Woody Allen, (born Allen Stewart Königsberg on December 1, 1935), is an American film director, screenwriter, stand up comic, playwright, short story writer, and musician whose large body of work and cerebral style have made him one of the most widely respected and prolific filmmakers in the modern era. He writes and directs his own movies and has acted in many of them as well. Allen draws heavily on literature, philosophy, European cinema and most importantly, New York City, where he was born and in which he has lived all his life, for much of his inspiration.
Allen was born in Brooklyn, New York, into a Jewish family. His parents Martin Konigsberg and Nettea Cherrie, and his sister, Letty, lived in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he attended a Hebrew school for eight years. After that, he went to Public School 99 and then to Midwood High, where "Red" (as he was called because of his hair) impressed students with his extraordinary talent at cards and magic tricks. To raise money, he began writing gags for the agent David O. Alber, who sold them to newspaper columnists. Reportedly, Allen's first published joke was "I am two with Nature." At sixteen, he started writing for show stars like Sid Caesar and began calling himself Woody Allen. He was a gifted comedian from an early age.
He would later joke that when he was young he was often sent to inter-faith summer camps, in which he "was savagely beaten by children of all races and creeds."
At nineteen, he started writing scripts for The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show and others. In 1957, he won his first Emmy Award.
He started writing prose and plays, and in 1960, started a new career as a stand-up comedian and also began writing for the popular Candid Camera television show, even appearing in some episodes. Together with his managers he turned his weaknesses into his strengths and developed the neurotic, nervous, and shy figure famous from his later movies. He soon became an immensely popular comedian and appeared frequently in nightclubs and on television.
Examples of Allen's standup act can be heard on the album Standup Comic, including the famous routine wherein Allen brings a live moose to a costume party. The moose comes in second in the costume contest to the Berkowitzes, a couple in a moose costume.
His first movie production was What's New, Pussycat? in 1965, for which he wrote the screenplay. It was a largely unpleasant experience for Allen as he was trapped in Paris for six months during the production. Furthermore, the studio never showed much respect for his script, altering the film to the point where it bore little resemblance to Allen's original vision. Allen's first directorial effort was What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), in which an existing Japanese spy movie was redubbed in English by Allen and his friends with completely new, comic dialogue. In 1967, he also appeared in the offbeat James Bond spoof, Casino Royale.
His first conventional directing effort was Take The Money and Run (1969), which was followed by Bananas, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), Sleeper, and Love and Death. In 1972, he also starred in the film version of his own play called Play It Again, Sam, which was directed by Herbert Ross. All of Allen's early films are pure comedies that relied heavily on slapstick, inventive sight gags, and non-stop one-liners. Among the many notable influences on these films are Bob Hope and Groucho Marx.
Annie Hall DVD cover his most successful movies were produced in a ten year period starting with Annie Hall; other critical and financial successes were Manhattan, The Purple Rose of Cairo (named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best films of all time, and Allen's personal favorite) and Hannah and Her Sisters (winner of three Academy Awards).
The Front DVD CoverHe returned to directing in 1977's Annie Hall, a modern classic that marked a major turn away to more sophisticated humor and thoughtful drama -- winning four Academy Awards. The film set the standard for modern romantic comedy and also started a fashion trend with the unique clothes worn by Diane Keaton in the film (the off-beat, masculine clothing, such as ties with cardigans, was actually Keaton's own). He also directed the serious drama Interiors, in the manner of the great Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, one of Allen's major influences.
In 1976, he starred in, but did not direct, The Front, a humorous and poignant account of Hollywood blacklisting during the 1950s.
Most of his 1980s films, even the comedies, have somber and philosophical undertones. Many, like September and Stardust Memories, are often said to be heavily influenced by the works of European directors, most notably Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini. Stardust Memories was considered by many to be a biting piece of work in which the main character (played by Allen) expresses resentment and scorn for his fans. In the film, overcome by the recent death of a friend from illness, he states, "I don't want to make funny movies any more." However, by the mid-80s Allen had begun to combine his love of both tragic and comic elements with the release of such films as Hannah and Her Sisters, Husbands and Wives and Crimes and Misdemeanors.