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Woody Allen
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Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:

The odyssey of this artist, who from beginnings as a cerebral-schlemiel stand-up comic has become one of the leading luminaries in American film, is unique in cinema history. Nobody has tried so doggedly to break free of the constraints of a triedand-true comic persona as Allen. And nobody has chalked up such a wildly mixed track record doing so. After years writing material for other comics, Allen began performing in 1961, turning his natural shyness into a comic device, delivering devastating one-liners in a sad deadpan and often punctuating his jokes with a little gulp that suggested he was about to vomit. His first movie job, as screenwriter and actor in 1965's What's New, Pussycat? instantly made him a demi-icon of the swinging sixties. In 1966's ingenious What's Up, Tiger Lily? Allen and several character actors (including his then-wife Louise Lasser) dubbed ridiculous dialogue onto an already silly-looking Japanese spy thriller. When making his first film as a director, the crime-documentary parody Take the Money and Run (1969), Allen had to be convinced to squelch a doomy, portentous side to which he gave free rein in later works: Money's editor, Ralph Rosenblum, recalled that its first cut ended with Allen being slaughtered, la Bonnie and Clyde, in a scene completely at odds with the rest of the movie.

After Money came a series of dazzling comedies-Bananas (1971), Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*but were afraid to ask (1972), Sleeper (1973), Love and Death (1975)-in which Allen honed his Manhattan schlemiel persona to a fine edge while reveling in absurdist gags, outlandish situations, and pointed social satire. 1977's Annie Hall was a breakthrough movie; while very funny, it was also a serious and often moving look at modern urban romance, and it won Allen a Best Director Oscar (he shared the Academy's Best Screenplay Oscar with cowriter Marshall Brickman, and was also nominated for Best Actor). From that point on, Allen's films became more serious, starting with Interiors (1978), a heavy, Bergman-influenced drama which he wrote and directed but did not star in. The film, replete with selfconscious, straight-out-of-film-school visual compositions, was neither an artistic nor commercial success (although it received several Oscar nominations including Best Director and Screenplay), but seemed to provide Allen with the tools needed to blend comedy and drama. He's done that with varying degrees of success in all his subsequent films, which he makes at the steady rate of one a year.

Manhattan (1979), a bittersweet romantic comedy that painted New York City in nostalgic black-and-white and underscored its scenes with Gershwin music, was critically and commercially successful, and snagged him another Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay. In the acerbic and candid self-portrait Stardust Memories (1980) he poked fun at those who yearned for his "earlier, funnier" films, then responded with A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982) and the ingenious Zelig (1983) in which he played a human chameleon (thanks to some delicious cinematic sleight-of-hand). Broadway Danny Rose (1984), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), and Radio Days (1987) garnered him more Oscar nominations for screenwriting. He nailed one for Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), one of his most mature films, and one of his biggest box office successes. His dramatic efforts from this period, September (1987) and Another Woman (1988), were marred by the same heavy-handedness he'd displayed in Interiors and were not well received. 1989's Crimes and Misdemeanors however, showed him back in form, albeit with a curious, existentialist opus that dispelled the notion that evil deeds never remain unpunished; it was a startling concept that he made not only convincing but, at times, uproariously funny. Alice (1990), a starring vehicle for his former love, Mia Farrow, had moments of brilliance but was on the whole very ordinary. Shadows and Fog (1992), another downbeat, leaden drama, found critics impatient with Allen's relentless efforts to recast himself as an American Bergman; it won the director some of his most uncomplimentary reviews.

Allen was married to Louise Lasser, who appeared in several of his earlier films, and then had long-term relationships with leading lady Diane Keaton and with Mia Farrow, who appeared in almost all of his 1980s pictures. Farrow and Allen had one son together, but became international gossip fodder in 1992 when he was forced to admit a romantic liaison with her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn; she subsequently accused him of sexually molesting their child. This unprecedented publicity brouhaha (for two extremely private people) gave unexpected notoriety to Allen's concurrently released Husbands and Wives (1992), an excellent film that nonetheless caused snickering at many showings because of "leading" dialogue between Allen and Farrow. He then called on Diane Keaton to replace Farrow in Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), his lightest comedy in years, and earned Oscar nominations for directing and cowriting Bullets Over Broadway (1994), the wryly comic tale of a young playwright at odds with the New York theatre world in the 1920s. He then turned to TV, directing, writing and starring in an adaptation of his play Don't Drink the Water (1994), and then acting opposite Peter Falk in an updated version of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys (1995).

Back in 1967 he costarred in the all-star James Bond spoof Casino Royale as "Jimmy" Bond, but in the intervening years he has rarely appeared in films he hasn't also written and directed himself. There have been a few notable exceptions: Play It Again, Sam (1972), adapted from his delightful hit Broadway play, which he performed many times on stage; The Front (1976), in which he was ideally cast as a nebbish who fronts for blacklisted writers during the McCarthy era; and Paul Mazursky's Scenes from a Mall (1991), in which he was amusingly and improbably cast as an I-live-in-L.A.-and-like-it lawyer (complete with pony tail!) opposite Bette Midler. It was an endearing and accomplished performance which, unfortunately, was not supported by an equally accomplished script. He also appeared briefly in Jean-Luc Godard's odd, experimental King Lear (1987).

Woody Allen stared in:

Title Year Saw with/at: Own On? Rating
Play It Again Sam 1972 Yale Film Soc. ***
Hannah and Her Sisters 1985 With Jessica Video ****
New York Stories 1989 With Jessica **
Crimes and Misdemeanors 1989 With Jessica * 1/2
Scenes From a Mall 1991 With Greta and Trish at Showcase Orange *
Manhattan Murder Mystery 1993 Don't Remember ***
Antz 1998 family on DVD **
Small Time Crooks 2000 Mini-Cine with Neil and Lois *** 1/2
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion 2001 Suzy at Showcase Berlin ***
Scoop 2006 Family on DVD ** 1/2