Woody Allen rarely plays his cards so everyone can see them. But in this week’s New Yorker, Allen serves up a rare insight into his own personal slights. In “Will the Real Avatar Please Stand Up?” Woody dredges up his old feud with Warren Beatty.
In case you weren’t here in the early 1970s: Woody was with Diane Keaton, and lost her to Warren. The story is then told in 1977’s “Annie Hall” of how Alvy brings Annie to Hollywood and is trumped by the slimy Tony Lacey (played by Paul Simon) character.
There’s more: Warren then makes “Reds,” (1981) with all its “witnesses” in a documentary style. Woody retaliates by making “Zelig,” a sly parody of “Reds” and Warren that should have had “You’re So Vain” playing in the background. “Zelig” is full of–yes!–“witnesses” who parody Warren’s. Of course, “Zelig” is funnier than “Reds.”
And so in “Shouts and Murmurs,” Woody–after an unnecessary introduction that seems like it might have been added on by an editor–introduces us to movie star Bolt Upright. Like all of Woody’s New Yorker pieces, it is hilarious. Woody–maybe a first– appears as a female journalist assigned to interview Bolt. His nameless character is a 19 year old on her first assignment, determined not to sleep with the famous Casanova.
“Just to make sure his industrial-strength libido wouldn’t give him the wrong idea I was careful to dress conservatively, in an unprovocative micro-skirt, black mesh hose, and a tight but tasteful see-through blouse.”
You get the picture.
Bolt has just opened his new film, “Requiem for a Schnorrer” (I laughed out loud at that one). Woody notes that Bolt has total artistic freedom. Here comes a set up and a great punchline: “One Hollywood mogul said, ‘If this guy wants to burn the studio, I’ll give him the matches.’ Ironically, when he tried, they called Security.”
There’s more: Bolt has a gift of gold handcuffs from Margaret Thatcher on his coffee table. He’s so beautiful that his hair and make up people “have both been recipients of the Irving J. Thalberg humanitarian award.”
And there are inside joke-nasty asides: “I loved your film version of “Macbeth,” the reporter says to Warren. “Did you ever settle that business with the Guild over the writing credit?” (This is a reference to a long-forgotten issue with “Reds” over its source material, a book by Leslie Gelb.)
It would seem that Woody is still vexed by a Tall, Dark Stranger that was Warren Beatty some — yes, 40 years ago. Warren probably got a kick out of reading the New Yorker piece. And four decades later, Woody Allen brings his latest film, triumphantly, to Cannes. Diane Keaton is one of the few actresses of her generation making movies and getting awards. Everybody wins.