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

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 14 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

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

15 July 1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Identity Crisis and Its Relationship to Personality Disorder  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Gross:

$11,800,000 (USA)
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Company Credits

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

To create authenticity, the production used actual lenses, cameras and sound equipment from the 1920s, and used the exact same lighting that would have been done. In addition, 'Gordon Willis' took the exposed negatives to the shower, and stomped on them. See more »

Goofs

The speaking person in his 60s in one of the modern interviews in the film is subtitled as "Former SS-Obergruppenführer Oswald Pohl". If the interviews were conducted in the early 1980s, the person is evidently too young; the real Pohl was born in June 1892, so he would have been in his late 80s/early 90s at the time - of course if he had not been hanged for war crimes in 1951. See more »

Quotes

Leonard Zelig: I'm 12 years old. I run into a Synagogue. I ask the Rabbi the meaning of life. He tells me the meaning of life... But, he tells it to me in Hebrew. I don't understand Hebrew. Then he wants to charge me six hundred dollars for Hebrew lessons.
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Connections

Referenced in Bending All the Rules (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

I Love My Baby, My Baby Loves Me
(1925)
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Bud Green
Performed by The Charleston City All Stars
Courtesy of MCA Records
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User Reviews

 
Woody Allen's most underrated film? Most likely
17 May 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

...as well as among the better half of his filmography. It does drag a bit and the earlier parts occasionally ramble too much, but Zelig is still a truly great film. Technically Zelig looks fabulous, one of his better-looking and most interesting early films along with Manhattan and The Purple Rose of Cairo. And it's actually more interesting in this regard than either of those films, because among Allen's films it's his most unique and ground-breaking. As far as I can recall, none of Allen's other films use the technique of inserting a character(in this case Leonard Zelig) into existing footage like newsreels and archive photos, and so cleverly. Well, What's Up Tiger Lily? had a dubbed over commentary over an existing mystery film but with mixed results and that's not really the same thing. The music suits the period brilliantly and gives the sense that you are there, it's great-sounding and memorable too. The screenplay is among Allen's cleverest, it's laugh-out-loud funny but also very poignant with the romantic parts really sweetly done. It's also very intelligent and has a lot to say on the issues that it deals with. The characters are not as neurotic as in some of Allen's other films, though they are unmistakably Woody Allen. They feel real, and I did find myself relating to Zelig in his struggles and desire to fit in(that was exactly the case with me in school), the characters' relationships and chemistry were more than believable. The story is heartfelt, funny and makes great use of his mockumentary style, there are some rambling moments but not to an interminable degree. Allen directs thoughtfully as ever, and he gives a great performance that is among his most physical, energetic and relatable. Mia Farrow also gives one of her most sympathetic performances, and is touching in doing so. In conclusion, a great film that deserves more attention, despite the high rating and reviews holding it in great esteem elsewhere people talk about Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanours and Manhattan as well as more recent stuff like Midnight in Paris and Match Point but Zelig is rarely talked about and that's a shame because people are missing out on Woody Allen at his most unique. 9/10 Bethany Cox


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