Scott's World -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By VERNON SCOTT, United Press International   |   May 8, 2002 at 11:19 AM
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HOLLYWOOD, May 7 (UPI) -- May could well be named Woody Allen Month in Tinseltown ... celebrating his new 90-minute documentary and movie, plus the fallout from his first Academy Award appearance.

While much as the male population might cringe, there is a bit of Woody in most men:

Self-consciousness, self-doubt, timidity overcome by hubris, lust for beautiful women, denial of vulnerability and pipe-dreams.

Like Charlie Chaplin before him, Allen is Everyman in a small, almost insignificant package with waif-like insecurities.

Whereas Chaplin's comedy on film was largely physical, Allen's is both physical and cerebral.

They share a common plotz when it comes to their private lives.

Romances, marriages and the vicissitudes of domesticity led them both to the brink of derangement and financial ruin.

Chaplin eventually settled down with Oona O'Neill, and Allen seems to have found his haven in his current wife, Soon-Yi, Mia Farrow's adopted child.

Farrow is his embittered former lover and co-star on whom he exercised the ultimate revenge for her many demeaning charges by making her his mother-in-law, that most abominable foil in American comedy.

Among other things Chaplin and Allen rate with the funniest men in the history of the planet.

Like Pagliacci, the tearful clown, both men have the capacity to make people laugh while their own emotions are in turmoil.

Allen, who has led an almost cloistered private life, emerged from his shell this spring to reveal Woody Allen the man, as opposed to his genius as writer/actor/director.

His neuroses are legendary and, as he discloses somewhat in the new documentary, "Woody Allen: A Life in Film."

Unlike Chaplin, Allen seems compelled in this film to unburden himself of his demons, the very elements of his life that have driven him to creating the ultimate Jewish New York nebbish.

Chaplin wrapped himself in a shroud of urbanity, as does Allen to a lesser degree, but Woody's tenacity as a resident of Manhattan also enforces his image as a little guy overwhelmed by masses of humanity that instill in him a sense of gloom and doom.

Allen's terminal paranoia can be found in all his screen characterizations, producing sympathy and understanding for millions of people who see some part of themselves in this creepy little guy with the big nose, glasses and nervous twitches and tics.

Woody's proclivity for beautiful young leading ladies is apparent in "Hollywood Ending." This time around his screen ladylove is Tea Leoni.

Chaplin's little tramp, too, was successful with pretty girls who chose him over more handsome studs.

Chaplin, like Allen, also was successful off-screen with desirable young women as well as those he cast in his movies.

But what better way to lure a cutie into your romantic orbit than cast her in one of your movies. That's Pursuing Beauties 101 in the producers handbook of seducing sweet young things.

It's formulaic: get them in your picture, and you'll get them in the sack.

How else could a man of Allen's limited sex appeal wind up with girlfriends like Farrow, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, Louise Lasser and numerous others.

Chaplin finally retired to his native England after the United States government kicked him out over legal problems involving his immigrant status, communist causes and moral turpitude involving young ladies.

Allen, on the other hand, continues to be productive in his movie career.

At 67 he is still making his own films wherein much younger women throw themselves at him.

Years ago he concluded, "Human Beings are divided into mind and body. The mind embraces all the nobler aspirations, like poetry and metaphysics, but the body has all the fun."

Clearly that is a cornerstone of Allen's metaphysics.

If nothing else, Allen always has been more quotable than Chaplin.

He is oppressed by the idea of death, saying: "I'm not afraid of dying ... I just don't want to be there when it happens."

At another time he announced, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve it by not dying."

Still, Allen must take some solace in the fact that decades from now his movies will be appreciated by generations yet unborn, just as young people today find Chaplin's antics delightful almost 30 years after his death.

Neither man, it seems, is victimized by sentiment.

Chaplin rarely spoke of his body of work and became reclusive in his declining years.

Allen is only a smidgen more outgoing than Chaplin, whose work he admires.

Asked how he felt about the dozens of movies he's made during his long career, Allen replied:

"I do the movies just for myself like an institutionalized person who basket-weaves. Busy fingers are happy fingers.

"I don't care about the films. I don't care if they're flushed down the toilet after I die."

That makes Woody a minority of one.

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