"Deconstructing Harry" and "Annie Hall": Woody Allen's latest film used discarded idea from his 1977 release

From: David P. Hayes
Newsgroups: alt.fan.woody-allen, rec.arts.movies.current-films, rec.arts.movies.past-films
Date: Thursday, December 18, 1997 5:48 PM

Woody Allen's new film "Deconstructing Harry" contains a segment in which Woody visits Hell, wherein he takes an elevator through the multiple levels. This is an idea that Allen had originally intended to presented to moviegoers no later than "Annie Hall" (1977). A comparison of the scene in "Deconstructing Harry" and the script of "Annie Hall" reveals what Allen kept and changed after all those years.

First, here's a summary of the what's said to be on the different floors of Hell as depicted in "Deconstructing Harry." This scene joins the elevator ride at the fifth floor. The descriptions for levels six and seven are exact quotations taken from film's coming-attractions trailer (viewable at FineLine's web site: http://www.flf.com/harry/html/videos.htm)

The descriptions for floors five and eight are taken from my memory of the film, which I've seen just once. These descriptions are not thorough, and may be positioned to the wrong floor or in incorrect order within the proper floor.

Floor 5: book critics, the N.R.A.

"Floor 6. Right wing extremists, serial killers, lawyers who appear on television"

"Floor 7: The Media. Sorry, that floor is all filled up."

Floor 8: Television evangelists

Floor 9: (unspecified inhabitants. Woody gets out)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For "Annie Hall" the script had contained a segment wherein a street elevator takes Alvy (Woody), Annie (Diane Keaton) and Rob (Tony Roberts) down through Hell, escorted by the Devil.

Here is what Woody Allen and co-scripter Marshall Brickman envisioned as the nine layers at the time of that writing:

"Layer 1: People who make money off religion, bad surgeons, and people who say 'right on'"

"Layer 2: The military, oil companies, and gossip columnists"

"Layer 3: The National Rifle Association"

"Layer 4: People who act cute, homicidal maniacs, and advertising men"

"Layer 5: Organized crime, fascist dictators, and people who don't appreciate oral sex"

"Layer 6: Guys who walk in the streets playing loud portable radios, bad interior decorators, and disc jockeys"

"Layer 7: FBI informers, CIA assassins, and fast food chains"

"Layer 8: Prison guards, people who try to be funny with waiters, and the guy who invented double knits"

"Layer 9: Politicians, torturers, and contemporary architects"

The Citadel Press book "Woody Allen: His Films and Careers" contains a still photo of this scene. The caption states that the elevator takes the three on an unusual journey, but not that the scene had been cut from the release version! Nor does the book's text make any mention of this.

The script for "Annie Hall" has it that Richard Nixon would get on the elevator at the sixth or seventh floor (the script doesn't make it clear which) and ask to see Joseph McCarthy. Nixon would exit on the lowest (ninth) layer.

In "Deconstructing Harry," it would be Woody's character who left the elevator on the ninth floor.

Another idea carried over from the earlier script was the appearance in Hell of a disparaged inventor. In "Annie Hall," it was the originator of "double knits;" in "Deconstructing Harry," he is the inventor of aluminum siding (He introduces himself after the elevator has let off its passengers).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There are other instances of Woody later using ideas that did not make the final cut of "Annie Hall."

In the script for "Annie Hall," after Tony Roberts has picked up Woody from the Los Angeles jail and they have talked, there was scripted for Woody's return to New York:

"Romantic entering New York view, music, perhaps Gershwin."

Gershwin wasn't used in "Annie Hall," but two years later, for "Manhattan," the opening would be a series of affectionate shots of New York City, accompanied by "Rhapsody in Blue."

Likewise, the joke about the woman who finally had an orgasm but then learned it was the wrong kind, was in the "Annie Hall" screenplay but did not appear on screen until "Manhattan."

--
David Hayes

 

Return to Table of Contents

Go to next article