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Woody Allen – The All-American Icon
 
Born in the Bronx, NYC, to a family of second-generation Americans with Russian-Jewish roots, Woody Allen became an icon of cinema with his own, distinct and immediately recognizable, style, and dozens of hit movies to his name.
 
When Schmuel Konigsberg immigrated to the United States from Lithuania, then Russian Empire, at the break of the XX century, looking for a better place to live and practice his jeweller's art, he could not have predicted that his grandchild Allan would become famous not for his skill in cutting diamonds or molding gold, but for cutting jokes and molding comedies.
 
Since his teen years, Allan took interest in comedy and writing, creating and developing a comical image which later would become not just his screen, but sometime even real-life persona: an insecure and timid, but likable and funny intellectual. 
 
A little known fact: the yong Allan was not a bookworm as one might imagine looking at his screen persona, but was quite sociable, impressing classmates with cards and magic tricks, and quite sporty, playing for his school's baseball team. 
 
His interest grew into a profession, and at the age of only 17 he began submitting his jokes and short comic stories to newspapers and magazines, very soon earning more than his father, a jeweller, and his mother, a waitress, combined! Later he started working on screenplays for "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Tonight Show". Stand-up performances followed, and soon he became one of the most noted comics in New York. The stage name Woody Allen, according to Allen himself, is not a homage to any great actor, but rather a random name he chose to be more palatable to the general public.
 
Today, he is ranked as the fourth best stand-up comics of all time by Comedy Central, and even the third best by UK surveys.
One of his most well-known (or rather notorious) jokes, however, proved to be really bad and got him into very hot water. He joked about the sexual assault, perpetrated against his former wife, and was slapped with a $1 million lawsuit!
 
By the 60s Allen began acting and then directing his own movies, starting from slapstick comedy and later moving to more serious, dramatic subjects, including  'Annie Hall" (1977), "Manhattan" (1979), and "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986). He was greatly influenced by the European art cinema scene, which, in conjunction with the ironic attitude to life rooted in his comic persona, produced a distinct and inimitable style. This style brought him 24 Oscar nominations and four golden statuettes, including three for Best screenplay (more than any other Hollywood celebrity!) and one for Best director. 
 
His personal life was less rosy and much more scandalous. Woody Allen had been married twice before starting a long (12 years!) but difficult and ill-fated relationship with Mia Farrow, which ended quite abruptly in 1992, when his wife discovered nude photos of her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn in Allen's drawer. After the breakup with Mia, Allen continued his relationship with Previn and in 1997 married her.
 
Later, when asked about the incident, Allen would say that it was the best thing to happen to him - it allowed him to end the relationship with Farrow. As for the controversy, his reply was traditionally humorous: "... people refer to it all the time as a scandal ... [and] I kind of like that in a way because when I go I would like to say I had one real juicy scandal in my life".
 
Later decades brought a change to the general direction of Allen's movies: he obviously grew tired of the subjects of the European art cinema that had influenced his films more and more, and attempted to return to the slapstick genre of his earlier years. Critics disagree as to whether the switch was successful or not, but multiple awards and viewer acclaim rather testify to the former. A popular feature of Allen's films is his cameo appearances, sometimes in his ironic persona.
 
Sources: 
"Woody Allen - A Biography" by Eric Lax, New York 1991
Dowling Family Genealogy, 2014

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