Smashing through the Orthodoxy
Saxophonist George Coleman handed the world a clue to the WAQ when he said 'the only time he made me laugh was when he picked up a clarinet.' Clearly not talking about Allen Konigsburg.
For orthodox critics it is easy. The name on the scripts and the film credits is ‘Woody Allen’ therefore it must be the stand-up comedian and actor Allen Konigsburg who occasionally used ‘Woody Allen’ as a stage name who wrote them. Case closed. Nothing to see here. Move along. Yet for anyone with an open mind, the ‘Woody Allen’ authorship question is an area of fruitful study, which may yet illuminate some of the most baffling areas of recent history.
On the face of it; ‘Woody Allen’ wrote ‘Woody Allen’ seems a straightforward, even simplistic proposition. And yet…and yet there are a number of questions that Allenists resolutely ignore. For example;
1. Allenists have often pointed to supposed biographical similarities between the Canon and Allen Konigsburg himself, particularly in ‘Annie Hall’. These claims, however, have been resolutely destroyed by critic Julian Fox;
“We do know that [Diane Keaton and Allen] did not meet during a game of tennis but when Woosy auditioned Diane for the stage version of Sam. Diane does not hie from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin but from Los Angeles, and she did not move back to California after her break up with Woody, but remained in New York. Woody’s father did not have the job he has in the film, nor did the real-life Woody live as a boy under the shadow of the giant ‘Thunderbolt’ roller-coaster on Coney Island”.
2. The first script credited to ‘Woody Allen’ is ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ but it seems that matters are more complicated than this bold summary claims. The original star Warren Beaty has gone on record that “Woody couldn’t grasp what was funny about being a compulsive, successful Don Juan’ – indicating this supposed wunderkind’s difficulties with writing a single script. (Incidentally, no orthodox critic has ever commented on the reason for including a parody of Cyrano De Bergerac – the famous play about a greater writer using a front to hide his identity).
3. Desperate to shore up their hero’s credentials, Allenists have even begun ascribing works to him that don’t even bear his name – there have been claims that he contributed to the script of the 1967 version of Casino Royale. How do orthodox critics cope with the fact that these were denied by the man himself “I was responsible for only one scene in Casino Royale – the execution scene – and that I ad-libbed”. They just ignore it.
4. The Canon shows a wide range of knowledge ranging from politics, science and history to the works of Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Flaubert and Greek Tragedy. How could the notorious college drop-out Allen Konigsburg have gained this knowledge?
5. Secrecy over the scripts. During the filming of Shadows and Fog; Donald Pleasance commented that “I never read the script, nobody read the script. I think they were kept locked in Woody’s safe’. Actors such as Pleasance and Gene Wilder have also commented on how little Allen would discuss the script with them…could it be that this lack of discussion was because he knew so little about the script?
Before Nixon was positively identified many literary detectives favoured Reagan,
Never published in Reagan's lifetime, this is the only image of the former US President in his 'Allen' persona.
From this angle, the clear physical resemblance between Reagan and Allen is obvious.
The shadowy background figure clearly indicates that the picture has secrets to reveal.
Having totally demolished the idea of ‘Allen Konigsburg’ as Woody Allen, the question must turn to who was Woody Allen was? Various names have been put forward; Neil Simon, Paul Simon, Paul Mazursky etc, but none convince. The mystery will remain intact, however, take account of the following scene in Sleeper.
Scientist (on a picture of Richard Nixon): Some of us had a theory that he might once have been a president of the United States…but that he did something horrendous so that all records, everything was wiped out about him. There is nothing in history books. There are no pictures on stamps or money.
Miles Yes, that was Richard Nixon. He used to be President. When he left the White House, the Secret Service would count the silverware.
The ‘something horrendous’ is of course the break-in and wiretapping at Watergate, but here is the real enigma…it was not until July 1973 that Nixon’s role in the scandal became known…and the script for Sleeper was written in February 1973. So obviously ‘Woody Allen’ must have been someone within the higher echelons of government which has led some academics to identifying him as Mark Felt or Gordon Liddy. Yet there is nothing in the history of either of those two men, which would link them to the works. There is, however, one man who is the ideal candidate….Richard Nixon himself.
The story appears to be this; in 1965 the little known third rate hack comedian Allan Konigsburg was approached to do a cheap film ‘Lot’s Life’. However, writing even this lightweight entertainment proved too much for the hack, and in despair he secretly called up his old acquaintance Richard Nixon for help. Nixon was of course known as a striver who managed to rise from a humble background attend college and University where he was involved with many literary societies; a far cry from the middle class college drop out Allen. (Some people may question my assertion that Nixon and Allen were acquainted but consider this - Nixon made many appearances on the Rowan & Martin Laugh-In show, which also featured Goldie Hawn…who would appear in ‘Woody Allen’ films). Nixon of course helped out and with his characteristic modesty refused any screen credit. The film was a surprise hit leading to a dilemma as film companies came courting Allen Konigsburg who was forced to continue to rely on Richard Nixon’s comedy writing skills to keep up the façade.
So finally we can answer many of the questions that have always puzzled orthodox Allenists. Why the change from the ‘earlier funny movies’ up to 1973 to the seriousness of 1974 onwards? Obviously, because after his impeachment, Nixon found more time to reflect on what he was writing and imbue his work with mature themes that would be beyond a hack like Allen. 1974’s Love and Death for example, features a man pondering on how moral it is to commit a great crime. Indeed, references to Watergate are found all throughout the Canon. There are references to gaining advantages through eavesdropping in Alice and Everyone Says I Love and references to manipulating tapes in Manhatten Murder Mystery. Crimes and Misdeamours tells of a man who has just committed a great crime and escaped scot free (as Nixon did after being pardoned by Gerald Ford) and tells this story to a hack film-maker to turn into a film. Of course, it all becomes glaring obvious once we look at ‘Bullets Over Broadway’ in which the real author of the scripts of a wannabe writer-director turns out to be a crook.
In fact we can go through the Canon with a refreshed eye and note all the references to guilt and crime and finally get to understand the psyche of the man who may now be considered our greatest president. A far more interesting and rewarding tasks then simply stating that Allen Konigsburg wrote the scripts….because!