I had offered to review Woody Allen’s autobiography for Quadrant but thankfully I was beaten to it by Rob Long in this wonderful piece in the March issue: In Search of Woody Allen (and if you’re not a subscriber to Quadrant, you should be). If I had written the review, however, this is the kind of thing I would have said: Woody Allen is the greatest comic movie writer-director-producer alive today, our own Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. He is also a socialist-Democrat of the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama variety, so from a personal political perspective he is poison. But oddly and pleasantly, very little of that shows up in his films. In fact, if anything, his movies are almost completely conservative from a plot perspective. Whatever you might think of Annie Hall as a film, to the extent there is a moral to the story, it is hardly about socialism and share the wealth. It is about the complexity of human life.
But that is not why Allen is being brought to our attention today. This being the era of the wronged woman, he has fallen foul of the cancel-culture thought police. Woody, while boy-friending Mia Farrow (they never married or even lived together) is accused of molesting his adopted daughter, Dylan, when she was seven. These accusations were made after Allen began an intimate relationship with another of Mia Farrow’s adopted children, Soon-Yi, who was at the time 21. These are the details of their association according to Woody Allen’s Wikipedia page:
Allen and Mia Farrow met in 1979 and began a relationship in 1980; Farrow starred in 13 of Allen’s films from 1982 to 1992. Throughout the relationship they lived in separate apartments on opposite sides of Central Park in Manhattan. Farrow had seven children when they met: three biological sons from her marriage to composer André Previn, three adopted girls (two Vietnamese and one South Korean, Soon-Yi Previn), and an adopted South Korean boy, Moses Farrow.
In 1984 she and Allen tried to conceive a child together; Allen agreed to this on the understanding that he need not be involved in the child’s care. When the effort to get pregnant failed, Farrow adopted a baby girl, Dylan Farrow, in July 1985. Allen was not involved in the adoption, but when Dylan arrived he assumed a parental role toward her and began spending more time in Farrow’s home. On December 19, 1987, Farrow gave birth to their son Satchel Farrow (later known as Ronan Farrow). According to Allen, his intimate relationship with Mia Farrow ceased completely after Satchel’s birth and he was asked to return her apartment key; they maintained a working relationship when they filmed a movie, and he regularly visited Moses, Dylan and Satchel, but he and Mia were only “social companions on those occasions where there’d be a dinner, an event, but after the event she’d go home and I’d go home.” In 1991 Farrow wanted to adopt another child. According to a 1993 custody hearing, Allen told her he would not object to another adoption so long as she would agree to his adoption of Dylan and Moses; that adoption was finalized in December 1991. Eric Lax, Allen’s biographer, wrote in The New York Times that Allen was “there before they [the children] wake up in the morning, he sees them during the day and he helps put them to bed at night”.
Whatever you may think of his taking up with Soon-Yi, and they have now been married for a quarter of a century and have two adult adopted daughters, the issue is Mia’s accusation brought into living rooms across America by that four-part series on HBO. You can either think Mia is telling the truth, or that she is a madly deranged woman out for revenge. So clear is it to me (and Rob Long) that it is Mia who is a madwoman beyond sense that I can only watch in sadness and wonder as the events unfold. Weirdly, it is the left in America that has ganged up on Allen, with only someone such as myself even game to defend him. Read ‘Allen v. Farrow’: Intellectually Dishonest Propaganda Meets Emotional Blackmail for the Woody Allen side of the story. It’s long, but not as long, nor as wildly entertaining as Woody’s autobiography, Apropos of Nothing. From the book, what I got was that while he is astonishingly funny, he is not very bright and generally anti-social. But of this particular crime, he is completely innocent. He must have been a nightmare to teach – class clown material at its worst – but also no scholar, as he readily admits time and again in the book.
As for our taste in movies, at least so far as his films are concerned, there was this from his autobiography:
To me, my most disappointing film was Hollywood Ending. I felt that movie was funny and it did not do well. I executed it well, my leading lady Téa Leoni was wonderful, the supporting cast came through, the idea was fraught with potential. A film director goes psychosomatically blind and, unwilling to lose a chance to direct a comeback film, fakes his way through, pretending he can see. In Chaplin’s hands, or Buster Keaton’s it would’ve been a masterpiece. Even in mine, it was funny – or so I keep telling people. (pp. 342-343)
And so I also keep telling people. See it if you can. As for this Allen-Farrow dustup, it’s Hollywood and it’s decadent but what’s new? Woody didn’t do what Mia says, so as sordid as the story is as she tells it, it is irrelevant to anything and to anyone other than themselves. But similar to Ovid being sent into exile by Augustus, the world is being denied a comic genius, and that is not good.