Woody Allen Makes Book on a Career and Life
I just finished Woody Allen’s new autobiography, “Apropos of Nothing.” It’s just under 400 pages long and is by turns entertaining and fascinating. It’s kind of like two books sewn together. The first half deals with his upbringing and early career. Allan Koenigsberg grew up in Brooklyn, New York. At age 16 he was writing one liners for Broadway columnists of the day and making more money than his parents combined. Granted his dad was a cab driver and waiter who blew his meager earnings betting on sports. Still $40 a week was a tidy sum in those days.
His elementary school teachers recommended him for a gifted program at Hunter College but the long subway ride proved too inconvenient for his mother and aunts.
He remained in P.S. 99 which he described as “a school for backwards teachers.”
While the book is funny it is not a gag fest. It’s more like a long conversation with a familiar friend if you have followed his films over the years. After making 51 movies, starring in many of them, his record is hit and miss. I consider myself a fan and when looking at the list realize I haven’t seen half of them.
What’s clear from the book he is a natural-born work horse. Dianne Keaton has been quoted as saying she’s never met anyone more disciplined. At 85 he has the same routine: breakfast and then writing long hand on yellow legal pad for hours. A break for lunch and then more writing. He writes into the night or until the basketball game comes on. He is season ticket holder for the Knick’s I assume.
He says in the book he loves the work. There have been times when I’ve seen one of his lesser movies and thought: he didn’t need to make that film. And I didn’t need to see it. But the fact is he did need to make it. He is a creative artist who lives for the work. They aren’t all “Annie Hall” which won four Academy Awards. But that’s not the point.
The point is doing the work. Facing the blank page day after day and grinding it out for good or ill.
The discipline has paid off. Woody has the record for the most nominations for Best Original Screenplay at 16. With three wins. Not too shabby.
He goes to great lengths to defend his romance and marriage to Soon-Yi in the second half of the book. And They’ve been married for 22 years now and their two adopted daughters are college age.
Predictably Mia Farrow doesn’t come off very well in his telling of their relationship. That whole affair was a hot mess by anyone’s account. In the book he’s pretty matter of fact about it all. He’s just disappointed that so many people assumed the worst when Farrow accused him of child abuse of his own daughter.
Woody Allen’s most repeated quote is “The heart wants what it wants.” Which sounds like a lame excuse for selfishness in the extreme.
My favorite quote of his is: “My grandfather, on his deathbed, sold me this watch.”