Woody Allen

Love him or despise him, Woody Allen is an American-Jewish filmmaking legend.

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The specifically Jewish dimensions to Allen's work in the period leading up to Annie Hall were few and usually covert. He made his official directorial debut with Take the Money and Run (1969), which featured him as an incompetent criminal. Filmic parody and the schlemiel persona again dominated the film, which also incorpo­rated a handful of ethnic gags. In this, his first film as writer-director-star, Allen began to focus upon his Jewish background and, as would often be the case in his later films, the images pre­sented are disturbing. In particular, he gratuitously uses the image of a rabbi for broad humor. For example, as a prisoner, he ingests an experimental drug that has side effects that turn himinto a rabbi--visually, a Hasidic rabbi.

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David Desser is the director of cinema studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and former editor of Cinema Journal.