Cover image for Woody Allen : a biography
Woody Allen : a biography
Baxter, John, 1939-
Personal Author:
First Carroll and Graf edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1999.

Physical Description:
xix, 492 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Filmography: p. [451]-473.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN2287.A53 B38 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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He was born Allan Konigsberg in the Bronx, but his personal destiny and some of filmdom's most celebrated comedies - Annie Hall, Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanors - have made Woody Allen the quintessential New Yorker. This telling, new biography - the first since the tabloids headlined his rift with his long-term mistress, Mia Farrow, and his affair with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi - tells how a reclusive, melancholy kid achieved unparalleled success as a screenwriter, director, and star. It also explores the real Woody Allen, the critically acclaimed filmmaker from the Upper East Side, and his amusing movie persona of a neurotic and lovable loser. Shrewdly and effectively deconstructing Woody, John Baxter's biography illuminates Allen's preoccupation with sex and mortality, his personal quirks and obsessions, his manipulation of celebrity, and his cinematic achievement as chronicler and court jester of Manhattan's intellectual elite. "A splendidly written, exhaustive account and a major achievement" - The Observer "Astute and highly entertaining biography" - Daily Telegraph "A bracing corrective to the usual po-faced, sycophantic studies of the cult of Woody" - Mail on Sunday "Full of interesting information for cinema enthusiasts" - The Spectator "The saga [of Woody and Mia] makes compulsive reading" - The Guardian

Author Notes

John Baxter was born in Randwick, New South Wales in 1939. He is an Australian-born writer, journalist, and film-maker. He has lived in Britain and the U.S. as well as in his native Sydney, but has made his home in Paris since 1989. He began writing science fiction in the early 1960s for New Worlds, Science Fantasy and other British magazines. His first novel was published as a book in the US by Ace as The Off-Worlders. He was Visiting Professor at Hollins College in Virginia in 1975-1976. He has written a number of short stories and novels in that genre and a book about SF in the movies, as well as editing collections of Australian science fiction.

For a number of years in the sixties, he was active in the Sydney Film Festival, and during the 1980s served in a consulting capacity on a number of film-funding bodies, as well as writing film criticism for The Australian and other periodicals. Since moving to Paris, he has written four books of autobiography, A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict, We'll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light, Immoveable feast : a Paris Christmas, and The Most Beautiful Walk in the World : a Pedestrian in Paris. In 2015 his title, Five Nights in Paris: After Dark in the City of Light, made The New Zealand Best Seller List.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

There is no dearth of books on Woody Allen, but Baxter's is the first to appear since Allen's split with Mia Farrow because of his affair with her adopted daughter, whom he later married. Some of Allen's diehard fans may be taken aback by Baxter's combination of tolerance of Allen's peccadilloes, including his unconventional love life, and unstinting criticism of such subpar films as Celebrity. Baxter details the development of Allen's nebbishy onscreen persona, showing how drastically it differs from the real-life Woody, and he demonstrates how closely Allen's art has paralleled his life, from sardonic gags about his wife in early stand-up routines to the character of the demon-plagued, creatively blocked protagonist of Deconstructing Harry (1997). Scandal and creative doldrums notwithstanding, Allen retains a sizable following likely to eagerly read a nonsycophantic account of him that is judgmental about his films rather than his life. --Gordon Flagg

Publisher's Weekly Review

Given the maelstrom of Allen's recent life, this engaging new biography is welcome, even if not definitive. Baxter (The Hollywood Exiles) follows Allen's tangled amours and artistic discoveries from his childhood in Brooklyn through his stint as a 1950s comedy writer and onward, exhaustively detailing the making of movie after movie, from What's New, Pussycat? to Deconstructing Harry. Fair-minded but harsher than Eric Lax was in Woody Allen (1991), Baxter has done yeoman work in canvassing the published record (he lacked Lax's access to Allen and his peers). While Baxter unearths eerie tidbits about Allen's relations with two teenage girls, his psychologizing often rests on others' judgments, such as film theorist Maurice Yacowar's views on sex and death, and Allen's ex-partner Mia Farrow's take on the gap between nebbish persona and hard-nosed auteur. He considers Allen's affair with Farrow's adoptive daughter Soon-Yi more a lapse of taste than an indictable offense. Cinephiles will particularly enjoy Baxter's discussions of Allen's influences: he finds an early debt to Jules Feiffer, hears echoes of Fellini in Annie Hall and describes the brief involvement in Stardust Memories of French student radical Daniel Cohn-Bendit. (As a critic, Baxter likes the comedies more than the dramas.) Allen finds real happiness, Baxter concludes, not in his messy private life but in his work. Though the reader might wish for a broader attempt to sum up Allen's prodigious output and place in American culture, this book remains the most detailed look at an AmericanÄnay, New YorkÄoriginal. Photos not seen by PW. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Woody Allen is one of the few truly independent directors working today. Baxter, who has previously published studies of filmmakers Bu¤uel, Fellini, and Kubrick, here weaves a narrative about Allen's life and work. He describes Allen's insecurities, phobias, and melancholy; his ambivalent views toward women, sex, and his Jewish identity; and his general neuroticismÄa recurrent motif in his films (Allen originally planned to title Annie Hall "Anhedonia," which means the inability to experience pleasure). He also chronicles the filmmaker's early academic and social failures and his escape to Manhattan (where he wrote for Sid Caesar before turning to stand-up comedy and then film directing). Some new information can be gleaned hereÄreaders might be surprised to learn that Allen looked to Bob Hope as a role model, for exampleÄbut a fair amount of Baxter's material is marginal, second-hand, or overly familiar, particularly coverage of the Soon-Yi Previn scandal. This likely results from Baxter's being denied access to Allen and most of his colleagues. In the end, Allen comes across as a cold, aloof character who nevertheless helped shape 20th-century filmmaking. Useful mostly for large film collections.ÄStephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgementsp. xiii
Preface: Cafe Carlylep. xv
1 What did he Say?p. 1
2 Can You Believe I Came from this Place?p. 7
3 My Universitiesp. 18
4 Women and Magicp. 31
5 Writerp. 42
6 Render Unto Caesar...p. 51
7 Stand-Upp. 63
8 What's New Pussycatp. 85
9 Casino Royale and What's up, Tiger Lily?p. 114
10 Don't Drink the Waterp. 137
11 Take the Money and Runp. 147
12 Play it Again, Samp. 163
13 Bananasp. 176
14 Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (* But Were Afraid to Ask) and Sleeperp. 200
15 Love and Death and The Frontp. 218
16 Annie Hallp. 241
17 Interiorsp. 256
18 Manhattan and Stardust Memoriesp. 270
19 Zelig and A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedyp. 291
20 Broadway Danny Rose and The Purple Rose of Cairop. 314
21 Hannah and her Sisters and Radio Daysp. 330
22 September, Another Woman and Oedipus Wrecksp. 350
23 Crimes and Misdemeanors and Alicep. 368
24 Shadows and Fog, Husbands and Wives and Manhattan Murder Mysteryp. 387
25 Bullets Over Broadway and Mighty Aphroditep. 410
26 Everyone Says I Love You and Deconstructing Harryp. 425
Notesp. 443
Filmographyp. 451
Bibliographyp. 474
Indexp. 477