Zelig (1983) Poster



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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.
In order to help create the look of genuine footage from the 1930s, DuArt, the lab that handled processing, called some of their experienced technicians (who were experienced with processing techniques of the 1930s) out of retirement.
In 2007, Italian psychologists discovered a rare form of brain damage which affects its victims much like Zelig's condition (without, of course, the accompanying physical transformations). Researcher Giovannina Conchiglia and associates have proposed the name "Zelig-like Syndrome" for the disorder, because of the parallels to the film.
Silent screen legend, Lillian Gish, was filmed for a scene in "Zelig". She scolded director of photography, Gordon Willis, on his lighting set-up and, while the crew watched aghast, gave Willis step by step instructions on how to re-light the scene. Willis complied. The scene did not make it into the final version of the film.
The archival film footage of F. Scott Fitzgerald seen in the picture is the only ever footage that is known to exist of Fitzgerald.
Like the ever-changing chameleon Zelig character, the film had an ever-changing title. The movie's working titles were "The Changing Man", "The Cat's Pajamas", "The Chameleon Man" and "Identity Crisis and Its Relationship to Personality Disorder" before finally the film was called "Zelig". "The Changing Man" title was still used for the picture as it became the name of a fictional film within this film.
The word "zelig" is a Yiddish word which translates as "blessed" or "dear departed soul".
Famous people seen in the film by way of archive footage include (in alphabetical order) Max Amann, Josephine Baker, Clara Bow, Fanny Brice, Wilhelm Brückner, James Cagney, Al Capone, Charlie Chaplin, Calvin Coolidge, Marion Davies, Sepp Dietrich, Joe DiMaggio, Marie Dressler, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lou Gehrig, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring, Harold 'Red' Grange, William Randolph Hearst, Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler, Bobby Jones, Robert Ley, Charles Lindbergh, Carole Lombard, Adolphe Menjou, Tom Mix, Pope Pius XI, Dolores del Río, Billy Rose, Babe Ruth, Julius Schaub, Gregor Strasser, Julius Streicher, Franz von Epp, Franz Pfeffer von Salomon, Jimmy Walker, and Claire Windsor.
The first cut ran only 45 minutes, so Woody Allen had to include more archive footage and shot some scenes to fill up the time (mostly public scenes with narration).
The house in the closing scene is the same house used as the location for A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982).
Second of thirteen cinema movie collaborations of actress Mia Farrow and actor-writer-director Woody Allen.
Cinematographer Gordon Willis has said of this film: ""There was a point when I thought we were never going to finish, a point when I thought I was going to go nuts. I have never worked so hard at making something difficult look so simple".
Because it took so long to match Woody Allen to the old newsreel footage, Allen managed to film and complete A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982) and Broadway Danny Rose (1984), in the time it took to complete this. He later claimed that there is no mechanical way to 'age' film, so they would either scrunch the negative up, or stomp on it.
Reportedly, apparently the film was actually based on a short-story by Woody Allen.
First of two Woody Allen films featuring actress Stephanie Farrow, sister of Mia Farrow. The second and final film was The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) around two years later.
The names of the six original songs heard in the film, which were about Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen), all of which had humorous titles and were all composed by Dick Hyman for the film, were "Reptile Eyes", "Chameleon Days", "Leonard the Lizard", "Doin' the Chameleon", "The Changing Man Concerto" and "You May Be Six People, But I Love You".
At the time Woody Allen's friend Dick Cavett was hosting a series of Time-Life historical specials for HBO in which a process was used to insert Cavett into archival footage. The process so intrigued Allen it became the impetus for making this film.
The last name Dr. Eudora Nesbitt Fletcher (Mia Farrow) was apparently named after one of Woody Allen school-teachers from his school days.
Woody Allen has said of this film: "To me, the technique was fine. I mean, it was fun to do, and it was a small accomplishment, but it was the content of the film that interested me".
Movie postersfor this film were notable for simply vertically positioning the film's title in six different typeface letterings on various black, white and multi-colored backgrounds.
Woody Allen originally wanted Greta Garbo to be one of the people interviewed.
Woody Allen)'s second "mockumentary" or "mock documentary" film, Allen's first having being Take the Money and Run (1969) which had been made and released around fourteen years earlier.
The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Costume Design and Best Cinematography, but the film failed to win Oscars in either category. The losses were ironically to Fanny and Alexander (1982), an Ingmar Bergman film, Allen being a big fan of his work, with many of his films having been influenced and inspired by Bergman's work.
Patrick Horgan replaced John Gielgud as the narrator. Gielgud had recorded the entire narration for the film, but Woody Allen decided to recast the role after hearing it because he thought Gielgud sounded "too grand" for the part.
Woody Allen's first ever No. #1 ranked picture on Variety's box-office chart.
Whilst this movie was being completed (it took along time to finish the film with its complex special effects), Woody Allen shot both Broadway Danny Rose (1984) and A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982).
The film was selected to screen in competition at the Venice Film Festival in 1983 where the picture won the Pasinetti Award for Best Film at the fest.
This theatrical feature film was originally intended to be a made-for-television movie.
The movie's modern day interviewing sequences in color were considered to be a parody of Warren Beatty's Reds (1981) which were similar in format and style.
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.
The name of the 1935 Warner Bros. film which was based on the life of Leonard Zelig was "The Changing Man". The movie, supposedly depicting the life of Zelig, is fictitious, and was never actually made. Like the story of Zelig, it is something totally invented by Woody Allen.
Around the time the movie was made and released, lead actors Woody Allen and Mia Farrow were in a personal relationship, which had started around 1980.
The twelfth feature film directed by Woody Allen.
Mae Questel, the voice of Betty Boop from 1931 to 1989, is the voice of Helen Kane singing "Chameleon Days". Questel later appeared in Woody Allen's "Oedipus Wrecks" segment in New York Stories (1989) around six years later.
The name of the medical drug used to treat Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen) was "Somadril Hydrate".
The name of the book (fictitious) by Professor John Morton Blum was "Interpreting Zelig".
Star Billing: Woody Allen was top first billed whilst Mia Farrow received second billing. This is the only ever Allen - Farrow film where the pair have sole name-above-the-title shared billing in the vein of the earlier famous Allen - Keaton star-teamings. All the other Allen - Farrow films had at least three names or ensemble billing, or Allen did not appear being a writer-director only having no actor-star billing.
First of two back-to-back consecutive movies which were filmed in black-and-white by director Woody Allen whose next film was the completely b&w Broadway Danny Rose (1984). Allen's next film after that movie was The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), which was partially filmed in black-and-white, just as Zelig (1983) had been partially filmed in color.
One of two early-mid 1980s black-and-white movies which were collage pictures edited with adding new footage into old material. The other film was Carl Reiner's Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982).
Actress Ellen Garrison played the older Dr Dr. Eudora Fletcher (Mia Farrow), and not Farrow's real-life mother, Maureen O'Sullivan, who actually did appear in a Woody Allen's film, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), made and released about three years later in 1986.
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Alice (1990), Scoop (2006) and Zelig (1983) form a three-way tie for the shortest Woody Allen film title for a picture that Allen has written and directed. Of the three, Allen appears in _Zelig (1983) and Scoop (2006)_. Antz (1998) is the shortest for an Allen film where he functions only as an actor.
The nickname of Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen) was "the human chameleon".
Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen) has a psychiatrist, Dr. Eudora Nesbitt Fletcher (Mia Farrow), in this film. Allen in real life was known to have been in therapy for several years.
In one of Leonard Zelig's guises, Woody Allen as Zelig appears in black-face in this film as a black jazz musician. The ever-changing Zelig is also seen portraying a number of other nationalities including Asian, Native-American indigenous Indian, Aryan, (Asian) Indian, Hasidic and Scottish.
Famous people who Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen) is friends with or is seen with included Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Susan Sontag:  The academic as herself.
Bricktop:  The Paris nightclub owner as herself.
Bruno Bettelheim:  The psychoanalyst as himself.
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Saul Bellow:  The novelist as himself.
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Irving Howe:  The political writer as himself.
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John Morton Blum:  The historian as himself.
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The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

The film's closing epilogue states: "Leonard Zelig and Eudora Fletcher lived full and happy years together. She continued practicing psychoanalysis while he gave occasional lectures about his experiences. Zelig's episodes of character change grew less and less frequent and eventually his malady disappeared completely. On his deathbed he told doctors that he had had a good life and the only annoying thing about dying was that he had just begun reading Moby Dick and wanted to see how it came out".

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