Woody Allen – Film Director

Woody Allen’s biography
Allan Stewart Konigsberg, a.k.a. Woody Allen, was born in the Bronx on December 1, 1935. He is the son of Martin Konigsberg and Nettie Cherry.

At the age of three he got hooked on movies when his mother took him to see Snow White. From that day the movie theaters became his second home.

In Woody´s childhood years his favorite movie was Billy Wilder´s Double Indemnity.

At his first year of school he was put in an accelerated class because of his high IQ. But he hated school from day one and became rebellious. His didn´t do his homework, was rude to the teachers and sometimes disruptive in class.

Surprisingly he was very good in sports (basketball, stickball, football, baseball) in his early years and was always among the first picked in teams in the neighbourhood. He also liked boxing and even trained for several months until his parents asked him to stop.

However, sports and movies were not his only interests. He became obsessed with magic and music; later characterising elements in his movies.

Around the age of 15 he auditioned for the TV show, The Magic Clown. He did a magic trick called the Passe-Passe Bottles. But because this trick featured a liquor bottle he didn´t appear on the show for it was mainly for children.

At the age of fifteen he started playing the clarinet and he plays it daily, ever since.

In the spring of 1952 Allan S. Konigsberg changed his name to Woody Allen. He was sixteen and starting to write jokes which he sent to several of the major New York newspapers hoping them to be used by some of the gossip columnists.

Being shy he didn´t want his classmates to see his name if the jokes would appear in the papers.

Soon his gags became frequently used by Earl Wilson of the New York Post appearing anonymously under the column “Earls Pearls”. But on Novemer 25th, 1952 he first got credited in the end of Wilson´s column. From that point on the wheels started rolling for Woody as a comedy writer.

In 1953 Woody enrolled in motion picture production at the New York University. He did´t have the enthusiasm to attend classes frequently enough and got a D at the end of his first semester. The humorless teachers didn´t appreciate his funny papers.

After the semester he was thrown out of NYU as a failed student.

In 1959, Woody began seeing a psychiatrist, feeling melancholic for no identifiable reason. Ever since he sees an analyst once a week or so, with occational breaks, not much for treatment but to talk to an objective person unlinked to his personal life.

Because of his long experience, analysts and jokes on them are common features of his works.

His first steady girlfriend and later wife was Harlene Rosen. They first met on a one-time jazztrio rehersal, for which he played the soprano sax. Harlene played the piano and Woody´s friend, Elliot Mills, played the drums.

In 1955 Woody was one of the half dozen who got hired by NBC as part of their writer´s development program. Subsequently Woody went without Harelene to Hollywood to join a writers group for The Colgate Comedy Hour1. The leader of the group, Danny, was the older brother of playwright Neil Simon. Later, Woody has said that everything he learned about comedy writing, he learned from Danny Simon.

Woody and Harlene were married on March 15, 1956 in Hollywood. They went back to New York where Harlene studied Philosopy and Woody supplied comedians with monologues and jokes at a rate of $100 per minute´s worth of material.

In the summers of 1956-1958, Woody gained an invaluable experience in writing and directing at the Tamiment2. The Tamiment theater produced weekly new musicals and sketches, which Woody both wrote and directed. None of these sketces exist on paper today, exept for Opening Night which was recently discovered at the Tamiment.

In November 1958, Woody began co-writing with Larry Gelbart for the The Chevy Show on NBC. The show, starring the famous Sid Caesar, stayed on TV for ten years. For several years, Woody was resonably content writing for TV, making $1,700 a week. But after seeing Mort Sahl performing onstage, and little by little losing interest in writing TV, he decided to launch a carrer of his own as a stand-up comedian.

In 1958, Woody met his future managers Charles H. Joffe and Jack Rollins3. Ever since, they´ve negotiated millions of dollars worth of contracts on his behalf with others but no formal contract exists among themselves, only a handshake. They convinced him to do his own material onstage.

Woody was a stand-up comedian from 1960 to 1968, becoming more popular as such with every year that passed. In 1960 he only made $75 per week, but in 1964 he was an establihed comic in demand across the country, making $5000 a week.

Woody released three albums in the period; Woody Allen, Woody Allen Volume 2 and The Third Woody Allen Album.

In 1964, Woody entered the film industry when he was hired to do the screenplay What´s New Pussycat.

Because his life became from that point on so focused on filmmaking, the rest of the summarized biography will be intertwined in the filmography. Also, in time, we´ll try to cover his marital life in a different section. In the meantime we hope you can enjoy the rest of the site.

1 Later called The Colgate Variety Hour.

2 The Tamiment is a summer resort for young, single professionals in their twenties and thirties, lawyers, salesmen, and businesspeople.

3 Besides Woody, Jack Rollins and Charlie Joffe have discovered and helped to develop several other superstars including : Robin Williams, David Letterman, Billy Crystal and Harry Belafonte.

Movies by Woody Allen

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Melinda and Melinda (2004) Match Point (2005) Scoop (2006)
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The Curse of Jade Scorpion (2001) Hollywood Ending (2002) Anything Else (2003)
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Celebrity (1998) Sweet and Lowdown (1999) Small Time Crooks (2000)
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Midhty Aphrodite (1996) Everyone Says I Love You (1997) Deconstructing Harry (1997)
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Husbands and Wives (1992) Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) Bullets Over Broadway (1995)
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Alice(1990) Scenes from the Mall (1991) Shadows and Fog (1992)
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Another Woman (1988) Oedipus Wrecks (in New York Stories) (1989) Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
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Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) Radio Days (1987) September (1987)
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Zelig (1983) Broadway Danny Rose (1984) The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
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Manhattan (1979) Stardust Memories (1980) A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)
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The Front (1976) Annie Hall (1977) Interiors (1978)
Play it Again, Sam (1972 Sleeper (1973) Love and Death (1975)
Take the Money and Run (1969) Bananas (1971) Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But where Afraid to Ask) (1972)
What’s New Pussycat (1966) What’s Up, Tiger Lily (1966) Casino Royale (1967)

Books by Woody Allen

Plays by Woody Allen
Not only has Allen written most of the scripts for his own movies, he has also done, at least, nine plays. Four of them have been professionally published so far, Don’t Drink the Water, Play It Again Sam, The Floating Light Bulb and Central Park West.

Don’t Drink the Water was a great hit on Broadway, with 598 performances. But it got awful criticism in 1969, when director Howard Morris made a film out of it. Allen hated his version. And in 1994 he re-made it for television, in his own direction.

When Play it Again, Sam was first due on Broadway, Allen himself was in the leading role of Allan Felix. That’s were he first met Diane Keaton. The play ran to 453 performances, followed by the film starring Allen and Keaton. For years the Play it again, Sam was the eleventh most popular play on the American amateur stage – Don’t Drink the Water rating fifth.

The Floating Light Bulb is Allen’s only drama play. Not as famous as the previous two, but still made it to be one of the Best Plays in the 1981-1982 Broadway season.

His latest play, Central Park West, is not in full length. It is a part of a three one-act plays put together in one, called Death Defying Act. The other plays were modified television sketches called Hotaline and An Interview, leaving Allen’s play a bit more ambitious. Some critics related the play to Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi, but it is about an adult man leaving his wife for a twenty-one-year-old film student. The play did well and ran in 343 performances.

A list of his plays

  • Don’t Drink the Water (1966)
  • Death Knocks (1968)
  • Play It Again, Sam (1969)
  • Death (1975)
  • God (1975)
  • (Sex) ?
  • The Query (1976)
  • My Apology (1980)
  • The Floating Light Bulb (1981)
  • Central Park West (1995)

Standup comedy by Woody Allen
About the standup

“If people come away relating to me as a person, rather than just enjoying my jokes; if they come away wanting to hear me again, no matter what I might talk about, then I’m succeeding.”

In the three years period of 1964 – 1966, Allen released three comedy albums, called Woody Allen, Woody Allen Volume 2 and The Third Woody Allen Album. The best sketches are then collected in his 1978 release of Woody Allen: Standup Comic, which is the only CD found in stores today. It is filled with great laughs and is rated among The Top Five best standup albums of the century.

It is really difficult to describe the sketches and get the same impression as Allen. Therefore we have few audio samples of his standup and some scenes from the Woody Allen TV Special 1969.

Woody Allen: Standup Comic contents:

  • The Vodka Ad
  • Vegas
  • Second Marriage
  • The Great Renaldo
  • Mechanical Objects
  • The Moose
  • Kidnapped
  • Unhappy Childhood
  • The Science Fiction Film
  • Eggs Benedict
  • Oral Contraception
  • European Trip
  • The Lost Generation
  • Private Life
  • Brooklyn
  • The Army
  • Pets
  • My Grandfather
  • My Marriage
  • Bullet in My Breast Pocket
  • N.Y.U.
  • A Love Story
  • The Police
  • Down South
  • Summing Up

Woody Allen videos

Woody Allen having a moral discussion with evangelist Billy Graham. Woody Allen and Billy Graham (part 2).
Jean-Luc Godard documentary on Woody Allen. Jean-Luc Godard documentary (part 2).
Jean-Luc Godard documentary (part 3).
Gene Wilder talks about working with Woody.
Woody Allen interviewed at the Dick Chavett show. At the Dick Chavett show (part 2).
At the Dick Chavett show (part 3). At the Dick Chavett show (part 4).
At the Dick Chavett show (part 5).

Articles, essays & interviews
This collection of essays and interviews has mainly been sent to us through e-mail. We are very grateful to the autors for allowing us to use their work. Also, we would like to point out to other writers, if you have something to contribute, please do. If it’s interesting, we probably can use it.
editor@woodyallen.com

“Education and its role in people’s lives” as an important subject of Woody Allen films.
(Wojciech Lorenc)

An interview with Woody Allen
(Lucy Cooper)

Coming Back to ‘Shane’(watching movies with Woody Allen)
(Rick Lyman)

Woody Allen’s God
(Hafliði Sævarsson)

The many redemptions of Woody Allen
(Ben)

An Interview with Woody Allen – Small Time Crooks
(n.n.)

The Guardian/NFT interview
(Geoff Andrew)

Miscellaneous
Some interesting facts about Woody Allen

Awards and nominations

The Inside Woody Allen comic strip

Movie scripts:

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