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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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10 Things You Might Not Know About Steve Martin
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Is there anything Steve Martin can't do? In addition to being one of the world's most beloved comedians and actors, he's also a writer, a musician, a magician, and an art enthusiast. And he's about to put a number of these talents on display with Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a new comedy special that just arrived on Netflix. To commemorate the occasion, here are 10 things you might not have known about Steve Martin.

1. HE WAS A CHEERLEADER.

As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.

2. HIS FIRST JOB WAS AT DISNEYLAND.

Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just two miles away from his house. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.

3. HE OWES HIS WRITING JOB WITH THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO AN EX-GIRLFRIEND.

Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with Bob Einstein—better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.

4. HE WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE DATING GAME.

While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game. (Spoiler alert: He wins. But did you have any doubt?)

5. MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS A SERIES REGULAR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the 1970s and '80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't. 

6. HIS FATHER WROTE A REVIEW OF HIS FIRST SNL APPEARANCE.

After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. He also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”

7. HE POPULARIZED THE AIR QUOTE.

If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.

8. HE QUIT STAND-UP COMEDY IN THE EARLY 1980S.

Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”

9. HE'S A MAJOR ART COLLECTOR.

As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.

10. HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED BLUEGRASS PERFORMER.

Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he’s an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As seen above, they make delightful videos.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Tina Fey
Jenny Anderson, Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions
Jenny Anderson, Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Tina Fey has transformed modern comedy more than just about anyone else. From the main stage of Second City to the writer’s room of SNL to extremely fetch comedy blockbusters, Elizabeth Stamatina Fey has built a national stage with a dry, eye-popping sarcasm and political satire where no one is safe. She has a slew of Emmys, Golden Globes, SAG, PGA, and WGA awards to prove it—plus a recent Tony nomination (her first). But, more importantly, she’s the closest thing we have to a national comic laureate.

Here are 10 facts about a fantastically blorft American icon.

1. SHE DID A BOOK REPORT ON COMEDY WHEN SHE WAS 11.

Fey got a very early start in comedy, watching a lot of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Newhart, and Norman Lear shows as a kid. Her father and mother sneaked her in to see Young Frankenstein and would let her stay up late to watch The Honeymooners. So it’s no surprise that she chose comedy as the subject of a middle school project. The only book she could get her hands on was Joe Franklin’s Encyclopedia of Comedians, but at least she made a friend. "I remember me and one other girl in my 8th grade class got to do an independent study because we finished the regular material early, and she chose to do hers on communism, and I chose to do mine on comedy," Fey told The A.V. Club. "We kept bumping into each other at the card catalog."

2. THE SCAR ON HER FACE CAME FROM A BIZARRE ATTACK THAT OCCURRED WHEN SHE WAS A CHILD.

Fey’s facial scar had been recognizable but unexplained for years until a profile in Vanity Fair revealed that the mark on her left cheek came from being slashed by a strange man when she was five years old. “She just thought somebody marked her with a pen,” her husband Jeff Richmond said. Fey wrote in Bossypants that it happened in an alleyway behind her Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, home when she was in kindergarten.

3. HER FIRST TV APPEARANCE WAS IN A BANK COMMERCIAL.

Saturday Night Live hired Fey as a writer in 1997. In 1995 she had the slightly more glamorous job of pitching Mutual Savings Bank with a radical floral applique vest and a handful of puns on the word “Hi.” In a bit of life imitating art, just as Liz Lemon’s 1-900-OKFACE commercial was unearthed and mocked on 30 Rock, the internet discovered Fey’s stint awkwardly cheering on high interest rates a few years ago and had a lot to say about her '90s hair.

4. SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO BE NAMED HEAD WRITER OF SNL.

Four years after that commercial and two after she joined Saturday Night Live’s writing staff, Fey earned a promotion to head writer. Up until that point, the head writers were named Michael, Herb, Bob, Jim, Steve. You get the picture. She acted as head writer for six seasons until moving on to write and executive produce 30 Rock. Since her departure, two more women (Paula Pell and Sara Schneider) have been head writers for the iconic show.

5. SHE’S THE YOUNGEST MARK TWAIN PRIZE WINNER.

Established in 1998, the Kennedy Center’s hilarious honor has mostly been awarded to funny people in the twilight of their careers. Richard Pryor was the first recipient, and comedians who made their marks decades prior like Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, and George Carlin followed. Fey earned the award in 2010 when she was 40 years old, and the age of her successors (Carol Burnett, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, David Letterman ...) signals that she may hold the title of youngest recipient for some time.

6. SHE WROTE SATIRE FOR HER HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER.

Fey was an outstanding student who was involved in choir, drama, and tennis, and co-edited the school’s newspaper, The Acorn. She also wrote a satirical column addressing “school policy and teachers” under the pun-tastic pseudonym “The Colonel.” Fey also recalled getting in trouble because she tried to make a pun on the phrase “annals of history.” Cheeky.

7. SHE MADE HER RAP DEBUT WITH CHILDISH GAMBINO ON "REAL ESTATE."

Donald Glover (a.k.a. Childish Gambino) first gained notice as a member of Derrick Comedy in college, and Fey hired him at the age of 23 to write for 30 Rock. Before jumping from that show to Community, Glover put out his first mixtape under his stage name. After releasing his debut album, Camp, in 2011, Gambino dropped a sixth mixtape called Royalty that featured Fey rapping on a song called “Real Estate.” “My president is black, and my Prius is blue!"

8. SHE VOICED PRINCESSES IN A BELOVED PINBALL GAME.

Between the bank commercial and Saturday Night Live, Fey has an intriguing credit on her resume: the arcade pinball machine “Medieval Madness.” Most of the game’s Arthurian dialogue was written by Second City members Scott Adsit (Pete Hornberger on 30 Rock) and Kevin Dorff, who pulled in fellow Second City castmate Fey to voice for an “Opera Singer” princess, Cockney-speaking princesses, and a character with a southern drawl. (You can hear some of the outtakes here.)

9. SHE USED MEAN GIRLS TO PUSH BACK AGAINST STEREOTYPES OF WOMEN IN MATH.

Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan in 'Mean Girls' (2004)
Paramount Home Entertainment

There’s a ton of interesting trivia about Mean Girls, Fey’s first foray into feature film screenwriting. She bid on the rights to Rosalind Wiseman’s book that inspired the movie without realizing it didn’t have a plot. She initially wrote a large part for herself but kept whittling it down to focus on the teenagers, and her first draft was “for sure R-rated.” Fey also chose to play a math teacher to fight prejudice. “It was an attempt on my part to counteract the stereotype that girls can’t do math. Even though I did not understand a word I was saying.” Fey used a friend’s calculus teacher boyfriend’s lesson plans in the script.

10. SHE SET UP A SCHOLARSHIP IN HER FATHER’S NAME TO HELP VETERANS.

Fey’s father Donald was a Korean War veteran who also studied journalism at Temple University. When he died in 2015, Fey and her brother Peter founded a memorial scholarship in his name that seeks to aid veterans who want to study journalism at Temple.

"He was really inspiring," Fey said. "A lot of kids grow up with dreams of doing those things and their parents are fearful and want them to get a law degree and have things to fall back on, but he and our mom always encouraged us to pursue whatever truly interested us." Fey also supports Autism Speaks, Mercy Corps, Love Our Children USA, and other charities.

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