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Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish Woody Allen from Alvy Singer, the hero in Annie Hall, a movie he directed, co-wrote and starred in. When you’re so closely familiar with the neuroses and old jokes of one, you might feel as though you knew the other.
And a sense of familiarity was one of the main strengths of that movie. But while they share a lot of the same traits, there are bound to be differences between creator and creation. For one thing, Woody Allen’s childhood home wasn’t located underneath a roller coaster.
So, while there was no roaring theme park over his roof, Woody Allen, like Alvy Singer, was also a Brooklyn-born Jewish person. He was born on December 1, 1935, as Allen Stewart Konigsberg. He would later have his name legally changed to Heywood Allen. However, he started using “Woody Allen” as a pseudonym when he was in high school and writing witticisms to columnists.
The environment of Allen’s childhood was an overcrowded apartment with a tendency for volatility. Without the roller coaster, he and Alvy would still share a loud, temperamental mother to fill in silences. And his circumstances would fuel his comedic writing career later on.
There was some sort of solace in all his childhood turmoil though. Allen was especially close to his sister, Letty, and she would work as a producer for him eventually. In addition, Allen had various interests that would take up his time as a child, from sports and clarinet-playing to magic and motion pictures.
Although he dropped out of New York University after a short time as a film major, that obviously didn’t affect his endgame. He started writing for television shows and then after that, he moved on to stand-up comedy.
His career involving film started when he wrote for and appeared in “What’s New, Pussycat?” which was released in 1965. The years 1965-1966 saw some of his “firsts” including his directorial debut (“What’s Up, Tiger Lily?“) and his first contribution to The New Yorker.
Consistency in Persona and Work
Throughout his career, Woody Allen has developed an alter ego. It’s the type of character he plays when performing and so, it’s the character we associate with him and his movies most often. For Allen, this persona is a neurotic, sex-averse, witty, anxiety-ridden, obsessive “nebbish.” The latter is apparently of Yiddish origin and is associated with timidity and meekness.
And nowhere is this character more pronounced and familiar than in Alvy Singer. But that’s not the lone case of art imitating life in Annie Hall. Annie Hall the character was named after her actress, Diane Keaton whose real name was Diane Hall and who went by “Annie.” Annie Hall’s costumes were just Keaton’s clothes too.
Alvy’s jokes were lifted from Allen’s stand-up acts. Additionally, the relationship between the two characters echoes the real relationship that occurred between Allen and Diane Keaton. Although it was a different relationship that inspired Annie’s birthplace. Judy Henske was the former lover born in Chippewa Falls, not Diane Keaton.
Aside from his on-screen persona, Allen’s movies shared a number of different traits. There was almost always a discussion of anti-Semitism, an addiction to drugs and discussing mortality, self-deprecating humor, great fondness or dislike for New York and California respectively, and romantic angst to top the checklist. If merely judging from which film ticked off the most of Allen’s trademark tricks, then Annie Hall is the epitome Woody Allen film.
It’s not his only film though, far from it. Allen has a filmography composed of 47 films. Notable among them are:
- Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
- Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
- Another Woman (1988)
- The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
- Manhattan (1979)
- Husbands and Wives (1992)
- Zelig (1983)
- Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
- Stardust Memories (1980)
- Interiors (1978)
Outside of Film
Woody Allen had talents outside of film-making too. Recalling that he wrote for The New Yorker, Allen would manage to write enough to form a collection of humor pieces which later turned into books. These books, “Without Feathers” and “Getting Even“, are now available on Audible along with a couple more of his books, like “Mere Anarchy” and “Side Effects.”
He’d go on to create and star in an Amazon TV series titled Crisis in Six Scenes. He’d also write a number of theatrical plays on and off Broadway.
It’s written somewhere that Woody Allen’s most memorable contribution was his persona. Here’s one way to look at its impact: Allen’s humor has always been self-deprecating. However, to make fun of one’s flaws, one first needs to accept them.
So, whenever you’re having a hard time facing and accepting your flaws, maybe try reading from the wise words of Woody Allen.
Woody Allen Quotes
“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” – Woody Allen
“Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television.” – Woody Allen
“My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.” – Woody Allen
“I’m not anti-social. I’m just not social.” – Woody Allen
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen
“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” – Woody Allen
“I believe there is something out there watching us. Unfortunately, it’s the government.”- Woody Allen
“You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.” – Woody Allen
“Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.” – Woody Allen
“There are two types of people in this world, good and bad. The good sleep better, but the bad seem to enjoy the waking hours much more.” – Woody Allen
“A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.” – Woody Allen
“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying.” – Woody Allen
“Marriage? That’s for life! It’s like cement!” – Woody Allen
“All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it.” – Woody Allen
“I don’t believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear.” – Woody Allen
“Tradition is the illusion of permanence.” – Woody Allen
“Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.” – Woody Allen
“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.” – Woody Allen
“The talent for being happy is appreciating and liking what you have, instead of what you don’t have.” – Woody Allen
“What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.” – Woody Allen
“There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?” – Woody Allen
“Men learn to love the woman they are attracted to. Women learn to become attracted to the man they fall in love with.” – Woody Allen
“I think crime pays. The hours are good, you meet a lot of interesting people, you travel a lot.” – Woody Allen
“There have been times when I’ve thought of suicide but with my luck it’d probably be a temporary solution.” – Woody Allen
“It figures you’ve got to hate yourself if you’ve got any integrity at all.” – Woody Allen
“I should stop ruining my life searching for answers I’m never going to get, and just enjoy it while it lasts.”- Woody Allen
“What a world. It could be so wonderful if it wasn’t for certain people.” – Woody Allen
“My relationship with death remains the same – I’m strongly against it.” – Woody Allen
“All I can do is wait for it.” – Woody Allen
“Eternal nothingness is fine if you happen to be dressed for it.” – Woody Allen
“His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy.” – Woody Allen
“It is impossible to experience one’s death objectively and still carry a tune.” – Woody Allen
“I can levitate birds. No one cares.” – Woody Allen
“I love nature, I just don’t want to get any of it on me.” – Woody Allen
“I hate reality but it’s still the best place to get a good steak.” – Woody Allen
“I think universal harmony is a pipe dream and it may be more productive to focus on more modest goals, like a ban on yodelling.” – Woody Allen
“I don’t know enough to be incompetent.” – Woody Allen
“Talent is luck. The important thing in life is courage.” – Woody Allen
“The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won’t get much sleep.” – Woody Allen
“In my house I’m the boss, my wife is just the decision maker.” – Woody Allen
“Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable.” – Woody Allen
“If my films make one more person miserable, I’ll feel I have done my job.” – Woody Allen
“Most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all.” – Woody Allen
“What if nothing exists and we’re all in somebody’s dream?” – Woody Allen
“I had a terrible education. I attended a school for emotionally disturbed teachers.”- Woody Allen
“Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?” – Woody Allen
“I’ve never been an intellectual but I have this look.” – Woody Allen
“Dying is one of the few things that can be done as easily lying down.” – Woody Allen
“Difficult times always create opportunities for you to experience more love in your life.” – Woody Allen
“Capital punishment would be more effective as a preventive measure if it were administered prior to the crime.” – Woody Allen
“The heart wants what it wants. There’s no logic to these things. You meet someone and you fall in love and that’s that.” – Woody Allen
“Better not think too much. Relying more on the body: it is more trustworthy.” – Woody Allen
“Is there a separation between body and mind, and if so which is it better to have?” – Woody Allen
“When I’m not working, I think and I think when I get depressed.” – Woody Allen
“I always thought that as long as man is mortal, he will never be relaxed.” – Woody Allen
“Life is divided into two categories: horror and misery.” – Woody Allen
“The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.” – Woody Allen
“I think being funny is not anyone’s first choice.” – Woody Allen
“If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying.” – Woody Allen
“You can’t ride two horses with one behind.” – Woody Allen
“There are three rings involved with marriage. The engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering.” – Woody Allen
“A tree never hits an automobile except in self defense.” – Woody Allen
“Morale still seems reasonably high and, while the desertion rate has risen, it is still limited to those who can walk.” – Woody Allen
“Cynicism is reality with an alternate spelling.” – Woody Allen
“You mellow too much you ripen and rot.” – Woody Allen
“Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.” – Woody Allen
“And how does gravity work? And if it were to cease suddenly, would certain restaurants still require a jacket?” – Woody Allen
“Marriage is the death of hope.” – Woody Allen
“Eternity is a very long time, especially towards the end.” – Woody Allen
“If you don’t fail now and again, it’s a sign you’re playing it safe.” – Woody Allen
“The higher the school rating the better off we are in having perspective projects look at our area.” – Woody Allen
“Is knowledge knowable? If not, how do we know this?” – Woody Allen
“The only way to be happy is to love to suffer.” – Woody Allen
“It is clear the future holds great opportunities. It also holds pitfalls. The trick will be to avoid the pitfalls, seize the opportunities, and get back home by six o’clock.” – Woody Allen
“The study of economy usually shows us that the best time for purchase was last year.” – Woody Allen
“The universe is haphazard, morally neutral, and unimaginably violent.” – Woody Allen
“Change is death.” – Woody Allen
“To me there’s no real difference between a fortune teller or a fortune cookie and any of the organized religions. They’re all equally valid or invalid, really. And equally helpful.” – Woody Allen
“Death is like a colonoscopy, the problem is that life is like the prep day.” – Woody Allen
“Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage.” – Woody Allen