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15 Things You Might Not Know About Annie Hall

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Woody Allen won his first two Oscars (for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay) for 1977's Annie Hall, which changed the rules of the romantic comedy. But not everyone was a fan of this groundbreaking Best Picture—including Allen himself. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, here are a few things you may not know about its behind-the-scenes story.

1. ALLEN’S ORIGINAL IDEA FOR THE MOVIE WAS ENTIRELY DIFFERENT.

Although Annie Hall is now heralded as one of the most influential and inventive romantic comedies of all time, director and co-writer Woody Allen’s original mission was not to make a relationship picture. Allen and his writing partner, Marshall Brickman, instead conceived of the story as a general exploration of the main character’s life and psyche, which was to to be filled with romantic, mysterious, and fantastical subplots in equal parts.

The project, reflecting protagonist Alvy Singer’s persistent malaise, was first titled Anhedonia, a somewhat archaic psychiatric term referring to the inability to feel joy. The first cut of the movie ran about 140 minutes—almost 50 minutes longer than the final version.

2. EARLY DRAFTS CONTAINED A SLEW OF FANTASY ELEMENTS.

Included among the original script’s fantasy scenes and dream sequences were Alvy and Annie’s time-hopping visits to the Garden of Eden, the French Resistance, and Nazi Germany, parodies of the films Angel on My Shoulder and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a guided tour of Hell (featuring Richard Nixon), and a basketball game between the New York Knicks and philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard.

3. ONE DISCARDED SUBPLOT FROM ANNIE HALL BECAME ANOTHER MOVIE.

The Annie Hall scene following Alvy and Annie’s last-minute decision to skip out on the Ingmar Bergman film Face to Face was initially meant to kick off a sequence in which the pair witnesses and investigates a murder. The story would later be recycled as the premise of 1993's Manhattan Murder Mystery, which again stars Allen and Keaton as a romantic couple.

4. THE STUDIO HIRED AN AD AGENCY TO MAKE ALLEN’S TITLE MORE MARKETABLE.

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United Artists, the distributor of Allen’s four previous films (Bananas, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask, Sleeper, and Love and Death) recognized the inherent difficulty in marketing a film called Anhedonia. In an effort to make Allen’s desired title more palatable, the studio hired an advertising agency to fill local newspapers throughout the country with headlines reading, “Anhedonia Strikes __________!” (filling in the blank with the name of the city in which the ad would publish). However, the million-dollar campaign was scrapped before execution, as United Artists successfully convinced Allen to change the film’s title.

5. ULTIMATELY, THE FILM WAS NAMED AFTER ITS LEAD ACTRESS.

After a few regrettable title suggestions from Brickman (A Rollercoaster Named Desire, It Had to Be Jew, and Me and My Goy) and a couple of somewhat bland options by Allen (Anxiety and Alvy and Me), the movie wound up inheriting the name of its heroine: Annie Hall, a character named after the actress who portrayed her. Diane Keaton’s birth name was Diane Hall, and she went by “Annie.”

6. ALLEN HATED ONE SCENE SO MUCH HE THREW IT INTO THE EAST RIVER.

Although Allen grieved the loss of most of the material that didn’t make it to the screen, there was one sequence he was glad to be rid of: A late-in-film fantasy bit in which a sentient traffic light convinces Alvy to fly across country and win Annie back. Allen thought the scene was so disgustingly cutesy that he allegedly tossed the prints into New York City’s East River.

7. ANNIE HALL’S COSTUME DESIGNER ALMOST COST AMERICA A FASHION TREND.

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The “Annie Hall look” became a tremendous fashion craze following the release of the film, as women in the late 1970s began to mimic the character’s appropriation of “menswear” (bowler hats, coats and blazers, baggy pants, and neckties) as newly feminine garments.

Keaton herself supplied most of Annie’s wardrobe—the actress ordinarily dressed this way. According to Allen, Annie Hall’s costume designer Ruth Morley reportedly attempted to deter the actress from such unorthodox attire, deeming the look “crazy,” but ultimately lost that battle.

8. THE FILM EMPLOYS A VERY LOW-TECH VERSION OF SPLIT SCREEN.

Annie Hall is celebrated for its innovative utilization of split screen—specifically in one scene in which both Alvy and Annie are meeting with their respective shrinks—but the process behind the device was particularly "old fashioned" (almost pre-technological). Cinematographer Gordon Willis actually set up a thin wall between adjacent sets to shoot both halves of the divided scene in tandem.

9. ALLEN’S COCAINE-INDUCED SNEEZE WAS THE REAL THING.

One of the biggest laughs in early screenings of Annie Hall came upon watching Alvy’s voluminous sneeze spread a container of cocaine around the living room of his flustered friends. It’s tough to imagine a better way of capping such a sequence, but in fact the moment was born on set: The sneeze was real and unexpected, and stayed in the movie thanks to test audiences’ resultant delight.

10. ANNIE HALL’S SCENES WERE MORE THAN TWICE AS LONG AS THE AVERAGE 1977 FILM’S.

Generally speaking, a film’s average scene length is directly related to the complexity of the material it showcases—longer scenes allow for more intricate conversations and greater opportunities for cinematic experimentation. Critic David Bordwell, who highlighted Allen’s work in a 2002 study pertaining to the scene length of Hollywood movies, determined Annie Hall’s average scene to run for approximately 14 seconds, between two and three-and-a-half times as long as that of the typical 1977 movie (estimated as somewhere in between four and seven seconds).

11. THE “TRUMAN CAPOTE LOOKALIKE” IS TRUMAN CAPOTE.

A memorable scene in the film observes a crowd of Manhattan passersby as Alvy and Annie trade quiet jabs at the strangers’ expense. Alvy deems the final subject in this lot, “The winner of the Truman Capote lookalike contest.” The man in question is actually the Breakfast at Tiffany’s author himself.

12. THE FILM HAS A STRANGE CONNECTION WITH ANOTHER 1977 MOVIE.

Annie Hall is recognized as a launch pad for the careers of several then-unknown actors who’d go on to enjoy prosperous careers in Hollywood. Christopher Walken (as Annie’s disturbed brother Duane), Jeff Goldblum (as a Los Angeles partier who forgets his spiritual mantra), and Beverly D’Angelo (as an actress in the canned laughter sitcom starring Alvy’s friend Rob) all played pre-fame supporting parts in the film. Coincidentally, all three of these actors also appeared in the Brooklyn-set horror movie The Sentinel, which was released in American theaters three months before Annie Hall.

13. ALLEN CAME UP WITH THE ENDING IN A CAB ON THE WAY TO PREVIEW THE FILM.

As Annie Hall had changed so much between its conception and production, Allen and Brickman had trouble coming up with an appropriate ending. The pair struggled with this dilemma all the way up through the earliest preview runs of the movie, at which point they had settled on an emotionally unfulfilling “downer ending” that closed on an awkward post-breakup encounter between Alvy and Annie. During a cab ride to one of these previews, Allen had an epiphany: He scribbled down a few notes that quickly blossomed into Alvy’s beloved “We need the eggs” speech that closes the film.

14. ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION, ANNIE HALL IS ALLEN’S HIGHEST GROSSING MOVIE BY FAR.

In 1977, Annie Hall made $38,251,425 at the box office, which makes it the director’s fourth highest grossing film (behind Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Midnight in Paris). Adjusted for inflation, Annie Hall’s ticket sales equate to a whopping $139.3 million in 2015 dollars, passing his next best adjusted-for-inflation picture, Manhattan, by more than $10 million. (And more than doubling Midnight in Paris’ $57.7 million take.)

15. ALLEN DOESN’T LIKE ANNIE HALL.

Despite its four Academy Awards—for Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and Actress—and cultural legacy, Annie Hall has yet to win over Allen. The director insists that the film is merely a shell of his grander original vision. "In the end, I had to reduce the film to just me and Diane Keaton and that relationship," he once noted. "So I was quite disappointed in the end of that movie, as I was with other films of mine that were very popular." He’s also not particularly fond of his 1979 film Manhattan. (And yet, somehow, he’s never outwardly decried Scoop…)

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23 Things David Letterman Invented for Our Amusement
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Mike Coppola/Getty Images

This week, nearly three years after bidding farewell to Late Night, David Letterman is making his triumphant return to the small screen via Netflix with My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman (where he'll interview two people who need no introduction: Barack Obama and George Clooney). If the series is anything like Letterman's career thus far, you can expect plenty of innovation.

Here are 23 recurring bits, features, and moments that the former Indiana weatherman (and his writers) invented for our amusement.

1. THE SHORT, NON-TOPICAL MONOLOGUE

Carson Productions, as in Johnny Carson’s production company, co-produced Late Night with David Letterman, and as the upcoming lead-out programming for The Tonight Show, it was important to Carson’s people that Letterman not copy Carson. Letterman’s people were told that among other things, they couldn’t have a sidekick sitting next to the host like Ed McMahon, a band with horns like Doc Severinsen’s, or a monologue. So instead, Letterman opened his show by standing in front of the audience and viewers at home with “opening remarks,” a monologue consisting of just one or two jokes with weird imagery, like tattoos melting in warm weather.

2. POST-INTERVIEW INTERVIEWS

On February 3, 1982—his third-ever broadcast—Late Night conducted two interviews with baseball hall-of-famer Hank Aaron: One was a standard talk show back-and-forth between host and guest. The other occurred after that conversation ended, where NBC Sports reporter Al Albert (son of Marv Albert) asked Aaron how he felt his last few minutes with Letterman went, with the idea that it was the equivalent of a post-game interview.

3. STUPID PET TRICKS

“Stupid Pet Tricks” began on Letterman’s short-lived but Emmy-winning morning show, and was a consistently popular segment on both Late Night and The Late Show. The idea came from original head writer Merrill Markoe, who "remembered how in college my friends and I would be hanging around in the evenings, talking, and drinking. One form of constant entertainment was to put socks on this one dog. Everyone I knew did some version of a silly thing like that with their pets, so we ran an ad to see if we could pull a segment together like that."

4. WORLD’S LARGEST VASE CONTESTS

After questioning people who claimed to have the “world’s largest vase” over the phone in what New York Magazine described as a “longish” segment, the vase was brought into the studio and displayed on Late Night from May 30 through June 2, 1983. On its third night, a 35-inch radio transmitting tower was added to the case when it was discovered that it was shorter than one in Canada. On its final night of national exhibition, Letterman read alleged letters from children addressed to the Vase, and the vase “spoke” to wish for peace for mankind.

5. CATCHPHRASE CONTESTS

Two on-air catchphrase contests, which aired a little over a month apart in the summer of 1984, gave lucky studio audiences the power to make “They pelted us with rocks and garbage” the first rallying cry, before it was displaced by "I do and do and do for you kids, and this is the thanks I get!"

6. A CAMERA FROM THE HOST'S P.O.V.

The February 15, 1982 installment of Late Night began with one continuous five minute and 17 second take through Letterman’s P.O.V. called “Dave Cam.” Cameos included that night’s guest Andy Rooney, Merrill Markoe, and Calvert DeForest, who played Larry “Bud” Melman on Late Night, as “Bert the Human Caboose.”

7. A CAMERA FROM THE GUEST’S P.O.V.

Letterman favorite Tom Hanks was the first wearer of the “Late Night Guest-Cam.” Hanks was on the show the night of December 12, 1985 to promote The Money Pit, which was initially supposed to debut the next day, but would be delayed until the following March. “The Late Night Sky-Cam” makes a cameo.

8. A CAMERA FROM A MONKEY’S P.O.V.

After a false start with a 30-year-old chimp named Bo, who was too small to handle the camera, “Monkey Cam” got its start on March 19, 1986. Zippy, who was on the cover of The Ramones' Animal Boy album, would return on roller skates with the “Late Night Monkey Cam Mobile Unit.”

9. PURPOSELY FUNNY TOP 10 LISTS

The very first Top Ten—“The Top Ten Things That Almost Rhyme With Peas"—aired on September 18, 1985, as a satire of the random lists publications like Good Housekeeping were starting to produce at the time. Credit for who thought up the idea for Late Night is disputed; over the years, head writer Steve O’Donnell, former head writer and longtime SNL scribe Jim Downey, Late Night writer Randy Cohen, and producer Robert Morton have all gotten some or all of the credit. Top Ten made it to the end of Late Show’s run, even though the writers were already tiring of it by the February 6, 1986 show, which had the Top Ten list “Top Ten Reasons to Continue the Top Ten Lists Just a Little Longer.”

10. WEARING SUITS OF VELCRO, ALKA-SELTZER, MAGNETS, SPONGES, SUET, AND FOODS

On February 28, 1984, Letterman slipped into a “Suit of Velcro” and ushered in an era of strange outfits including a magnet get-up, which Letterman wore to attach himself to a huge GE fridge. Lowering himself into a 1000-gallon tank of water, Letterman’s suit of Alka-Seltzer fizzed and vaporized. There were also suits of suet, marshmallows, chips, and Rice Krispies, the latter of which made David “snap, crackle, and pop” in a large tub of milk. An influence was Steve Allen, the original host of The Tonight Show, who threw himself into Jell-O vats on television. Allen’s “Man on the Street” interviews were also something Letterman took to new levels of absurdity.

11. HOSTING A SHOW ABOARD AN AIRPLANE

Late Night’s fourth anniversary was celebrated onboard a flight from New York City to Miami.

12. AN EPISODE THAT ROTATES 360 DEGREES

Writers Randy Cohen and Kevin Curran came up with the unique way to celebrate the 800th episode of Late Night. NBC received “several hundred” phone calls about the December 9, 1986 show from viewers complaining that it was giving them headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Carson Productions executives were apparently not informed of the stunt beforehand and were reportedly “furious.”

13. FEUDING WITH BRYANT GUMBEL

After Letterman interrupted an August 19, 1985 broadcast of Today co-hosted by Bryant Gumbel, Gumbel called out the Late Night host for being “unprofessional” and didn’t publicly forgive him for four years. (Letterman claimed it was a Today producer who invited him to pull the stunt.)

14. FEUDING WITH OPRAH WINFREY

In the 16 years between Oprah's 1989 appearance on Late Night and her December 1, 2005 Late Show interview, rumors swirled about a feud between Winfrey and Letterman. The reasons why—and even if—there was a “feud” at all remain unclear.

15. CO-HOSTING AN EPISODE WITH A CORNY MORNING SHOW THEME

On February 27, 1985, Letterman shared hosting duties with “Tawny Harper Reynolds,” with guests Michael Palin, a Pet Psychic, and an exercise segment with Carol Channing.

16. AN HOUR-LONG PARODY OF 1970s PRIMETIME VARIETY SHOWS

“Dave Letterman's Summertime Sunshine Happy Hour” graced the NBC airwaves on the night of August 29, 1985. Early in his TV career, Letterman wrote and was a part of the cast of The Starland Vocal Band Show.

17. AN HOUR-LONG PARODY OF CHRISTMAS SPECIALS

December 19, 1984’s "Christmas With the Lettermans," featuring Pat Boone, won Late Night a 1985 Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Music or Comedy Program.

18. "CUSTOM-MADE" SHOWS

On November 15, 1983, Late Night relinquished control of the show to the audience, giving them a choice on everything from the furniture to the theme song. On March 27, 1984’s version, the show opened with the theme to Bonanza, the announcer was the New York Lieutenant Governor, and Jane Pauley was interviewed in a dentist's chair.

19. DUBBING A RERUN FROM ENGLISH TO ENGLISH

When the February 17, 1986 episode re-aired on September 25th of that year, 250 confused viewers called the network. After 60 hours and four professional dubbers, everyone on the episode (Raquel Welch was the main guest) magically had different voices. Even Letterman's voice was dubbed (by Speed Racer's Peter Fernandez).

20. 4 A.M. SHOWS

May 14, 2004’s Late Show was taped at four in the morning, on purpose. Amy Sedaris, rat expert Robert Sullivan, and Modest Mouse were the guests. Letterman rode a horse, Sedaris gave an unsafe late night tour of her neighborhood, and Modest Mouse played in their pajamas.

21. DEDICATING MOST OF AN EPISODE TO A DECEASED COMEDIAN AND HIS FAMILY

Letterman invited Bill Hicks’s mother, Mary, to appear on the January 30, 2009 episode to apologize face-to-face for not airing Hicks’s controversial October 1, 1993, stand-up performance. In February of 1994, Hicks passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 32. After talking to Mary, Letterman finally presented Bill’s set.

22. DEDICATING AN ENTIRE EPISODE TO A COMEDY HERO

On the first new Late Show after Johnny Carson's passing, Letterman's monologue was filled with jokes that the retired Carson had anonymously submitted to David over the years. Long-time The Tonight Show executive producer Peter Lassally and bandleader Doc Severinsen were that night's only guests.

23. THE ‘WILL IT FLOAT?’ GAME

The first installment of “Will It Float?” was on February 6, 2002. A brick of Velveeta cheese sank. Dave got it right, whereas Paul got it wrong.

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15 Fun Facts About When Harry Met Sally
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Nora Ephron's most beloved romantic comedy opened in theaters more than 25 years ago. We'll (still) have what she's having.

1. HARRY AND SALLY WERE MODELED AFTER DIRECTOR ROB REINER AND SCREENWRITER NORA EPHRON—EXCEPT FOR THE FALLING IN LOVE PART.

Rob Reiner divorced fellow director Penny Marshall in 1981 after 10 years of marriage. When he met with Nora Ephron in the mid-1980s, he pitched a number of ideas for movies, including a comedy based on his dating experiences. Ephron agreed to write it after extensively interviewing Reiner. The two had many discussions about how men and women view sex, love, and relationships differently.

2. THOSE SWEET "HOW WE MET" INTERLUDES THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE ARE REAL LOVE STORIES.

Reiner interviewed elderly couples about how they fell in love in preparation for the movie. He hired actors to re-tell their stories on the big screen.

3. NORA EPHRON HATED THE TITLE.


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It was extremely difficult for Ephron to settle on a title for her screenplay. She tried several, including Boy Meets Girl, How They Met, and Harry, This Is Sally. Reiner eventually turned the naming process into a contest among the crew members. Whoever picked the title would win a case of champagne. We don't know who came up with When Harry Met Sally, but let's hope he or she shared all that bubbly.

4. IN THE SCRIPT'S FIRST DRAFT, HARRY AND SALLY DIDN'T END UP TOGETHER.

Ephron felt that was the most realistic ending, but hey, this is the movies!

5. REINER ALSO FELL IN LOVE BY THE END OF THE MOVIE.


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During filming, Reiner was introduced to photographer Michelle Singer by the film's director of photography. The two married in 1989, the same year When Harry Met Sally came out. Reiner has said that finding his own happy ending helped make one for Harry and Sally more believable.

6. BILLY CRYSTAL AND MEG RYAN WEREN'T THE FIRST CHOICES FOR HARRY AND SALLY.


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Albert Brooks turned down the role of Harry, because he thought the movie was too reminiscent of Woody Allen. (Brooks also turned down the lead role in Big and Pretty Woman. D'oh!) Rob Reiner initially wanted Susan Dey of the TV show L.A. Law to play Sally. He also considered Elizabeth Perkins from Big and Elizabeth McGovern from Ordinary People. John Hughes movie queen Molly Ringwald was nearly cast, but declined due to a scheduling conflict.

7. MOLLY RINGWALD DID EVENTUALLY PLAY SALLY ALBRIGHT, THOUGH.

In 2004, the popular film was adapted into an unpopular stage play on London's West End. Luke Perry (yes, really) and Alyson Hannigan from How I Met Your Mother played Harry and Sally in its first run and were later replaced by Michael Landes from Final Destination 2 and Molly Ringwald.

8. MEG RYAN SORT OF PAVED THE WAY FOR JULIA ROBERTS.


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Ryan's first leading role would've been as Shelby in Steel Magnolias, but she turned down the part to play Sally instead. Another up-and-coming actress named Julia Roberts took her place and later starred in Pretty Woman—another part Meg Ryan turned down.

9. BILLY CRYSTAL AND ROB REINER HAVE BEEN GOOD FRIENDS SINCE 1975.


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Reiner and Crystal met when they played best friends on All in the Family. Many conversations between Harry and his best male friend Jess, played by Bruno Kirby, were inspired by the friendship between Crystal and Reiner. So were the scenes in which Harry and Sally watch the same movie from different apartments. Bromance, anyone?

Meanwhile, Carrie Fisher, who plays Sally's best female friend Marie, was BFFs with Reiner's ex-wife Penny Marshall. Hmmm, wonder if that ever got awkward...

10. THE SPLIT-SCREEN SCENES ARE AN IRONIC HOMAGE TO 1959'S PILLOW TALK.

At the time Pillow Talk was made, the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, set moral guidelines for all the films released by major studios. Movies weren't allowed to show a couple in bed (or bath or beyond) together, or any sort of sexual relationship between unmarried partners. (The code was abandoned in 1968.) Harry and Sally were kept apart to show how close they were as "just friends.

11. REINER'S MOTHER, ESTELLE, HAD ONE LINE—AND IT WAS PROBABLY THE MOVIE'S MOST MEMORABLE.

She's the older woman who says, "I'll have what she's having" at Katz's Delicatessen. The American Film Institute ranked it #33 in its list of the top 100 movie quotations. The famous line wasn't in the original script. Crystal suggested it after he and Ryan improvised the entire scene. The two were originally supposed to discuss "faking it" without an actual demonstration.

12. KATZ'S IS PROUD OF ITS FAMOUS SCENE.

This sign appears above the table where it was shot:

13. CRYSTAL IMPROVISED THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE.

Watch closely at 0:29; Ryan laughs out of character and looks at Reiner off-camera. The director decided to keep the scene.

Crystal also improvised much of the scene when he admits he loves Sally, including the line, "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." Swoon.

14. THE REAL-LIFE BOOKSTORE WHERE HARRY AND SALLY MEET FOR THE THIRD TIME INSPIRED ANOTHER EPHRON MOVIE.

Harry and Sally finally become friends when they spot each other at Shakespeare and Co. on Broadway and 79th. When the store closed after a Barnes & Noble opened on the Upper West Side, Ephron was inspired to write a romantic comedy around the David and Goliath struggle between local stores and large national chains. You've Got Mail came out in 1998, nearly a decade after when Harry Met Sally.

15. NO ONE EXPECTED WHEN HARRY MET SALLY TO BE A HIT.

The film was up against the summer blockbusters Batman, Ghostbusters II, Licence to Kill, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. When Harry Met Sally opened in just 41 theaters on July 12, grossing $1 million. It opened nationwide July 21. And the rest is romantic comedy history.

Additional Source: DVD Commentary by Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner

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