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Zelig (1983)

 -  Comedy | Fantasy  -  15 July 1983 (USA)
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 25,830 users  
Reviews: 99 user | 56 critic

"Documentary" about a man who can look and act like whoever he's around, and meets various famous people.

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Title: Zelig (1983)

Zelig (1983) on IMDb 7.8/10

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 8 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Patrick Horgan ...
The Narrator (voice)
John Buckwalter ...
Marvin Chatinover ...
Stanley Swerdlow ...
Paul Nevens ...
Howard Erskine ...
George Hamlin ...
Ralph Bell ...
Richard Whiting ...
Will Hussung ...
Other Doctor (as Will Hussong)
Robert Iglesia ...
Eli Resnick ...
Edward McPhillips ...
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Storyline

Fictional documentary about the life of human chameleon Leonard Zelig, a man who becomes a celebrity in the 1920s due to his ability to look and act like whoever is around him. Clever editing places Zelig in real newsreel footage of Woodrow Wilson, Babe Ruth, and others. Written by Scott Renshaw <as.idc@forsythe.stanford.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Fantasy

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

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Release Date:

15 July 1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Identity Crisis and Its Relationship to Personality Disorder  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Gross:

$11,800,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of a number of pictures which were filmed in black-and-white by director Woody Allen during his immediate post-Annie Hall (1977) period between the late 1970s and early-mid 1980s. The films include Manhattan (1979), Stardust Memories (1980), Zelig (1983) (also in color) and The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) (mostly in color but also in B&W). After that movie, Allen would then not make another b&w film for about another six years, until Shadows and Fog (1991) in 1991. See more »

Goofs

At one point, the narrator mentions that there is a photo of Leonard Zelig as Pagliacci. "Pagliacci" is the Italian plural for "clowns". The correct way to say it would be " a photo of Leonard Zelig as Pagliaccio", or "a photo of Leonard Zelig as Canio (the leading male character, who plays Pagliaccio in a play-within-the-play in the opera "Pagliacci".). See more »

Quotes

Zelig's Wife: He married me up at the First Church of Harlem. He told me he was the brother of Duke Ellington.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #26.181 (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

The Internationale
(1888) (uncredited)
Music by Pierre Degeyter
Variations in the score when unions are mentioned
See more »

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User Reviews

Terrific concept, great effects, lackluster final product.
4 June 2004 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

This movie looks and feels just like a real documentary. Real 1920's newsreel footage (into which Woody Allen has been seamlessly inserted) is impossible to tell from the faux-footage Mr. Allen filmed himself. Scenes from the fake 1935 movie telling the Leonard Zelig story, which are shown periodically throughout the film, not only look like a film of that era, but are written and acted as such as well. And interviews with real experts, on the fictional character of Zelig, complete the effect quite nicely. There can be no doubt that this movie looks terrific. But the problem lies in the content.

Leonard Zelig, the human chameleon, is a fascinating character. But someone besides Woody Allen should have played him. Mr. Allen is (or can be) a brilliant writer/director, but his range as an actor is limited. And so, though we see plenty of brilliantly done, authentic-looking footage, photos, etc. of Leonard Zelig blending in with his surroundings, we hardly ever see him interact in those surroundings. The pictures and clips of Woody Allen as a rabbi, a fat person, a Nazi, etc. are amusing, but they are not substantial. We are told that he is able, not only to look like those around him, but to converse like them to. But the only time we see him do this is when he's playing a psychiatrist: no stretch for Mr. Allen, who discusses psychoanalysis in many of his films (though usually from the recipient's point-of-view). And so the only time we actually hear from Zelig is when Dr. Eudora Fletcher puts him into a trance, at which time he has no personality of his own. It's a shame; he's such a fascinating character, but the only way we really know he's a fascinating character is because we are told so by others. In lieu of scenes that help us get to know the characters personally, we are given narration and talking heads. This is not the way to make any film, not even a documentary.

When it comes to Woody Allen mockumentaries, I much prefer Take the Money and Run. It's not as researched and authentic-looking as Zelig, but it's far funnier, and far more engaging.


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