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December 1: Woody Allen

December 1, 2012

Filmmaker Woody Allen (Allan Stewart Konigsberg) was born in the Bronx on this date in 1935. He became a successful comedy writer as a teenager — by age 19 he was writing for Ed Sullivan, Sid Caesar, and other television acts — and then performed as a stand-up comic in the early 1960s, developing the character of an insecure nebbish, which became the popular hallmark of his comic films as well. Allen has directed — as well as written and often acted in — more than forty movies, releasing a new one nearly every year, including the Academy Award-winning Annie Hall (1977), Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo (1983-85), Bananas, Take the Money and Run, Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, and Sleeper (1971-73). His dramas have generally been less coherent and brilliant than his comedies but include the Dostoevskyan Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). Jewish themes — intellectuality, fear of displacement, historical consciousness, self-knowledge, manliness and desire, urban aesthetics, assimilation and authenticity — pervade his films, which have nevertheless become more optimistic and embracing of life's blessings and follies as the auteur has aged before our eyes. Allen has won four Academy Awards and has received a record fifteen screenwriting nominations and seven "best director" nominations. He is also an accomplished jazz clarinetist and the author of several books.
"I'm not afraid of death, I just don't want to be there when it happens." —Woody Allen