What did i know about Woody Allen before reading his autobiography? I knew he had been an articulate stand-up comedian. I knew he made creative and funny movies with himself and girl friends in key roles. (I remember lots of gals my age wanting to look like “Annie Hall”.) I remember Allen having troubles with Mia Farrow and accusations of child molestation.
Normally, I would not have been interested in a book about Woody Allen, but covid and lots of spare hours were here, too. Looking for other books on Amazon, I came across Woody Allen’s new autobiography. I am rather interested in reading about celebrities, so had the book sent to the house.
First observation: Woody Allen. Apropos of Nothing has no chapters and fewer than normal paragraphs. It’s all one long stream of consciousness with no breathing room. Fortunately the format posed me no problems, and I found the tale magical. (Allen has always been intrigued with magic.)
The first thing I learned about Allen was that he is above all things a writer, not just a writer — a comedy writer and a very prolific one –even at 19 writing for Arthur Godfrey, Peter Lind Hayes and Herb Shriner. Allen hated school and flunked out of college, but no matter. According to the book, he was already earning three times what his father had made each year. Allen kept writing jokes, married early and wrote plays produced on Broadway before I had ever heard of him. As a stand-up comedian, Allen was then successful on TV and nightclubs. (I saw him live at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago.) The success of the very early Woody Allen was a complete surprise to me.
Another surprise: Allen’s persona is one of a small thin guy who is also a shy bumbler, but in the book he admits he has always liked women and some of the world’s most beautiful women ultimately liked him, too. All of this, along with names dropped shamelessly, is detailed in the 392-page book. Yes, the book is long, but remember, there are no commercials, and we have lots of hours to fill.
Allen’s professional and private lives are told in equal parts. He is most complimentary to the many stars in his movies; he is far more positive in his view of life than I expected, having so often heard him talk about years in therapy. His loves were many, but his life with Mia Farrow is most interesting to those of us who lived through the tabloids and later were disappointed when “something amiss” had happened. Allen tells his story in full, and as a result, this reader has changed her views. His problems robbed Allen of family ties and ruined friendships (Hillary Clinton would not take his contribution to her campaign), but he says he would not change a thing.
At age 84 with a 20-year marriage to Soon-Yi, Allen is very complimentary to his wife. I knew he had married a former adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, but I had no idea of the real love story involved.
Needless to say, I devoured Woody Allen’s story from start to finish. He is a man with personality quirks (he finds it difficult to enter group parties unless he enters first. He is talented and has received many awards, most of which were given to him in absentia. He loves the process of making movies, but never watches his films or reads reviews after the films are finished.) His writing is clear, self-deprecating and tinged with subtle humor.
Woody Allen is known for movies with unusual titles. I’m not fond of this book’s subtitle: “Apropos of Nothing”. It’s a rather negative title for story I found, in the end, quite positive.