Woody Allen: Portraits of the Neurotic as a Young Man

Dec 01, 2014

When LIFE magazine profiled Woody Allen (born Allan Stewart Konigsberg) in April 1967, the 31-year-old writer, actor, director and hugely popular stand-up comedian was already a formidable — if utterly insecure and neurotic — creative force. In the article, writer Paul O'Neil discussed just a few of the Bronx-born, Brooklyn-raised filmmaker's achievements:

He is bursting into pubic view today through every possible medium of expression. His successful Broadway farce, "Don't Drink the Water," is the most recent of his dramatic accomplishments. He is the author of two movies (in both of which he also appears): the noisy, big-money "What's New, Pussy Cat?" and an odd, re-dubbed Japanese spy film, "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" He plays two parts (James Bond's nephew Little Jimmy Bond and the villain, Noah), in Charles Feldman's cinematic spoof of Ian Fleming's "Casino Royale." He has been the most frequent of guests on television's "Tonight Show" and last month he again filled in as its master of ceremonies when Johnny Carson was away. He writes humorous essays for the New Yorker and is considered a kind of LSD-Era-All-American-Boy by both Playboy and Esquire, which compete with each other in publishing his picture and are happy to give their readers any smallest fragment of his prose.

Five decades later, Woody Allen — now 79 years old and still working nonstop — remains one of the few major American filmmakers of any age who writes and directs, like clockwork, a feature-length motion picture each and every year. He's had his clunkers (the flabby, overrated — albeit highly profitable — Midnight in Paris, the unwatchable Anything Else and quite a few others), but he's also created some of the most celebrated American movies of all time: Take the Money and Run, Sleeper, Annie Hall, Manhattan, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose and more. He's won Oscars, BAFTAs, Golden Globes and festival awards. He's written a dozen plays and best-sellers. (Without Feathers is, quite simply, one of the finest collections of humorous short stories ever published. Period.) And he plays a mean jazz clarinet.

It hasn't all been unalloyed success, though, and Woody Allen is not unfamiliar with scandal: his marriage to his much younger, one-time stepdaughter ("stepdaughter" in fact, if not in law) Soon-Yi Previn shocked an awful lot of his fans and is still fodder for crude jokes. And yet, according to many of those who know the them, in private Allen and Previn are exactly what they appear to be when they're out in public: a devoted, happily married husband and wife.

And then, of course, there are his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow's explosive claims that Allen molested her when she was a child — claims, it should be noted, that Allen has long adamantly denied.

Here, on his 79th birthday (b. Dec. 1, 1935), LIFE.com looks back at a period in Woody Allen's life in the late 1960s when, already a star, he was hitting his stride as a filmmaker and a pop-culture force to be reckoned with.

Ben Cosgrove is the Editor of LIFE.com

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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