The Robinson Library

The Robinson Library >> Dramatic Arts >> Biography: United States
Woody Allen

one of the most prolific American filmmakers of his generation

Woody Allen

Allan Stewart Konigsberg was born in the Bronx on December 1, 1935. He got hooked on movies at the age of three, after his mother took him to see Snow White. He attended Hebrew school for eight years, and then public schools. Although he was a very intelligent child and was placed in accelerated classes from his first year of school, he hated school and was a rather rebellious student. He was also a pretty good athlete, playing basketball, stickball, football, and baseball; at one time he even trained as a boxer, but his parents made him stop.

When he was about 15 years old Allan auditioned for the TV show The Magic Clown. He did a magic trick called the Passe-Passe Bottles, but because the trick featured a liquor bottle he didn't appear on the show.

In 1952 Allan began sending jokes to major New York newspapers in the hopes of getting them used by gossip columnists. A shy lad, he didn't want his classmates to see his name if the jokes appeared, so he changed his name to Woody Allen. His jokes soon became a regular part of "Earl's Pearls," a column written by Earl Wilson of the New York Post. On November 25, 1952, Woody got his first credit as a writer, at the end of Wilson's column.

In 1953 Woody enrolled in motion picture production at New York University, but he lacked enough enthusiasm to attend classes regularly and was thrown out after the first semester as a failed student.

Early Career

Allen got his first real job as a writer in 1955, when he was hired by NBC as part of their writer's development program. He subsequently went to Hollywood to join a writers group for The Colgate Comedy Hour. In the summers of 1956-1958, he gained invaluable experience in writing and directing at the Tamiment theater. In November 1958, he began co-writing with Larry Gelbart for The Chevy Show on NBC, starring Sid Caesar.

From 1960 to 1968 worked as a stand-up comedian. In 1960 he was making an average of $75 per week, but by 1964 he was an estblished comic making $5,000 a week.

In 1964, Allen entered the film industry when he was hired to do the screenplay for What's New, Pussycat? (1965). He directed his first film a year later, What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), and his career skyrocketed from there.

Selected Filmography

One of the most prolific American filmmakers of his generation, Woody Allen has written, directed, and, more often than not, starred in a film just about every year since 1969.

Many of Allen's films are about either a director making films or a writer, with Allen himself in the lead role.

Nearly all of his films start and end with white-on-black credits, set in the Windsor typeface, set to jazz music, without any scrolling.

Almost all of his films are set in New York City.

What's New, Pussycat? (1965--writer, actor)
What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966--writer, director)
Casino Royale (1967--actor)
Take the Money and Run (1969--writer, director, actor)
Bananas (1971--writer, director, actor)
Play It Again, Sam (1972--writer, actor)
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask (1972--writer, director, actor)
Sleeper (1973--writer, director, actor)
Love and Death (1975--writer, director, actor)
The Front (1976--actor)
Annie Hall (1977--writer, director, actor)
Interiors (1978--writer, director, actor)
Manhattan (1979--writer, director, actor)
A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982--writer, director, actor)
Zelig (1983--writer, director, actor)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984--writer, director, actor)
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985--writer, director, actor) [his personal favorite]
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986--writer, director, actor)
September (1987--writer, director, actor)
Radio Days (1987--writer, director, actor)
Another Woman (1988--writer, director, actor)
New York Stories (1989--writer, director, actor)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989--writer, director, actor)
Alice (1990--writer, director, actor)
Shadows and Fog (1992--writer, director, actor)
Husbands and Wives (1992--writer, director, actor)
Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993--writer, director, actor)
Bullets Over Broadway (1994--writer, director)
Mighty Aprodite (1995--writer, director, actor)
Everyone Says I Love You (1996--writer, director, actor) [his only musical]
Deconstructing Harry (1997--writer, director, actor)
Antz (1998--voice)
Sweet and Lowdown (1999--writer, director)
Small Time Crooks (2000--writer, director, actor)
Match Point (2005--writer, director)
Scoop (2006--writer, director, actor)

Honors and Awards

Allen has more Academy Award nominations for writing than anyone else -- 14 in the Best Original Screenplay category and another 7 for acting and directing. He won the Best Director and Best Original Screenplay awards in 1978 for Annie Hall, and the Best Original Screenplay award for Hannah and Her Sisters in 1987. In addition, he has directed 14 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Diane Keaton, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Mariel Hemingway, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest, Martin Landau, Judy Davis, Chazz Palminteri, Jennifer Tilly, Mira Sorvino, Sean Penn, Samantha Morton, and himself. Keaton, Caine, Wiest and Sorvino all won Oscars for their performances in one of his movies.

He has been nominated or won 136 awards, more than Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd combined.

the O. Henry Award for his short story "The Kugelmass Episode," published in The New Yorker on May 2, 1977 (1978)
the Caesar Award for Best Foreign Film, for Manhattan (1980)
the Caesar Award for Best Foreign Film, for The Purple Rose of Cairo (1986)
the Career Golden Lion for lifetime achievement from the Venice Film Festival (1995)
a lifetime achievement award from the Directors Guild of America (1996)
an honorary Fellowship from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (1997)
Cannes Film Festival Palm of Palms award for lifetime achievement (2002) [the only other recipient of this award is Ingmar Bergman]
the Prince of Asturias Award (2002)

Relationships and Children

Harlene Rosen -- married March 15, 1956 -- divorced 1962
Louise Lasser -- married February 2, 1966 -- divorced 1969
Diane Keaton -- never married
Mia Farrow -- never married -- three children (Moses Farrow [adopted], Dylan O'Sullivan Farrow [adopted], Satchel Farrow [born 1988])
Soon-Yi Previn (adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and André Previn) -- married December 22, 1997 -- two children (Bechet Dumaine [adopted December 1998], Manzie Tio Allen [adopted February 2000])

Other Information

Allen started playing the clarinet at age 15, and has played it daily ever since.

He has been wearing his "trademark" thick black glasses since the 1960's.

He has never watched one of his movies after release.

Allen is also an established playwright -- Dont' Drink the Water (1966) and Play It Again, Sam (1969), both of which appeared on Broadway, are two of his best known works.


Internet Movie Database
Woody Allen Fan Site

See Also

Charlie Chaplin
Buster Keaton

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Dramatic Arts >> Biography: United States

This page was last updated on 12/28/2018.