After brief sojourns at New York University and the City College of New York, Woody Allen (born Allen Stuart Konigsberg), a gagwriter since his midteens, went to Hollywood in 1955, participating in the National Broadcasting Company’s Writers’ Development Program. He worked as a television writer until 1958, when he began his association with Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffe, the future managers and producers of his films. They encouraged him to try stand-up comedy.
In his stand-up act, Allen developed his persona, a college dropout whose intellectual pretensions often expose his confusions, a sometime idealist comically incapable of living up to his ideals, and a sexual predator whose neurotic insecurities render him terminally dependent on therapy. The heterodoxy and irreverence of the persona’s religious attitudes take on an additional comic edge because he has never gotten over being a nice Jewish boy.
In addition to contributing stories and sketches to The New Yorker and writing two successful Broadway plays—Don’t Drink the Water (1966) and Play It Again, Sam (1968)—Allen was increasingly involved in films in the latter half of the 1960’s. His work as actor and writer on What’s New, Pussycat? (1965) and Casino Royale (1967) provided little in the way of artistic satisfaction, but What’s New, Pussycat? did well commercially, enhancing Allen’s emerging star quality.
What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) remains an amusing footnote to Allen’s career, but the emergence of Allen as filmmaker may more properly be dated from 1969, the year Take the Money and Run was released. Allen was the star, writer, and director, but the film editor, Ralph Rosenblum, imposed on the material a form and pace that had escaped its creator. Allen was still serving his apprenticeship as a filmmaker, but he would eventually establish himself as a major film artist.
Allen, who received an Academy Award for direction for Annie Hall in 1977, became a filmmaker of international stature. Although many of his films have had limited appeal outside New York City and a few other major urban centers, his critical reputation has grown steadily, and by the middle of the 1990’s, he had won a growing and enthusiastic audience in Europe.
Allen’s personal life caused a stir in the 1990’s when he acknowledged dating Soon-Yi Farrow, the adopted daughter of actress Mia Farrow with whom he had had a long-term relationship and a son. Allen married the young woman in 1998....
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