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American Master

In a PBS documentary debuting this weekend, comedy guru Robert Weide examines the life and work of Woody Allen, film’s iconic nebbishy New York Jew

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Woody Allen in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex, 1972.(MGM/Woody Allen: A Documentary)
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A 2006 Woody Allen film festival in Manhattan screened more than 30 of the New York master’s movies. One writer tried to go to every one of them.

It was 1982, and Robert Weide was 22 years old, when he first approached Woody Allen about profiling the comic in a documentary. Weide, a fan of comedy legends since his childhood, had already made The Marx Brothers in a Nutshell, an acclaimed film about Groucho and his brothers, but Allen politely turned him down. Instead, the filmmaker turned his focus to Mort Sahl, about whom he made 1989’s Mort Sahl: The Loyal Opposition, and Lenny Bruce, subject of his Emmy- and Oscar-nominated 1998 film, Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth. Then he helped Larry David create Curb Your Enthusiasm, for which he served as executive producer for five seasons. When he approached Allen again, in 2008, the answer was yes.

The result is Woody Allen: A Documentary, a three-hour, two-part film for which Allen granted Weide extensive access to his life. It premieres Sunday night on PBS, as part of the “American Masters” series.

Weide joined Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss why he makes films about comedians, how Allen directs his films, and what made Woody finally say OK. [Running time: 18:51.] 

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American Master

In a PBS documentary debuting this weekend, comedy guru Robert Weide examines the life and work of Woody Allen, film’s iconic nebbishy New York Jew

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