Born: December 1, 1935 Primary Instrument: Clarinet
Allen is a passionate fan of jazz which is often featured prominently in his movies' soundtracks. He has played the clarinet since adolescence and chose his stage name from an idol, famed clarinetist Woody Herman. He has performed publicly at least since the late-1960s, notably with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on the soundtrack of Sleeper. One of his earliest televised performances was on The Dick Cavett Show on October 20, 1971.
Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band play every Monday evening at Manhattan's Carlyle Hotel, specializing in classic New Orleans jazz from the early twentieth century. The documentary film Wild Man Blues (directed by Barbara Kopple) documents a 1996 European tour by Allen and his band, as well as his relationship with Previn. The band has released two CDs: The Bunk Project (1993) and the soundtrack of Wild Man Blues (1997).
The beautiful soundtrack to Woody Allen's movie Manhattan begins with a sixteen minute, lush arrangement of Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue with Gary Graffman at the piano and Zubin Mehta. All this over cinematographer Gordon Willis' breath taking visuals of the New York landscape. Together with Gershwin, the stage is set for Woody's masterpiece.
Rhapsody In Blue by The New York Philharmonic sparkles like crystal--and that's only the beginning. Land Of The Gay Caballero also features a great musical arrangement with great brass, horns and percussion. Someone To Watch Over Me and I've Got A Crush On You making good use of the percussion. 'S Wonderful is another Gershwin tune that sounds fresh and new in the capable hands of these fine artists.
Allan Stewart Konigsberg, a.k.a. Woody Allen, was born in the Bronx on December 1, 1935. He is the son of Martin Konigsberg and Nettie Cherry.
At the age of three he got hooked on movies when his mother took him to see Snow White. From that day the movie theaters became his second home.
In Woody's childhood years his favorite movie was Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity.
At his first year of school he was put in an accelerated class because of his high IQ. But he hated school from day one and became rebellious. His didn't do his homework, was rude to the teachers and sometimes disruptive in class.
Surprisingly he was very good in sports (basketball, stickball, football, baseball) in his early years and was always among the first picked in teams in the neighborhood. He also liked boxing and even trained for several months until his parents asked him to stop.
However, sports and movies were not his only interests. He became obsessed with magic and music; later characterizing elements in his movies.
Around the age of 15 he auditioned for the TV show, The Magic Clown. He did a magic trick called the Passe-Passe Bottles. But because this trick featured a liquor bottle he didn't appear on the show for it was mainly for children.
At the age of fifteen he started playing the clarinet and he plays it daily, ever since.
In the spring of 1952 Allan S. Konigsberg changed his name to Woody Allen. He was sixteen and starting to write jokes which he sent to several of the major New York newspapers hoping them to be used by some of the gossip columnists.
Being shy he didn't want his classmates to see his name if the jokes would appear in the papers.
Soon his gags became frequently used by Earl Wilson of the New York Post appearing anonymously under the column Earls Pearls. But on November 25th, 1952 he first got credited in the end of Wilson's column. From that point on the wheels started rolling for Woody as a comedy writer.
In 1953 Woody enrolled in motion picture production at the New York University. He didn't have the enthusiasm to attend classes frequently enough and got a D at the end of his first semester. The humorless teachers didn't appreciate his funny papers.
After the semester he was thrown out of NYU as a failed student.
In 1959, Woody began seeing a psychiatrist, feeling melancholic for no identifiable reason. Ever since he sees an analyst once a week or so, with occasional breaks, not much for treatment but to talk to an objective person unlinked to his personal life.
Because of his long experience, analysts and jokes on them are common features of his works.
His first steady girlfriend and later wife was Harlene Rosen. They first met on a one-time jazz trio rehearsal, for which he played the soprano sax. Harlene played the piano and Woody's friend, Elliot Mills, played the drums.
In 1955 Woody was one of the half dozen who got hired by NBC as part of their writer's development program. Subsequently Woody went without Harelene to Hollywood to join a writers group for The Colgate Comedy Hour. The leader of the group, Danny, was the older brother of playwright Neil Simon. Later, Woody has said that everything he learned about comedy writing, he learned from Danny Simon.
Woody and Harlene were married on March 15, 1956 in Hollywood. They went back to New York where Harlene studied Philosophy and Woody supplied comedians with monologues and jokes at a rate of $100 per minute's worth of material.
In the summers of 1956-1958, Woody gained an invaluable experience in writing and directing at the Tamiment2. The Tamiment theater produced weekly new musicals and sketches, which Woody both wrote and directed. None of these sketches exist on paper today, exept for Opening Night which was recently discovered at the Tamiment.
In November 1958, Woody began co-writing with Larry Gelbart for the The Chevy Show on NBC. The show, starring the famous Sid Caesar, stayed on TV for ten years. For several years, Woody was reasonably content writing for TV, making $1,700 a week. But after seeing Mort Sahl performing onstage, and little by little losing interest in writing TV, he decided to launch a carrer of his own as a stand-up comedian.
In 1958, Woody met his future managers Charles H. Joffe and Jack Rollins. Ever since, they've negotiated millions of dollars worth of contracts on his behalf with others but no formal contract exists among themselves, only a handshake. They convinced him to do his own material onstage.
Woody was a stand-up comedian from 1960 to 1968, becoming more popular as such with every year that passed. In 1960 he only made $75 per week, but in 1964 he was an established comic in demand across the country, making $5000 a week.
Woody released three albums in the period; Woody Allen, Woody Allen Volume 2 and The Third Woody Allen Album.
In 1964, Woody entered the film industry when he was hired to do the screenplay What's New Pussycat.
Because his life became from that point on so focused on filmmaking, the rest of the summarized biography will be intertwined in the filmography. Also, in time, we'll try to cover his marital life in a different section. In the meantime we hope you can enjoy the rest of the site.