The Unruly Life of Woody Allen: A Biography

Marion Meade, Author Scribner Book Company $26 (384p) ISBN 978-0-684-83374-3
In the second Allen bio in as many months, novelist and biographer Meade (Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?) provides a psychologically nuanced, tough-minded portrait of the filmmaker that's a good counterpoint to John Baxter's exhaustive coverage of Allen's oeuvre in Woody Allen: A Biography (Forecasts, Nov. 15). While Meade certainly doesn't slight Allen's work, she has a better feel than the Paris-based Baxter for Allen's milieu, including the role of New York film critics, and uses a broader mix of sources to reconstruct it. (Allen refused to cooperate.) Accenting her agile narrative with pertinent shtick from his films, she presents Rashomon-like observations from friends and enemies about Allen's loyalty and ethics. Once Allen's affair with Soon-Yi Previn was made public, even sympathetic interviewers--like 60 Minutes's Steve Kroft--related to the author that Allen was oblivious to the impropriety of a relationship with his wife's adopted daughter. Meade's lengthy account of the child custody battle between Allen and Farrow will remind readers that the judge considered him a terrible father, perhaps even an abuser. When it comes to Allen's work, Meade admires films like Crimes and Misdemeanors and lets caustic critics of works like Stardust Memories have their say. Though she recognizes that ""the ubiquitous Greek chorus"" of film critics still debate Allen's legacy, and that the filmmaker has indeed endured his scandals, Meade's pointed citation of Allen's ongoing rancor toward both his first wife and Farrow is what lingers in the reader's mind. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-8154-1149-9
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