Take the Money and Run
Some actors and directors are so talented that their first film is remarkable. Orson Welles exploded on the scene with Citizen Kane. Edward Norton was nominated for an Oscar in Primal Fear. Michael Moore caused a sensation with Roger and Me. Woody Allen is another member of this group. If you are screaming at the screen that this wasn't his first film, I mean it is the first film he wrote and directed.
Before the Soon-Yi scandal, where it was revealed that he was having a relationship with and later married the adopted daughter of his long time girlfriend Mia Farrow, Allen was considered one of America's premier filmmakers. He still is highly respected, but the scandal and subsequent media coverage have marred a brilliant career. However, back in 1969, Allen burst on the scene and made his mark in Hollywood with a wacky, wild comedy about a pitiful lifelong criminal.
In the psuedo-documentary Take the Money and Run, Allen plays Virgil Starkwell, a lifelong criminal with very bad luck. All of his life, Virgil has been picked on, ridiculed, pushed around and never taken seriously. He has been in and out of jail many times and never found true love. After being paroled for his latest heist, Virgil meets Louise (Janet Margolin), a beautiful laundry worker. Virgil tells Louise that he is a cello player in the philharmonic, but his cover is blown when he is arrested while trying to rob a bank.
Will Louise stay with Virgil? Can he ever reform?
The movie isn't heavy on plot. Like a great Charlie Chaplin silent movie, it is filled with plenty of silly sight gags, such as Virgil's parents giving interviews while wearing Groucho glasses, scenes of his childhood and attempts to escape from prison. The jokes come at a mile a minute and you have to watch closely or you will miss some of the funniest stuff. This isn't the type of movie you can read the paper while watching. It is symbolic of some of the wild comedy that was popular on television at the time like Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, but had its roots in the silent film and vaudeville era. Allen also shows some of his signature comedic themes of loneliness and inadequacy.
Woody Allen has a very endearing manner about him, which stands in stark contrast to the traditional Hollywood leading man. He has an awkward, shy, vulnerable way of trying to express himself, which, over the years, has become more neurotic. If you aren't a Woody Allen fan because of this extreme neuroticism, try watching this film to see why Allen is so highly respected.
Allen started his career as a stand up comedian and gag writer for newspaper columnists and television stars. He performed at various New York cafes, which led to many television talk show appearances and some essays for The New Yorker. Allen wrote two Broadway plays, Don't Drink the Water and Pay It Again, Sam, and also wrote three books. Finally, he got the chance to make movies and never looked back.
If you are looking for a silly, hilarious comedy this weekend, check out Take the Money and Run.
Directed by Woody Allen
Written by Woody Allen and Mickey Rose
Woody Allen Virgil Starkwell
Jackson Beck .. Narrator
Janet Margolin . Louise
Marcel Hilliarde ... Fritz
Jacquelyn Hyde Miss Blair
Lonny Chapman .. Jake
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