Woody Allen

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American film director.

Woody Allen is one of the major American film directors of the second half of the 20th century. He was a throwback to Charlie Chaplin in that he not only directed, but wrote his own scripts and usually starred in them too. Like Chaplin, Allen's best movies combine humor with tenderness and pathos. But Allen's film persona is a modern one, full of neuroses and psychobabble, horny but unstable with women.

Allen was born on December 1, 1935 in Brooklyn, NYC as Stewart Allen Konigsberg. His parents Martin and Nettie lived in Flatbush, where he attended a Hebrew school for eight years. After that, he went to Public Shool 99 and then to Midwood High, where "Red", as he was called for his distinctive red hair, impressed students with his extraordinary talent at cards. To raise money, he began writing gags for the agency David O. Alber, who sold them to newspaper columnists. At sixteen, he started writing for show stars like Sid Cesar and started calling himself Woody Allen.

After school, he went to New York University, where he took Communication Arts Course, but soon dropped out. At nineteen, he married Harlene Rosen and started writing scripts for The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show and others. In 1957, he won his first Emmy Award; about the same time, he divorced Harlene.

He started writing prose and plays, and in 1960, started a new career as a stand-up comedian. Together with his managers he turned his weaknesses into his strengths and developed the neurotic, nervous and shy figure famous from his later movies.

His first movie production was "What's New, Pussycat?" in 1965; the first movie he directed was Take The Money and Run (1969); some of his early films include Bananas, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex, Sleeper, and Love and Death. These films relied mainly on slapstick and one-liners. With 1976's Annie Hall, he turned to more sophisticated humor (the movie won four Academy Awards), and even did some serious dramas, like Interiors. His most successful movies were the New York trilogy (Annie Hall, Manhattan and Stardust Memories).

His 1980s films are compared to Russian and Polish films; most of them have sad ends, like The Purple Rose of Cairo. His dramas, like September, are often said to imitate European Auteurs, most of all Ingmar Bergman.

In the 1990s, he returned to lighter movies, and to happy endings: (Bullets Over Broadway, Everyone Says I Love You, and others). In 1992, there was much upheaval when he split from long term partner Mia Farrow, after she discovered his secret affair with their adopted daughter, Soon Yi. Farrow accused him of being a pedophile and of abusing their seven-year-old daughter Dylan. None of that proved true, but made Woody Allen disappear from the screen for a while and stimulated much interpretation of his later movies, especially of Husbands and Wives which describes the crises of a long-married couple, with Farrow and Allen in the main roles (the movie was shot before the split).

Woody Allen continues his successful career to the present day; his recent movies include Small Time Crooks and Celebrity.

Allen is a talented clarinetist who has been performing publicly at least since the late 1960s. He makes regular New York appearances with a band specializing in early twentieth century and [New Orleans jazz]. The film Wildman Blues (not directed by Allen) documents a European tour by Allen and band, as well as his relationship with Soon Yi.