Few celebrities have been as transparent over the course of their careers as Woody Allen, as even those who have seen just a fraction of his films can feel as though they know him. Woody has never made an attempt to hide the core aspects of his persona: a Jewish resident of New York City; a lover of jazz, baseball, and the New York Knicks; and, more controversially, someone who has been married on several occasions, most recently to the adopted daughter of his former partner. What's more, there seems to be very little separating the real-life Woody Allen from the characters he plays in his films, as he frequently appears to be playing himself. It is this quality that offers familiarity for those watching a Woody Allen movie, and viewers know to expect sharp dialogue, jazz music, a New York setting, and a strong dose of psychoanalysis, all of which add up to the prolific oeuvre of one of America's most gifted screenwriters of the past half century.
Since Woody Allen has been prolific in his output and transparent in his presentation to the public, it is easy to lose sight of the remarkable breadth of his career. Indeed, over his career, Woody has excelled at slapstick humor while also tackling philosophical themes, often in the same films. His films have appealed to both a mass audience as well as an international art house audience, the same audience that endorses Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, and other such directors of international renown. As much as Woody is a gifted comic, he is also someone whose humor transcends the comedic genre, spilling seamlessly into dramatic themes of love, art, and mortality.
While it is true that Woody Allen has always been a transparent, often self-deprecating figure, it is also important to acknowledge that he was not born with his persona, and that it was constructed with an eye toward professional success; after all, "Woody Allen" is a stage name, one that he felt would be more lucrative than Allan Konigsberg. Ironically, while his stage persona has remained consistent and is familiar to many across the world today, the ways in which Allen's public image changed over time have been dramatic.
Legends of Hollywood: The Life of Woody Allen critically examines the personal life and films of Hollywood's most critically acclaimed screenwriter.
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