Cover image for Apropos of nothing
Title:
Apropos of nothing
ISBN:
9781951627348
Physical Description:
392 pages ; 24 cm.
Personal Subject:
Summary:
In this candid and often hilarious memoir, the celebrated director, comedian, writer, and actor offers a comprehensive, personal look at his tumultuous life. Beginning with his Brooklyn childhood and his stint as a writer for the Sid Caesar variety show in the early days of television, working alongside comedy greats, Allen tells of his difficult early days doing standup before he achieved recognition and success. With his unique storytelling pizzazz, he recounts his departure into moviemaking, with such slapstick comedies as Take the Money and Run, and revisits his entire, sixty-year-long, and enormously productive career as a writer and director, from his classics Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Annie and Her Sisters to his most recent films, including Midnight in Paris. Along the way, he discusses his marriages, his romances and famous friendships, his jazz playing, and his books and plays. We learn about his demons, his mistakes, his successes, and those he loved, worked with, and learned from in equal measure. This is a hugely entertaining, deeply honest, rich and brilliant self-portrait of a celebrated artist who is ranked among the greatest filmmakers of our time. --
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Summary

Summary

The Long-Awaited, Enormously Entertaining Memoir by One of the Great Artists of Our Time--Now a New York Times , USA Today,
Los Angeles Times , and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller.

In this candid and often hilarious memoir, the celebrated director, comedian, writer, and actor offers a comprehensive, personal look at his tumultuous life. Beginning with his Brooklyn childhood and his stint as a writer for the Sid Caesar variety show in the early days of television, working alongside comedy greats, Allen tells of his difficult early days doing standup before he achieved recognition and success. With his unique storytelling pizzazz, he recounts his departure into moviemaking, with such slapstick comedies as Take the Money and Run , and revisits his entire, sixty-year-long, and enormously productive career as a writer and director, from his classics Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Annie and Her Sisters to his most recent films, including Midnight in Paris . Along the way, he discusses his marriages, his romances and famous friendships, his jazz playing, and his books and plays. We learn about his demons, his mistakes, his successes, and those he loved, worked with, and learned from in equal measure.

This is a hugely entertaining, deeply honest, rich and brilliant self-portrait of a celebrated artist who is ranked among the greatest filmmakers of our time.


Author Notes

Woody Allen is a writer, director, and actor. He has been a stand-up comedian and a published author. He lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with his wife of twenty-two years, Soon-Yi, and their two daughters, Manzie and Bechet. He is an avid jazz enthusiast and devoted sports fan. In his own words, he regrets that he has never made a great film, though he says he is still trying.


Reviews 1

Guardian Review

In this memoir, Woody Allen is keen to clear up some misconceptions. He is not, as he has frequently been described, an intellectual. As a man who is practically "illiterate and uninterested in all things scholarly", he dismisses the notion as being as "phony as the Loch Ness Monster". He also explains that, contrary to appearances, he is no slouch on the sports field. In his youth he was a fast runner, "very fine" at baseball and a decent schoolyard basketball player who could also "catch a football and throw it a mile". Allen, 84, also wants it to be known that he is not a child molester, as claimed by his former partner, the actor Mia Farrow, and his alleged victim, their seven-year-old adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, who is now 34. Throughout this complicated saga, which erupted in 1992, and was reignited in 2014 when Dylan wrote an open letter reasserting the alleged assault, many have had their say on the matter. Along with Dylan's letter, there have been public missives from Allen's son Ronan (who has stood firmly with his sister), Mia's adopted son Moses (who has taken Allen's side and whose letter is extensively quoted here), and Soon-Yi Previn (Mia and her ex-husband André Previn's adopted daughter, who had an affair with Allen and later married him). Police investigators have twice found no legal case against Allen, a fact that is sometimes forgotten amid the public rush to judgment. While Allen quips that the main theme of Apropos of Nothing - which was controversially binned by its original publisher, Hachette, after staff staged a walkout - is "man's search for god in a pointless, violent universe", the 90-odd pages devoted to the Farrow "to-do" would suggest that, after remaining mostly quiet on the subject for 30 years, he has deemed it time to offer his version of events. Of course, this is the story of a life, not just an accusation, and, as one might expect from a writer with his comic pedigree, Allen's style is gossipy and spry when dealing with his childhood and rise to fame. It begins with a sprint through his early years in Brooklyn as the son of a cab driver father and bookkeeper mother. His parents "disagreed on every single issue except Hitler and my report cards", but they doted on their two children. Cultural awakening arrived via his cousin Rita, who would take him to the movies on Saturday afternoons and encouraged him to listen to the radio where he discovered Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Benny Goodman and Billie Holiday. At 11, a trip to Manhattan with a childhood friend opened his eyes to vaudeville after they found the cinema closed. He was so taken with the comedy skits that he returned every Saturday, taking a pencil and paper to make notes. While still at high school, he began sending jokes off to newspapers, many of which were printed. Eventually an agent got in touch and asked him to spend a few hours each day after school writing one-liners for their celebrity clients, for which they would take the credit. He went to NYU, majoring in film, but was kicked out after he failed to show up to classes. No matter, as he was already working in comedy writers' rooms and making more money than his parents did. He decided to change his name (he was born Allan Konigsberg), something he never regretted aside from the time a saleswoman at Bloomingdale's asked: "Will that be all, Mr Woodpecker?" Self-deprecation is Allen's default setting and his bleak humour can be winning. He recalls drunkenly daydreaming with his second wife, Louise, about their preferred method of suicide - "Her preference was to go by pistol shot, mine by placing my head in the dishwasher and pressing Full Cycle." Looking back on the biggest flop of his film career, he says: "The filming of Shadows and Fog came off without a hitch except for the movie." When the lights went up after the screening for the film's financial backers "the four or five suits sat immobile as if they had all been paralysed by curare". Elsewhere, however, egotism tramples wit. He routinely plays down his talents, and wants us to know how little his films returned at the box office, but wastes no opportunity to list the luminaries who have showered him in praise. It's also a familiar Allen routine to wonder why any woman would give him, a self-anointed schlemiel, the time of day romantically, but here they are rated ruthlessly on their looks. Even his mother doesn't escape judgment - she was "loving and decent but not, let us say, physically prepossessing", he writes, before observing her similarity to Groucho Marx. You might think that a man dogged by dark accusations would take extra pains to avoid coming over like a creep around young women. Yet 17-year-old Stacey Nelkin, who appeared in Annie Hall, and who the 42-year-old Allen briefly dated, caused him and the screenwriter Marshall Brickman "to spin around each other like electrons". Talking about Scarlett Johansson, he observes "when you meet her you have to fight your way through the pheromones. Not only was she gifted and beautiful, but sexually she was radioactive." He carps that much has been made of his dating much younger girls when "it's really not so", offering as evidence his first wife, Harlene, who was just three years younger than him. Given he was 20 when they married, it would have been a grave matter had the age gap been any wider. Aged 56, apparently marooned in a chilly relationship with Farrow, he says he was "ripe for the plucking" when he began an affair with the 21-year-old Soon-Yi; his revelation that "we couldn't keep our hands of each other" is, frankly, too much information when discussing a woman who was, to all intents and purposes, his stepdaughter. His account of the fall-out, and the subsequent accusations regarding Dylan, pinballs between sadness and fury. He is sympathetic towards Dylan, whom he claims was coached and "brainwashed" by her mother into believing that, one afternoon in the crawl-space in their Connecticut home, her father abused her while she lay playing with trains. He is less forgiving towards his son, Ronan, from whom he has long been estranged and who has written extensively about his father's alleged misdeeds. Another sub-plot in the eternal Farrow soap opera is the question mark over Ronan's paternity, and Allen can't resist making a dig about the child support he was legally obliged to pay: "If Mia was right about [Ronan] being the son of Frank Sinatra, then I was really being bilked." But he saves most of his vitriol for Mia, whom he claims told him: "You took my daughter, now I'll take yours." He paints her as bitter, damaged and cruel, a woman who shopped for adopted children as if she were collecting ornaments, and then neglected and physically abused them. It makes for grim reading. While you can't blame him for putting his point across forcefully, and for howling against perceived injustices, the spiteful tone helps no one. But Allen isn't in it to win friends, as evidenced by intermittent rants against the "Appropriate Police", the "#MeToo zealots" and his former friends and colleagues in Hollywood who, after gauging the public mood, have publicly denounced him. He makes clear his understanding that the book is unlikely to influence those who have already made up their minds. Reflecting on his legacy, he says: "Rather than live in the hearts and mind of the public, I prefer to live on in my apartment."


Excerpts

Excerpts

So here I am, single, about to cast Play It Again, Sam the play with Tony Roberts as my costar. All we need is to find the right girl to play Linda, the female lead. The director is Joe Hardy, a fine director who knows what he's doing. He and I sat in the back of the theater auditioning one talented actress after another. There's a lot of talent out there and not enough good roles. Sandy Meisnter was a famous, highly respected acting teacher in New York who ran the Neighborhood Playhouse, where so many terrific actors emerged. Somewhere, he collared David Merrick and raved about a girl in his class that he found to be sensational. Her name was Diane Keaton. Real name Diane Hall, but there already was an actress with that name and the union does not permit one to use a name already in use.  So after this buildup, we're all sitting in the theater waiting for Keaton to audition. In walks a lanky young girl. Let me put it this way: If Huckleberry Finn had been a very beautiful woman, that's who was up there onstage. Keaton, who apologizes for waking up in the morning, a rube from Orange County, denizen of swap meets and tuna melts; an emigrant to Manhattan who came here and works as a coat-check girl, who had worked the candy concession in a movie house in Orange County and was fired for eating all the candy herself, tried making the few obligatory hello lines to us all. This was a yokel who spoke of her Grammy Hall, the boarder George who got a free turkey from his union every Christmas, and answered compliments with "Honest injun?" But what can I tell you, she was great. Great in every way. One talks about a personality that lights up a room, she lit up a boulevard. Adorable, funny, totally original in style, real, fresh. When she left we knew we had to go through the other scheduled actresses, but in our minds she had the part.   Rehearsals under Joe Hardy went smoothly. Tony Roberts was like a kid in a candy store, since the show had a half-dozen pretty girls who'd appear in the lead character's fantasies. Tony sprang into action the first day, complicating his already baroque social life. I was getting friendlier and friendlier with Tony, but Keaton and I were each pursuing our own social agendas, chatting politely but sparsely. A guy called for her every day, which I naturally thought was her boyfriend but later found out was her manager. I was dating whoever would say yes to my desperate pleas to let me feed them. One time, a week before going to Washington, DC, for our opening I had a date with a very beautiful brunette. I took her to dinner and we had a nice time, and we made another date two nights down the line.   In the intervening night I was rehearsing with Keaton, and Joe Hardy suggested we run lines to memorize them more fluently. She of course knew hers like Eve Harrington but I, despite having written them, needed more time to get them down pat. We broke for dinner, and she and I hopped across the street to a joint next to McGirr's Billiards, where I sometimes shot pool. At that impromptu dinner she was so charming, so lovely, so pretty, so scintillating, that I sat there thinking, Why the hell am I going out with that other woman tomorrow night? Keaton is magical. Of course she ate like Primo Carnera. I never saw a person outside of a logging camp tuck it away like that.   Anyway, to cut to the chase, by the time Play It Again , Sam opened in DC, we were lovers. We remained lovers in Boston and back in New York. I had just purchased a penthouse on Fifth Avenue and she lived in a hovel all the way east, a single room made homey and pretty without spending a nickel on it. She clearly had an artist's eye. You can tell by the way she dresses, which is trendsetting if you happen to think a dead monkey's paw pinned to the lapel of your sweater is chic. Let's just say Keaton always suited up with a certain eccentric imagination, as if her personal shopper was Buñuel. But it was not just a fashion flair. She takes great photos, can act, sings beautifully, dances, writes well. We've remained close friends since we met. When I finished recutting Take the Money with Ralph Rosenblum, I screened it for her and she said it was good and funny and not to be so worried, and she's been my North Star, go-to person ever since. Because in addition to tasteful and bright, she's totally inner directed. You can intone Shakespeare's praises all day, but if she finds something of his a bore, she doesn't care how revered his poetry is or what the professors or the public says. She's her own person. I have always shown her my work, and she's one of the only people whose opinion I really care about.   Excerpted from Apropos of Nothing by Woody Allen All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.