By Alan L. Chrisman
Like many men, I’ve long had a crush on Diane Keaton, especially since her defining role of Annie Hall in Woody Allen’s classic film of the same name in 1977. But even before that, she stood out in his previous films, Play It Again, Sam (’72) Sleeper (’73) and Love and Death (‘75).
The accomplished actress has also been a director, producer, and photographer and writer. She just released her 2nd memoir/ book, Let’s Just Say, It Wasn’t Pretty, after her previous one, Then Again.
I’ve always wondered though, how much she was really like her screen persona (or was she more of a Woody Allen-created character?). She says in her new book that Woody Allen made Diane Keaton, the actress (her real name was Diane Hall). He also had a relationship with her and its clear his Annie Hall film and character was partly based on their real relationship, which is why I think it rings so true still.
She made films and had relationships with Al Pacino (The Godfather ’72), Warren Beatty (Reds ’81) and Jack Nicholson (with whom she later made Something’s Gotta Give, 2003). But these men were at the time, certainly, not the settling-down type of guys. Although, as with Allen, who she says is still one of her best friends, she has remained good friends with them too.
But she has remained unmarried. A large part of “Pretty” is about her present life as a single mother with her two adopted teen-aged children, Dexter and Duke.
So what is she really like? She reveals in the book, she likes to buy and renovate houses (her dad was a real estate agent and engineer). Her mother was a homemaker and creative and inspired her to pursue an artistic profession. She has portraits on her wall of some of her favorite men’s faces: Abraham Lincoln, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Sam Shepard, (which may say something about her ideal of men, or perhaps, is reminiscent of her late father).
She’s 68 now and still wearing the thick belts, wide brimmed hats, etc. which she made fashionable in the 70’s. She has a new film And So It Goes out now with another “silver fox”, as she calls him, Michael Douglas. She’s resisted plastic surgery as so many other actresses her age haven’t; she says young people mix her up with everyone from Jane Fonda to Katy Perry!
In the book she even quotes some of the funny dialogue from two of my other favorite Woody Allen films with Keaton in them, Sleeper and Love and Death. There’s a scene in Sleeper, set in the future, where they’ve escaping from the bad guys and they’re hungry so Woody (Miles) finds these giant vegetables and fruit growing and he drags this gigantic banana for them to munch on, and Keaton (Luna), playing a spoiled woman of the future, says is that the best you can do? In Love and Death, Russian Sonja (Keaton) wants to get Boris (Allen) to join in a plot to assassinate Napoleon; he just wants to have sex with her and says he might not be up to a performance, although he wouldn’t mind “rehearsing”. In Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex, Allen playing a jester, finds a wife wearing a metal chastity belt and tries to break through it at her crotch using a large lance, as he says something like, “Yes, I shall try and openeth thy box with thy trusty shaft”. In all these, Allen shows the lengths men (sometimes foolishly) will go for a beautiful woman like Keaton. In Annie Hall, one of its many great scenes, is when Allen and Keaton are in a park just observing people go by and Woody asks people what makes relationships work- everyone has a different answer. Soon they see a super-handsome couple, like out a Hollywood poster, and the couple says,” We’re both superficial and shallow”. Allen, when at his best, has no equal when it comes to expressing both the pain and joy in relationships and yet making us laugh, hilariously, at the same time.
Is Diane Keaton really like Annie Hall? From her books and interviews on late night TV shows, she sure seems to be a lot like her-that same unique, quirky, but lovable character of a woman. It’s easy to see why Allen and so many others of we men have fallen for her.
LA-DI-DA! Diane Keaton still has It!
I had my own sort of “Annie Hall” moments in a relationship. This is a short excerpt from my own recent memoir, “ It’s A Long Way Home”: CHAPTER 19: LADY IN RED pt. 2 (“Annie Hall”)
I had over the past two years, since I’d first noticed that “LADY IN RED” walking down the street, seen her around my neighborhood. A couple of times, I saw her with a cute little girl. I figured she must be a single mom. I was still very curious about her, but had been trying to make my marriage work. Finally, one day, when I was divorced and separated again, I saw her walk by my store. I just ran up to her on the street. I didn’t know what to say, so I mumbled, believing somewhat in astrology, the worst pick-up line, ”When’s your birthday?’ She replied, ”Why it’s tomorrow!” I had guessed someone’s sign again. I mentioned that I had a little record shop in the neighborhood and maybe she would like to drop by sometime (thinking I had probably blown it).
But the very next week, to my immense surprise, she did come in. And she was wonderful-very intelligent, warm, had a great laugh, and was beautiful (my ideal). We hit it off from the first time. She said her name was Anne and that she was a photographer. She continued coming in on a regular basis. We didn’t always agree, but she was always stimulating. I started buying her lunches from a take-out pita place next door when she would drop in, as well as our usual tea. It was good to have someone to treat once in a while. Like I said, she was full of surprises. It was nearing Christmas and I asked her what I could get her and she asked for a certain book.
I now called her Annie, the same as one of my favorite Woody Allen characters, played by Diane Keaton in “ANNIE HALL”.
But sometimes the pressures would build up and we’d argue over books, movies, music, anything, and she’d withdraw for a while. Once, early on, she hadn’t talked to me for several weeks. I saw her go by my store and next door to the pita place. I had been rehearsing a joke in case I did run into her, from a Woody Allen movie: “A man goes into a bar, and he notices a guy with carrots in his ears. The man asks the bartender, “Why?” The bartender says, “Why don’t you ask him when he comes in tomorrow at 5 p.m.?” Next evening, sure enough, the guy comes in, but this time the guy has bananas in his ears. So the man asks the guy, “Why the bananas in your ears?” The guy replies, ”Because I ran out of carrots”.
Woody Allen said that relationships are like that; they often don’t make any sense, but we need them. So I tell her the joke while she waits for her pita. And she laughs. It works! And she drops by my store right after and we talk.
Another time, she cuts off me for 6 months! It’s the worse winter in years; record snowfalls. She won’t even talk to me, but each pay check, I leave a little gift in her mailbox-a book, DVD movie, music, etc. Finally, one time I leave a note. She angrily calls me back and says never to leave a note again. But I asked her if I could still leave gifts, and she said, ”OK”. I knew she was keeping the door open a little. Soon after, I ran into her in a parking lot. I had changed cars, I didn’t think she recognized me, so I rolled down the window and said, ”You know you could call me sometime”. The next morning, she calls me and we discuss it very briefly. And she always did it this way; she puts the phone down and then calls right back. I ask her if she’d like to go for lunch. We meet and it’s soon forgotten and we’re back on track again. So it was never dull. People outside, even friends, can try to judge, but nobody can really understand anybody else’s relationships. Sometimes even the people inside them don’t even know how they work or don’t. The old carrot and banana joke again.
“Some drink deeply from the river of knowledge. Others only gargle”. Woody Allen.