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A Biography

by Eric Lax

Pub Date: May 16th, 1991
ISBN: 0-394-58349-3
Publisher: Knopf

 The inside book on Woody Allen that his fans have been waiting for. This will likely be the cornerstone of all future Woody Allen studies, sincefor the first timeAllen himself is completely forthcoming with an interviewer and willing to fill in on his biography and comment on any aspect of his work. You could not ask for an Allen book that gets closer to the bone. Lax (Life and Death on 10 West, 1984; On Being Funny: Woody Allen and Comedy, 1975) kept by Allen's side for three years during the writing, making, and editing of five films, followed scripts through their development, had the door opened for him by Allen to speak with all of Allen's friends and co-workers, which is to say that this is a book Allen was eager to see and warmly endorsed. This writing is unique in that while it stays generally on course as a chronology of Allen's life, it forever interrupts itself to show at length how later works spring out of earlier events in Allen's life, which gives a dense weave to the telling as scenes are discussed out of biographical order. The Allen who comes across here is a very cool and reserved person on the set who has to crank up his warmth when he plays ``Woody Allen'' for the camera. We follow his childhood compulsion for moviegoing through his Wunderkind years as a teen-age jokesmith for columnists and great TV comics, then his being taken under the wing of agents Jack Rollins and Charles Joffe, whoin a grueling two-year periodturned him into a reluctant stand-up comic. They've never had a contract beyond a handshake, and quite early on Rollins and Joffe won complete artistic control of his films. Allen openly talks about his marriages and love life, his children, his failureshe never looks at his films after they're released, has no videocassettes of them, only sees their shortcomings (although The Purple Rose of Cairo comes closest to realizing his hopes), and he detests tapes of his early work on Candid Camera, The Tonight Show, etc. In one fascinating passage he comments on these routines while watching tapes, dismantling them in bloody surgical detail. Definitivefor now. And sheer heaven. (Sixteen pages of photographsnot seen.)