In 1997, Mia Farrow released her autobiography. Named after a line in the 1953 Theodore Roethke poem, The Waking, What Falls Away vividly documents her topsy turvy life up to that point. Her mostly happy Catholic tomboy childhood, her scary bout with polio at age 9, her high-profile acting career, her misdiagnosed stomach ailment that had future repercussions, her remarkable parenting skills, her world travels and her famous friends & loves are all reviewed through a kaleidoscope of emotional memories, some of which are guilt-ridden.
By Chapter 8, Woody Allen enters the picture, thanks to a personal introduction from Farrow’s pal, Michael Caine.
With renewed interest in Allen’s past sexual misconduct this year, thanks to a devastatingly written testimonial from estranged daughter Dylan Farrow, here are the most interesting albeit forgotten revelations about the filmmaker almost 20 years after they were first published:
1. He hated Siskel & Ebert.
According to Farrow, Allen “reserved special contempt for film critics on television. ‘The Chicago morons’ was his label for one high-profile pair.” He was more concerned with what The New York Times thought of his work. He checked out their latest review “the minute it hit the stands.” Along with Farrow, he “had dinner with the major critics of Time and Newsweek.” But while working on set, “everyone around us knew not to mention reviews in our presence.”
2. He has a weird relationship with his sister.
Despite having “shared an unusually close childhood” and “help[ing] her financially” as an adult, Allen mostly interacts with his sibling on the phone and rarely in person. The reason? “He described her as ‘pushy,’ and as an example told me about her unwelcome and futile efforts to involve him with her children when they were younger.” Farrow says Allen and herself had exactly one meal with her in the twelve years they were a couple. Furthermore, he never allows her to visit him while he’s working on set, either.
3. He’s paranoid about his health.
Farrow notes, “…he had a doctor for every single part of his body. He carried around his doctors’ home numbers, he rushed to the doctor before a twinge could reach symptom status. If he felt the least bit unwell, he would take his temperature at ten-minute intervals. He kept his own thermometer at my apartment. In his pocket he carried a silver box full of pills for any conceivable ailment. Whenever one of his movies came out, he’d have a screening for his doctors and their wives. It was called ‘the doctors’ screening,’ and the room was always full.”
4. He’s fussy about the location of a shower drain.
To try to make him feel most comfortable in the family’s new summer home in Massachusetts, Farrow had “a fine tile shower built just for him” because he doesn’t take baths. But after taking his “white rubber shower mat (for germs)” with him to the bathroom he immediately returned disgruntled. (“The drain is in the middle.”) Why was this a problem? No reason was ever given. Amazingly, Farrow had a second bathroom installed “with a shower that had a drain in the corner”. (“It was called ‘Woody’s bathroom.'”) Allen never used it.
5. He barely made an effort to be a father to Moses.
According to Farrow, Allen went out of his way to limit the time he spent with the first child she adopted when they first started dating. “…he sometimes played chess with Moses, or basketball, or catch, but never for longer than five or ten minutes. Fifteen tops.” The reason? “He didn’t want to break a sweat, he said.” Plus, “he still wouldn’t take a shower at our house, not even with the new bathroom, and his own shower mat, and his special shower shoes.” He also hated his original name, Misha. He claimed it was a “wimp’s name”, so they changed it to Moses.
6. He has a nasty temper.
Farrow recounts the time Allen showed her where a famous right-wing intellectual resided as they went on one of their typical walks around Manhattan. Unfortunately, during a later traipse in the same East Side area, she forgot which house was his, so “I asked in passing whether a familiar-looking house might be William Buckley’s.” (It wasn’t.) Although she doesn’t quote Allen’s response, she notes that the angry “attack that followed…was more stunningly awful that I had ever weathered in my life, and it did not cease until I was sobbing on the sidewalk…”
Allen also freaked out when she “didn’t know the name of a certain kind of pasta”, when she was “off in my estimate of the weather by only four degrees; and when I asked about a dream he’d had the previous night, when he had mumbled the words ‘Dolly Parton.'” Insincere apologies always followed each incident. After a heart-to-heart, he even promised her “it would never happen again. Ever.” But the scary flip-outs continued.
When Farrow asked him if he would attend her son Fletcher’s sixth-grade graduation, he harshly responded, “I’ll have to think about whether you have any right to ask me that.” Needless to say, he was a no-show.
When she tried to address his smothering behaviour towards Dylan “he got so angry” that the subject was immediately dropped, a routine occurrence. His increasingly inappropriate conduct continued unabated despite Farrow’s growing anxieties. Allen’s frequently cruel comments towards his terrified girlfriend “made me feel stupid and worthless.”
He referred to her children as “little bastards”. He once “push[ed] Dylan’s face into a plate of hot spaghetti – an incident witnessed by most of our family.” He even threatened to do it again but thankfully, never did.
7. He’s a very controlling, manipulative boyfriend.
He would call Farrow “four or five times a day, minimum.” When they’d eat out, he picked the venue, their companions for the meal, when they would show up, what they would talk about, and when they would exit. He always paid the bill. In general, “[h]is opinions were the final word. And he could cut you quicker than you could open your mouth.” As a result, Farrow and the kids were very afraid of him.
One time when she was checking out of a hospital (following the birth of her son Satchel), Allen told her nurse the wheelchair Farrow was going to be using to “take her downstairs” was not needed. “I was all stooped over, and I couldn’t straighten up, my stomach hurt so much.” She ended up “cr[ying] all the way up First Avenue” in their car as she “begged the driver”, not Allen, to “go slow”.
8. He hated his parents.
Farrow writes that “every encounter” the couple had with them was “awkward” and “awful”. Whenever they would visit the elderly couple, “Woody would ring their doorbell and then cover the peephole. They always opened it anyway.” During their 30-minute stays, “he did not address them directly, or sit down or stop moving.” During one visit, Allen openly accused his mom of beating him every day he lived with her. A regretful Mrs. Konigsberg (Allen’s real last name) claims the filmmaker was a handful as a child and needed more discipline than his more agreeable sister. Allen then instructed his daughter Dylan to “[t]wist her nose off…She’s the wicked witch. Go on, twist it off.” Fortunately, his mom couldn’t make out what he was saying. She was hard of hearing.
9. He’s extremely dependent on his therapist.
“There were three of us in the relationship: Woody, his shrink and me. No decisions were ever made without her. He didn’t even buy sheets without talking to her. I know that part of several sessions went into his switch from polyester-satin to cotton.” At the time, according to Farrow, Allen had been seeking professional help “two or three times a week for about thirty years”. (He should demand a complete refund.)
After Farrow discovered his affair with Soon-Yi, she actually asked his shrink “for his help in protecting my family” to which she was informed, “it’s not a therapist’s job to moralize.” No wonder she’s so skeptical of psychoanalysis.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, March 19, 2014