THE UNRULY LIFE OF WOODY ALLEN by Marion Meade

THE UNRULY LIFE OF WOODY ALLEN

A Biography
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A literary Hedda Hopper dishes dirt on the director and evokes pity rather than disgust. Veteran biographer Meade (Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase, 1995, etc.) gets down to business in her first chapter, which recounts Mia Farrow’s discovery of his erotic photos of her teenage daughter Soon-Yi. That unbeatable opening segues into a chronicle of Allen’s life on-screen and with women, backed by a broad range of interviews with ex-wives, film associates, and paparazzi. Film tidbits abound as Meade details how Allen pushed Warren Beatty out of What’s New Pussycat?, balked at changing the title Anhedonia to Annie Hall, and panted for the approbation of film critics, particularly Vincent Canby. Critical analysis, thankfully, is limited to reviewers— reactions and box-office business. Along the way to success come the women, from first wife Harleen, whose relentless exploitation in Allen’s work gained her a lifetime settlement, to the teenager whose —mature— affair with Allen inspired Manhattan. There’s nothing new about Diane Keaton, except that Allen reserved a drawer for her in the bedroom set he and wife Louise Lasser shared. But when Meade catches up with Mia, the author bares all: the romance, the arguments in front of the tots, and the chilling $7 million legal marathon that left Allen unable to see all his children and shadowed by child-molestation charges. After this spectacle, talk of how little Soon-Yi knew of Allen’s films and how she dragged him to fashion shows comes as a relief, as does the climactic appearance of the couple’s child, Bechet Dumaine. As Roger Ebert says of the Mia—Woody—Soon-Yi situation, —Life goes on.— Fueled by tart anecdote, graphic scene-making, and glib analysis, Meade’s tell-all charges like a 20-mule—team People article. But it delivers on the biographical form’s promise of illuminating portraiture, explaining why, after decades of boyishness, Allen now appears —older than his age.— (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-83374-3
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1999




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