collective portrait of a group of people rather than focusing on one main character.

Over the last 10 years Woody has continued to write and direct well-known films such as Crimes and Misdemeanors, Bullets over Broadway, and Deconstructing Harry. Woody’s latest film (his 32nd feature), Small Time Crooks, is in theaters now. As usual, not much is known about the film other than it takes place in Manhattan and marks the long awaited return of Allen to slapstick comedy. It is the last film Woody Allen will work on with long-time production partner Jean Doumanian, DreamWorks SKG has now signed Allen to a 3-picture deal. With this in mind, Woody Allen fans can be assured that there is so much more to come from this genius.

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