By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com April 3, 2012 at 10:00AM
Despite fierce competition from sci-fi blockbuster "Star Wars" and fellow romantic comedy "The Goodbye Girl," Woody Allen's masterpiece "Annie Hall" walked away with Best Picture at the 50th Academy Awards, which were held on this day thirty-four years ago. And that's not all: Allen won Best Director and, alongside co-writer Marshall Brickman, Original Screenplay (although he lost Best Actor to Richard Dreyfuss), while Diane Keaton picked up Best Actress for the title role. One could argue that no out-and-out comedy has been so honored since (arguments could be made for "Shakespeare in Love" and "The Artist," but they're both as much drama as comedy).
With the anniversary in mind, we thought today was a good opportunity to shed light on a stone-cold classic. Below, you'll find five relatively obscure facts about "Annie Hall," and if that leaves you wanting more, you can read part one and part two of our complete retrospective from last year.
1. The Film Was Nearly Called 'Anxiety'
Famously, of course, the film shot under the title "Anhedonia" (which means a fear of happiness), but the film took a long time to settle on its eventual title. Co-writer Marshall Brickman joked in editor Ralph Rosenblum's book "When The Shooting Stops" that possibilities included "It Had To Be Jew," "A Rollercoaster Named Desire" and "Me And My Goy," but in reality Allen flirted with "Anxiety" and "Alvy And Me" before settling on "Annie Hall." That name, of course, was inspired by Diane Keaton -- the actress's real name is Diane Hall, and her nickname? Annie.
Again, it's well known that the film began as a sprawling monster, with early drafts of the script featuring a murder-mystery subplot that later resurfaced in Allen's "Manhattan Murder Mystery." Even the initial cut of "Anhedonia" -- described as closer to "8 1/2" than the finished version -- ran at two-and-a-half-hours long. Sadly, it's unlikely that the original cut will ever see the light of day, with Allen telling Premiere years ago that, "All that stuff is probably non-existent. I probably destroyed that twenty years ago...We keep stuff from the last current couple of films and as they become three and four down the line we throw the stuff away." But curiously, some of this deleted material can be glimpsed in the film's promotional lobby cards, several of which feature stills from scenes not in the final cut, as in the one on the left and a few below.
3. Allen Couldn't Convince Fellini Or Bunuel To Appear, But Did Get Truman Capote
These days, Allen's able to rustle up virtually any celebrity he likes to act in his films, but before "Annie Hall," it wasn't so easy. Marshall McLuhan's "You know nothing of my work" scene is one of the film's funniest gags (watch it below), but McLuhan was by no means the director's first choice: ever the cineaste, he'd approached both Federico Fellini and Luis Buñuel first, who both turned him down. One person that he did manage to bag however was author Truman Capote, although he's hiding in plain sight: when Alvy and Annie are in the park together and Alvy jokes "there's the winner of the Truman Capote Look-A-Like Contest" -- the man he's pointing out is Capote himself.
One of the things that's made the film a resonant classic is the way in which Allen plays around with form -- breaking the fourth wall, adding subtitles, split screens etc. One of the more notable elements is the animated sequence, in which cartoon versions of Alvy and Annie (dressed as the wicked queen from Snow White) are voiced by Allen and Keaton. And the design of Alvy is borrowed from comic artist Stuart Hample, who in 1975 approached Allen to write a newspaper comic strip based around the comedian. "Inside Woody Allen," penned by Hample and technologist David Weinberger among others, and based on material by Allen who had approval over the strip, debuted on October 4th, 1976, just over six months before "Annie Hall" hit theaters. The strip ran for eight years.
5. Allen Has Flirted With The Idea Of A Sequel
Across his forty-odd year career, Allen has never made a sequel to one of his films, but if one were to emerge, "Annie Hall," his most beloved film, would surely be the top contender. The director told Peter Biskind in Vanity Fair that he was approached "all the time" about the possibility, and admitted in the book "Woody Allen On Woody Allen" that, "I did think once that it would be interesting to see Annie Hall and the guy I played years later. Diane Keaton and I could meet now that we're about twenty years older, and it could be interesting, because we parted, to meet one day and see what our lives have become." But ultimately, the idea was never more than that, Allen being resistant to the idea of selling out: "It smacks to me of exploitation. Sequelism has become an annoying thing. I don't think Francis Coppola should have done 'Godfather Part III' because 'Godfather Part II' was quite great. when they make a sequel, it's just a thirst for more money, so I don't like that idea so much."