Allen, Woody

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Allen, Woody

Woody Allen, 1935–, American actor, writer, and director, one of contemporary America's leading filmmakers, b. Brooklyn, N.Y., as Allen Stewart Konigsberg. Allen began his career writing for television comedians and performing in nightclubs. His early film comedies, which often depict neurotic urban characters preoccupied with sex, death, and psychiatry, include Sleeper (1973) and Annie Hall (1977; Academy Award, best picture). Much of Allen's later work in comedy and drama explores these themes as well as a sophisticated New Yorker's various other preoccupations.

Among his later films are the stylish Manhattan (1979); Broadway Danny Rose (1984), a New York comedy; the probing family drama Hannah and Her Sisters (1986; Academy Award, best screenplay); the 1930s comedy Radio Days (1987); the searing Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989); Husbands and Wives (1992), a bittersweet domestic drama; the romantic and partly musical Everyone Says I Love You (1996); and the fictional jazz biography Sweet and Lowdown (1999). Several subsequent films failed to achieve the critical and popular plaudits earned by many of his earlier films, but Match Point (2005), a tale of wealth, lust, crime, and luck set in London, did much to revive his flagging reputation. Allen turned to Catalonia, Spain, for his sensual, melancholy-tinged comedy Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), and to Paris for his atmospheric Midnight in Paris (2011; Academy Award, best original screenplay). Blue Jasmine (2013), the story of a rich matron fallen on hard times, echoes Tennessee Williams's Streetcar Named Desire. Allen also has written humorous prose pieces, many published in the New Yorker, and plays. In 1992, in a bitter public dispute, Allen left Mia Farrow for her adopted daughter then sued the actress for custody of their children and lost (1993).

See his The Insanity Defense: The Complete Prose (2007); biographies by E. Lax (1991), J. Baxter (1999), and M. Meade (2000); E. Lax, Conversations with Woody Allen (2007); studies by D. Jacobs (1982), F. Hirsch (rev. ed. 1990), S. B. Girgus (1993), and D. Brode (1997); Woody Allen on Woody Allen (1995); documentary film Wild Man Blues (1998), dir. by B. Kopple.

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