On this day, 77 years ago, American director and screenwriter Woody Allen was born in The Bronx, New York. Let’s take a look back at the life and beginnings of one of the most esteemed figures in the history of theater and filmmaking in this installment of Today in History!
Allan Stewart Konigsberg was born on December 1, 1935 in The Bronx, New York to Nettie and Martin Konigsberg. His younger sister, Letty, was born in 1943. Coming from an Ashkenazi Jewish family, their grandparents were immigrants from Russia and Austria. Growing up in Midwood, Brooklyn, his childhood was an unhappy one. He witnessed the strained relationship between his parents, and eventually, he had an uneasy relationship with his strict, irritable mother.
How Allan Stewart became “Woody Allen” is quite a story. To earn money during his teenage days, he wrote jokes or “gags” for agent David O. Alber, who sold them to newspaper columnists. He legally changed his name to Heywood Allen when he was 17, and it was during this time, that he began making a name for himself as the comedy writer Woody Allen.
Aside from enjoying a fruitful writing career in the early 1950s for television shows, Allen also found success in doing stand-up comedy, developing a comic persona of an “insecure, intellectual, fretful nebbish.”
In the 1960’s, Allen started venturing into a career as a playwright. He penned the plays Don’t Drink the Water and Play It Again, Sam in 1966 and 1969 respectively, both of which he later on made film adaptations. In 1981, he wrote The Floating Light Bulb, which opened on Broadway. Allen would eventually become more involved in filmmaking, but he would also continue making plays every now and then.
In 1965, Allen starred in his first movie, What’s New Pussycat, for which he also wrote the initial screenplay. A year later, he had his first directorial stint for What’s Up Tiger Lily, where Allen transformed a Japanese spy film into a comedy largely by overdubbing it with a different dialogue not related to the original film’s storyline.
The rest, they say, is history.
In celebration of Woody Allen’s birthday, here are some more related articles for you to read and learn more about his life and work: