To attempt to completely recount the amazing career of Woody Allen - even just as a film director - in this space would be impossible. The man has directed over forty films. Add to that the fact that he wrote all of those films as well as more than ten others and appeared in all of those as well as countless others and we see that this is a man whose career could, in fact, span volumes and never fit in the space allotted a small article on the web.
The Small Screen
Woody Allen started his career as a comedian and writer for television, a medium that he is known to strongly dislike. Still, everyone starts somewhere and Allen started out working with the likes of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks writing for Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows in the fifties. The Colgate Comedy Hour, Caesar's Hour, and The Gary Moore Show were also served by his witty pen before he finally wrote his first original screenplay, 1965's What's New, Pussycat?, which starred Peter Sellers and which he also appeared in. The rest, as they say, is cinematic history.
What's Up, Tiger Lilly?
Allen's directorial debut was a stroke of comic genius that has never been duplicated to this day. In an unprecedented move he took a Japanese action film International Secret Police: Key of Keys and re-dubbed it. Instead of a cheesy story about international espionage on the highest levels, the film was now all about a top-secret recipe for egg salad. It could be argued that 1965's What's Up, Tiger Lilly led to later comic attempts like Mad Movies and Mystery Science Theater 3000. Allen started here and never looked back.
The 1970's: Woody Allen's Golden Days
Allen wrote, directed, and starred in a number of films in the sixties, but saw his true heyday in the seventies with films like Bananas, Play it Again, Sam, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask, and the absolutely hilarious Sleeper. The success of these early films worked against him somewhat in the latter part of the decade as films like Manhattan and the Oscar-winning Annie Hall took a more serio-comic approach and people wondered what happened to the "earlier, funnier" Woody Allen.
The 1980's & 1990's Hits and Misses
The eighties and nineties saw Woody Allen have a string of films, some well received and others, well, not so much. For Allen fans films like Broadway Danny Rose and A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy are absolute classics or, at least, contain everything you'd want from a Woody Allen film. 1983 saw what some argue may have been Allen's greatest film to date, Zelig, a "mockumentary" about a "human chameleon" named Leonard Zelig who, seeking social acceptance, would literally morph into the type of people he happened to be surrounded by at any given time. The film was painstakingly crafted to appear to be pieced together from footage and newsreels of the 1920's. Surprisingly it was ignored by the Academy Awards save nominations for cinematography and costume design.
Allen continues writing and directing to this day and continues to receive mixed receptions for his movies from critics and audiences alike. Recent films have included Small Time Crooks (2000), Sweet and Lowdown, (1999) Anything Else (2004), and the upcoming 2006 effort Scoop.