Annie Hall (1977): Woody Allen’s Oscar-Winning Comedy (One of Three Best Films), Starring Diane Keaton

Woody¬†Allen’s Oscar-winning comedy “Annie Hall,” arguably his first masterpiece, stands as one of the greatest films about male-female relationships in Hollywood’s history

“Annie Hall” chronicles the doomed romance of Alvy Singer (Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), detailing with great humor their incompatibilities. The great critic Andrew Sarris called Alvy and Annie the “Romeo and Juliet of the analysands.” Alvy and Annie are in fact the Adam and Eve of the Me Decade.

In 1977, “Annie Hall” expressed viewers’ feelings about relationships perfectly, by questioning the value of traditional relationships in the face of changing lifestyles. As Diane Keaton later commented: “Some people have come up to me and said, there’s so much of what we feel in Annie Hall. It’s about relationships now, and what it’s like for us. I mean, obviously, there’s been a change (in society at large).

There are many more people who are single and not actually ready to get married. Women who are 30 and not ready and not knowing if they want to get married and who are still finding out about themselves. “Beyond the plentiful jokes in the film, viewers are left with Allen’s candid and bittersweet assessment of human relationships in modern society. There was a large audience in America ready to see such an assessment.

Time magazine reported that, “Annie Hall addicts have been returning to theaters three and four times.” Interest in the romance of Alvy and Annie was so strong that the Sunset Boulevard health-food restaurant where they split up became a popular stop for Hollywood tour buses.

One of the film’s most talked-about scenes during its initial run shows Alvy and Annie on a split screen talking to their respective shrinks. The subject of conversation in both cases is the frequency with which the couple has sex. Alvy complains, “Hardly ever, maybe three times a week.” Annie, on the other hand, is frustrated that they make love “All the time, at least three times a week.”

To represent the male view of things, through the character of Alvy, Allen updated the familiar stock character of the “little man” who is at bay in a complex world. In a way, Alvy Singer was like a Charlie Brown grown up.

The role of Alvy Singer became synonymous with Americans’ perceptions of Woody Allen’s persona–both on screen and off.

Memorable Lines

At the end, Alvy, realizing that the relationship is doomed, ¬†tells Annie: “A relationship is like a shark–it has to move forward or it dies. What we’ve got here is a dead shark.”

Allen based the character of Annie Hall loosely on Keaton–“Annie” is a nickname of hers, and “Hall” is her original surname. Keaton’s mannerisms and her self-deprecating humor were added into the role. Keaton herself has said that Allen wrote the character as an “idealized version” of herself.

Her acting was summed up by CNN as “awkward, self-deprecating, speaking in endearing little whirlwinds of semi-logic.”

In 2006, Premiere magazine ranked Keaton in Annie Hall as the 60th on its list of the “100 Greatest Performances of All Time.”

It’s hard to play ditzy. … The genius of Annie is that despite her loopy backhand, awful driving, and nervous tics, she’s also a complicated, intelligent woman. Keaton brilliantly displays this dichotomy of her character, especially when she yammers away on a first date with Alvy (Woody Allen), while the subtitle reads, ‘He probably thinks I’m a yoyo.’ Yo-yo? Hardly.

Fashion Icon

Keaton’s eccentric wardrobe in Annie Hall–vintage men’s clothing, including neckties, vests, baggy pants, and fedora hats–made her a fashion icon. Some of her clothes came from Keaton herself, who was already known for her tomboyish style. Ruth Morley designed the movie’s costumes, taking Keaton’s style into consideration. After the film’s release, men’s clothing and pantsuits became popular attire for women.

Douglas Kirkland’s photo of Keaton appeared on the cover Time magazine, September 26, 1977, with the story dubbing her “the funniest woman now working in films.”

Oscar Nominations: 5
Picture, produced by Charles Joffe
Director: Woody Allen
Screenplay (Original): Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman
Actress: Diane Keaton
Actor: Woody Allen

Oscar Awards: 4

Picture
Director
Screenplay
Actress

Oscar Context

Though he didn’t attend the Oscar telecast, Woody Allen became something of a national hero when the film won four Academy Awards.

These included the Oscars for best picture, best director, and best screenplay. Diane Keaton also won the best actress award for her role. Woody Allen was nominated for best actor, but did not win; the winner was Richard Dreyfuss for the Neil Simon’s comedy, “The Goodbye Girl.”

The Best Picture competition in 1977 was rather weak: “Annie Hall” vied for the top award with theatrical comedy “The Goodbye Girl,” Zinnemann’s period melodrama “Julia,” George Lucas’s sci-fi blockbuster “Star Wars,” and Herbert Ross ballet drama “The Turning Point.”

Praise for Annie Hall was almost universal: The comedy had previously won the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the Golden Globe awards.

Cast

Alvy Singer (Woody Allen)

Annie Hall (Diane Keaton)

Rob (Tony Roberts)

Robin (Janet Margolin)

Pam (Shelley Duvall)

Tony Lacey (Paul Simon)

Mom Hall (Colleen Dewhurst)

Dad Hall (Donald Symington)

Duane Hall (Christopher Walken)

Running Time: 93 Minutes

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