Review: The Unruly Life of Woody Allen: A Biography

The Unruly Life of Woody Allen: A Biography The Unruly Life of Woody Allen: A Biography by Marion Meade
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Note: This review was originally written in the early 2000s and published for a no longer running website: AudiobookCafe. This review is focused on both the book and audiobook. No doubt that a biography about the eccentric and neurotic little man, known as Woody Allen, would provoke some attention. In light of his scandalous past with Soon-Yi Previn, adopted daughter of his long-time romantic partner, Mia Farrow, this biography delivers Woody’s life with hard facts and sharp comments. “The Unruly Life of Woody Allen” tells the story of Woody Allen from his birth as Allan Konigsberg in 1935 to his initial career in comedy as a writer to his stand-up comedy and then on to his film career which includes screenwriting, acting, directing, and many other positions. We also learn of his personal life such as his parents, his relationships, his friends, and his enemies.

While Allen seems almost schizophrenic with his jobs and movies, he takes on the same mantle when it comes to women. We learn about each of his wives and partners in how they came together and why they split up. Obviously spending the most time on Mia Farrow, the author details Mia’s upbringing and her prior marriages which included a stint with Frank Sinatra. The long romance between the Woody and Mia had many ups and downs with the final cataclysmic down, resulting in Farrow’s discovering of naked pictures of Soon-Yi in Woody’s possession. This ultimately resulted in ensuing court battles and millions of dollars spent on Woody’s attempt to maintain custody of his natural and adopted children.

While his personal life has mostly kept him in the spotlight for the last ten years, Woody Allen has still been an intriguing figure both in the world of film and comedy. The audiobook details his beginnings as a comedic writer for the New Yorker and his initial start as a stand-up comedian. Listeners learn about his early influences both in his personal life and in movies contrasted next to his own problems and neuroses while growing up. What’s impressive about Woody Allen is that he developed skills in a variety of positions in the entertainment industry. He developed talent as a comedian but also as a screenwriter, director and actor, often using his comedic talent to influence whatever new project he found. This audiobook also gives keen insight to many of his archetypical characters and the true life people behind the movies and comedic caricatures.

To truly appreciate this biography, it takes three steps. 1. Watch the movies that Allen has been involved in, whether it is writing, directing, acting, etc. 2. Listen to the biography. 3. Watch the movies again. Otherwise, you cannot fully understand or follow the comments and references that the author mentions. Another reason to do this is that you will clearly see, in spite of seeing a therapist for several decades, Allen’s truest form of therapy and venting was in movies.

Mary Woods does a decent job of narration. While she provides the necessary straight voice for this biography, where she really lacks is with the punch lines. Spread throughout the book are quotes, comments, and jokes from Allen’s friends, families, co-workers, and even his films. The author wonderfully integrates these remarks at the most appropriate spot. Many lines from the films are straight from Allen’s mouth and Woods reads these as straightforward as the rest of the text, often flattening the would-be jokes.

This audiobook can be quite aggressive in its depiction of Woody Allen. Meade unhesitatingly reveals Woody’s borderline-perverted obsession with his children Dylan and Satchel. But Meade does give a thorough biography that spends as much time on his accomplishments and his better qualities as she does on the more “unruly” aspects of his life. This biography rolls at a great pace and keeps listeners attention for the full 15 hours of its production.

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