In the 1920’s, actor/comedian Fatty Arbuckle was arrested on charges stemming from the death of a young woman who had spent the night in the company of Arbuckle. He was tried three times for the crimes – the first two trials ended in hung juries and the third jury handed down an acquittal along with a written apology for the ordeal the actor had been subjected to. None of that mattered though, because the damage to Arbuckle’s career and reputation had already been done. Most of Hollywood, his fellow actors, along with studio heads had determined that Arbuckle’s unsavory lifestyle and predilection for debauchery made him persona non grata in a town not normally known for being the picture of gentility and decorum. They set about to erase every vestige of his career, even destroying copies of every movie he made. He tried to make a comeback under an assumed name, but little came of that. In the end, the only one who remained loyal to him was Buster Keaton, who set aside a portion of his earnings to support Arbuckle until he died.
In the 90 years since Arbuckle was served up as a cautionary tale, Hollywood has evolved into a place where its stars are allowed to carry on with behaviors that should leave them out in the cold. Instead, with maybe the exception of Mel Gibson, studios and stars tend to look the other way or gloss over some very bad behaviors. If you’re really exceptional and they start calling you things like “genius”, all too often you’re rewarded, over and over. Movie and TV roles, money and accolades are heaped on you, no matter what kind of person you really are.
The latest story involving Woody Allen, Mia Farrow and Dylan Farrow is a perfect example of just how Hollywood circles its wagons for the sake of one of their own. The first in the latest of volleys came from a couple of tweets during the Golden Globe Awards. As Diane Keaton gave a rather incoherent and embarrassing shout out to her favorite director in honor of his Lifetime Achievement Award, Mia Farrow tweeted that she was going to change the channel and have some ice cream. No sooner had she sent out her tweet, her son, Ronan delivered his own, more to the point tweet, asking if anyone at the awards show had mentioned Woody’s molestation of his sister, Dylan when she was 7 years old. I happened to be on Twitter at the time, and it made me catch my breath. It was bold and stunning, all at the same time.
Just this past week, Dylan wrote a letter about the things Woody had allegedly done to her when she was just a little girl. She also asked certain actors and actresses if they were willing to overlook her personal pain and continue to work the director. Since her letter first appeared, the lines have been drawn. Allen’s attorneys have responded by saying that this is just another attempt by Mia Farrow to exact some sort of retribution for the dissolution of their marriage and his subsequent marriage to his then- step-daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. There is a sense by some of Allen’s supporters that its no more than a publicity stunt designed to ruin Allen’s chances for another Oscar for his work on “Blue Jasmine”, starring Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin (both were specifically mentioned in her letter and both have commented since).
I went back and read two articles written by Maureen Orth for Vanity Fair which addressed the molestation accusations. The first was written in November, 1992*, when the matter first came to light and before there had been a decision by the authorities regarding the claims. The second appeared only this past November**, and the two stories are compelling on many levels. What struck me, when I read them back to back, was the consistency in Dylan’s version of things. Because of that, and a very simple detail she gives, I find her to be very believable. The detail I’m referring to is when she said that while Allen was molesting her in a small attic off of a closet, she would stare at a train set as a way to block out what was being done to her. This has such a ring of truth to me, for it’s often the case that any victim of a crime will work to dissociate themselves from the act by focusing on some object.
It’s a tough thing to prove when you’re talking about child molestation. We’ve seen cases where children have been coached into making wildly false claims, and ruining innocent people in the process. I’m just not seeing that in this case, though. Mia Farrow may have her own issues, and hold Woody Allen responsible for a bunch of them, but I just can’t see her using one of her children as a weapon in her battle with her ex. Add to that the fact that others noticed some very strange things about Allen every time he was in Dylan’s presence. If you take the time to read the article from 1992, it starts out by stating that Mia tried to endure that Woody was never to be left alone with Dylan for any length of time. Household help and Mia’s own mother, actress Maureen O’Sullivan, saw and commented on things that leave you wondering and shaking your head.
As it turns out, the State of Connecticut declined to prosecute Allen on the charges, finding that there was inadequate proof that Dylan had been molested. Experts from Yale-New Haven Hosptial and investigators from the State Police decided to close the case and the judge found that the evidence was inconclusive. That doesn’t mean that nothing happened. Former Connecticut State’s Attorney, Frank Maco, did find probable cause to arrest Allen, but in his statement from 1993, said that he decided that it was in Dylan’s best interest not to go to trial. He also said that Mia Farrow supported his decision at the time.
So, why bring this all up now? The notion that it’s just a ploy to do damage at this years Oscars doesn’t seem to hold water. That could have been done, and done on a more permanent basis, by allowing a trial. Certainly Allen would have suffered much more harm to his career and reputation if Dylan’s claims had been made in a courtroom, before a jury. Dylan has changed her name and moved to Florida, seemingly living a life out of the public eye. Maybe all she wants is for Allen to tell the truth – not to the world, but to her and her family. Maybe she just wants some sort of affirmation that she’s not some puppet, manipulated by her mother. Maybe she just wants someone to believe her so that all of the other kids who went through or are going through the same thing won’t be dismissed and ignored. That seems like a good enough reason to me. In the meantime, maybe Hollywood should take a good long look at who they idolize and lavish with praise. Some awful things happen behind closed doors, even at the hands of geniuses.
I’ve never liked this douchebag or his movies. I don’t consider him a genius and I think the hollyweird protection of him and his type is revolting. There are reasons I won’t pay to see movies anymore and shitheads like this one are a big one. Add the junkies to that list as well.
My heart goes out to all victims of molestation under any circumstances. To have your molester in the public spotlight over the years being honored and revered by adoring fans, both famous and not so famous, must be excruciatingly painful. Imagine over the years innocently opening a magazine or newspaper or watching television and having the person who took away your innocence staring at you and being lauded as a genius. Must be awful. I was never a fan of Woody Allen or his movies. I always thought he was weird, kind of icky, and a little “off.” I guess I just don’t know genius when I see it.
Interesting piece. Fatty Arbuckle had an image as a fat baby or fat pre-pubescent (i.e., pre-sexual) so the idea of him having voracious sexual desires was at variance to his image and it was easy to shun him. Sexual liberation and anxiety has always been core to Woody Allen’s image — it was there from his very first days in stand-up, and it’s one of the things the fans loved about him. His fans are finding it hard to believe this about him because that would mean an entire world view was rotten at the core.
Who lives with and then marries their step daughter. A pervert! Isn’t it obvious that he must have had something going on with her all along, which I would call molestation, and none of his fans seem to care. I for one stopped being a fan when he took up publicly with his step daughter. I find him repulsive and I have never since watched a single movie that I find he has been involved with. Hollywoods moral compass is so far off that anything goes and I believe that the morality issues we are dealing with today are directly related to our adulation of celebrities. I consider myself to be an average type person. I am not overly religious and over zealous about morality. I love TV and movies and I love many hollywood stars but I draw the line with any celebrity that I believe is in any way involved with child molestations and bigotry. Period
You make a good point about our moral center. It’s a sort of collaborative effort – Hollywood produces entertainment about and with people of questionable ethics and fans follow blindly, just as supportive as the studios (but with no financial gain).
Woody repeats his defense of his relationship with Soon-Yi as being legal yet he’s never commented on the morality of it. He survives it all by virtue of a shaky technicality.
Woody Allen’s genius has always been lost on me. How can you compartmentalize your life in such a fashion that your talent supersedes your moral compass? Like others, I find him “off” and has always had a creepy vibe to him that made me feel like I didn’t care what hit movie he had going on – I still wanted nothing to do with his genius body of work.
His marriage to Mia Farrow was a head shaking circus and it bothered me when the allegations first came out about his “odd fixation” on Dylan and she did nothing to protect her but everything to protect him! Then he “marries” his daughter! When I read the recent VF article I was astounded at how Allen is still revered and protected. And I am disgusted by the powerful stars who refuse to speak out now – is a career more important than protecting children from being preyed upon? Guess so….
windy, you answered your own question the same way any of us would have. Money, fame and stature trump doing the right thing. One of Woody’s loudest supporters as of late is Alec Baldwin – no surprise there.
There’s an endorsement….
IKR?!?! Another father of the year. 😀
Oddly, after boycotting Mr Allen’s work since he publically took up with Soon-Yi, I relented a bit recently and watched the 2 part documentary about him and his work (Netflix). The documentary just barely bushed upon his personal life.
I was struck by his OCD-ish professional repetitiveness. Write, cast, direct. Write, cast, direct. Mondays he plays clarinet at the same club. He doesn’t seem like someone who empathizes with individuals. If he is “interested” he engages. Otherwise, people are cardboard cutouts to him.
Obviously I have no idea what happened between him and Dylan. I do believe he has the emotional ability to break social & family boundaries and then “forget” about it.
Hollywood reveres drug addicts, sexual criminals and philanderers. As long as they don’t gain weight or vote for the GOP.
Good on Ronan and Dylan for keeping Woody’ shame front & center.
You might be interested in reading this by the documentarian. He’s very invested in his subject. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/27/the-woody-allen-allegations-not-so-fast.html
BTW, is it worth watching?
Meh <- about both the documentary and the article defending Woody.
The fawning documentary reminded me that Woody is not really a Great film maker, just a prolific one. Actors enjoy working in his movies because he doesn't actually direct them or expect them to read lines as they were written (by him). His scripts sound "stagey".
The funniest Woody moments were his stand up acts and Dick Cavett appearances. I did laugh when a young tiny Woody earnestly explained that he took boxing lessons so he could win an argument with his mother.
As far as his relationship with Mia and her/their kids. Maybe Dylan wasn't touched. Maybe Mia is a lunatic. Who knows anymore.
Woody broke a taboo that deeply hurt his actual bio-child (Ronan), devastated a family unit and grossed out a nation.
Apparently the 33 page ruling on Woody Allen custody request was “scathing”.
…’Justice Wilk portrayed Mr. Allen as devious, hurtful and unreliable, a father who did not know the names of his son’s teachers — or even which children shared which bedrooms in Ms. Farrow’s apartment.’
Hollywood reveres drug addicts, sexual criminals and philanderers. As long as they don’t gain weight or vote for the GOP.
#truth … Especially that last part.
Great essay Empress. I’ve been reading a lot about this since the Golden Globes. I was never a huge fan of Woody Allen, the few films of his I saw all seem to repeat the same themes. Maybe I’m just not deep enough to appreciate his so called genius. Like others who have posted here, I actively boycotted Allen’s films after the whole Soon-Yi disaster. I don’t care how old Soon-Yi was or whether they viewed one another as related or not, what he did was wrong. She was the step-sibling of his own children, therefore, forbidden. He put his step-daughter, this girl/woman in the position where she had to chose between him and the rest of her family. It inexcusable in my humble opinion. I did not watch the documentary but did read the documentarian’s article explaining his viewpoint. His article did nothing to change my mind about Allen. Fame and fortune are powerful tools and I believe Allen used them to his advantage. If he truly loves Dylan as he states he does, then he should just be quiet and take the little bit of heat being thrown his way because that’s what good parents do for their kids. None of this has adversely affected his career so why can’t he have his daughter’s back, just this one time? He’s a sad, pathetic excuse for a parent.
jules, I really didn’t care for the innuendoes in the documentarians article. He knows he can’t blame the victim in this case, so instead he uses Mia’s sex life, as if Dylan is somehow just a product of a slutty Mom with wild ideas. Based on Kaereste’s less than glowing review, I think I’ll skip what sounds more like a love story for Woody than it does an actual documentary.
Mia adopted many children, I believe one or two were physically disabled .. she had quite a household where she lived in Conn … when she found nude photos of her daughter in Woody’s apartment while Mia and Woody were still together, then runs off with the under 21 year old Soon-Yi to hide his sorry ass in Europe .. were there no women he could fall in love with in NYC? Instead he runs off with his adopted underage step daughter .. and the establishment of Hollywood did not admonish his actions, nothing was printed at the time to scream pedophile .. he never took the polygraph requested by Mia’s lawyers in the molestation case vs. Dylan…. if you have nothing to hide, take the polygraph and be done with it …he’s a coward …now lives with 2 adopted daughters? He’s was creepy 25 years ago and he’s still a creep today …
Buttercream, he took a polygraph with an expert hired by his lawyers. Maureen Orth did a follow up summary yesterday to clarify some of the crap, for lack of a better word, that has been written since Dylan’s letter to the NYT. It’s not exactly the story his friends and supporters are spinning it to be. http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2014/02/woody-allen-sex-abuse-10-facts
Hollywood did not admonish his actions,
No, They didn’t. They gave him an award.
Maureen Orth kindly linked her article to the court’s 33 page finding. I just ate so maybe one of you can read this for us…
Click to access woody-allen-1992-custody-suit.pdf