Woody Allen PROFILE
Actor, director, screenwriter and playwright Woody Allen redefined film comedy during the 1970s, bringing a new measure of sophistication and personal complexity to the form. His movies -- intimate meditations on recurring subjects such as art, religion and romance -- put a knowing, confessional spin on the anxieties of contemporary audiences, telescoping their fears and concerns through his own mordantly neurotic on-screen persona. Drawing universal insight from the traditions of Yiddish humor, Allen established himself both as a comic Everyman and one of American filmmaking's true auteurs, writing and directing features which broke with established narrative conventions and infused the screen-comedy form with unprecedented substance and depth.
Born Allen Stewart Konigsberg in Brooklyn, New York on December 1, 1935, he adopted his stage name at the age of 17, and in 1953 enrolled in New York University's film program, quickly failing the course "Motion Picture Production" and soon dropping out of school to begin writing for comedian David Alber for the sum of $20 a week. Two years later, Allen graduated to writing for television, working on the staff of the legendary Your Show of Shows, as well as penning material for Pat Boone. During his five-year tenure in television, his efforts won him an Emmy nomination, but like Mel Brooks, Allen found his writing career stifling, and he eventually decided to try his hand as a stand-up performer. After slowly gaining a reputation on the New York-club circuit, he became a frequent talk-show guest and in 1964 issued his self-titled debut comedy LP.
In 1965, Allen made his film debut, writing and starring in the Clive Donner farce What's New, Pussycat?; he also continued his stand-up career, but his interest in live performance was clearly waning. With 1966's What's Up, Tiger Lily?, a puckish re-tooling of a Japanese spy thriller complete with his own storyline and dubbed English dialogue, he made his directorial debut. After appearing in the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale, his rise to fame continued when his play Don't Drink the Water was produced on Broadway. In 1969 Allen directed two short films for a CBS television special: Cupid's Shaft, a satire of Charlie Chaplin's City Lights, and an adaptation of Pygmalion in which he appeared as a rabbi. However, Allen's career as a filmmaker fully took flight with the gangster send-up Take the Money and Run (1969), in which he starred, co-wrote and directed. His status as an auteur was further solidified with 1971's Bananas and the following year's episodic Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask). Allen next appeared in Herbert Ross' 1972 feature Play It Again, Sam, followed by his own return to the director's chair for 1973's futuristic comedy Sleeper. While remaining as outlandish as his previous work, 1975's period comedy Love and Death signaled Allen's desire for respect as a serious filmmaker; a satire of the Napoleonic wars, it included numerous references to history, Russian culture and movies and was clearly intended as more highbrow comedy than any of his previous work.
Allen's breakthrough was 1977's Academy Award-winning Annie Hall; bittersweet and deeply personal, it established a new kind of comedy -- soul-searching and sophisticated, even the film's non-linear narrative was experimental, with Allen's character Alvy Singer frequently turning to the camera to address the audience. A major commercial hit as well as a critical success, Annie Hall announced a new era of intelligence and complexity in American comedies, but Allen himself subsequently turned away from humor completely with 1978's Interiors, a brooding drama inspired by the films of his hero Ingmar Bergman. While earning a pair of Oscar nominations, the feature received wildly mixed reviews, with many attacking Allen for selling out his comic genius in a half-hearted bid for artistic respectability.
With 1979's Man