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Film Society of Lincoln Center Honors Diane Keaton

- Backstage with the Filmmakers: Special Events

A Gala Tribute to Diane Keaton
(Diane Keaton Bio)
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Produced by Tony Impavido
Directed and Edited by Wendy Keys
Writer: Joanna Ney
Tribute Staff: Exec. Director, Claudia Bonn
Avery Fisher Hall
NY, NY 10023

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 9, 2007

(See the 2006 Film Society Tribute to Jessica Lange).

Since 1972, the Film Society of Lincoln Center has created an Annual Gala Tribute, beginning with the effort to return Charlie Chaplin to the US from Switzerland, after an almost twenty year exile. He collected this tribute award, as well as his Oscar. The Film Society has a mission of supporting the artistic side of film and originally conceived the idea of the retrospective tribute. Past honorees, 1972-2005, include Fred Astaire, Alfred Hitchcock, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Jack Lemmon, Mike Nichols, and Jane Fonda. (Program Notes).

Diane Keaton, born Diane Hall in Los Angeles, began her career as Blanche DuBois, in a Santa Ana High School play. Some years later, in New York, she landed a role opposite Woody Allen in his Broadway production of Play It Again Sam, and performed in the film version as well. Other 1970’s Woody Allen films were Sleeper, Love and Death, Interiors, and Manhattan. However, it was Allen’s Annie Hall, created around Diane Keaton, “Lady La-de-dah”, her personality, her mannerisms, and her relationship with Allen in real time, that won her an Academy Award and one for the film as well. Ms. Keaton (who changed her name to her mother’s maiden name) is also renowned for her roles as Kay Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, I, II, and III (1972, 1974, 1990), as Steve Martin’s wife in Father of the Bride, I and II (1991, 1995), and as Louise Bryant in Warren Beatty’s Reds (1981), for which she was also nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe.

Tonight’s magnificent and moving tribute was opened with a montage of numerous film clips and then divided into seven “Acts” of 21 diverse but related film clips, including the 1970’s Woody Allen montage, Godfather II, Reds, The Family Stone, Hanging Up, Something’s Gotta Give, Father of the Bride, and First Wives Club. Prior to each “Act”, a guest speaker was introduced, and the theme was similar: They adore Ms. Keaton, but “she never calls”. However, for this viewer, the most dramatic tribute was from Woody Allen, in a rare, onstage speaking appearance. He was attired in signature, casual corduroys and sweater, and he spoke of “Keaton” as a great comedienne who garnered praise for her natural acting abilities. Although his comments were somewhat stilted and off-the-cuff, clearly, the fact that he was there, live, was the tribute in itself. The audience was thrilled, and Allen lingered a moment at the curtain.

Other guests, who all lavished praise on Ms. Keaton as a role model and virtuosic performer, were Sarah Jessica Parker (a co-star in The Family Stone), Meryl Streep (a co-star in Marvin’s Room), Steve Martin (a co-star in Father of the Bride), Lisa Kudrow (a co-star in Hanging Up), Candice Bergen (an admirer), Martin Short (also a co-star in Father of the Bride), and Nancy Meyers (Director of Something’s Gotta Give). Ms. Parker spoke of the honor in working on the same set as Ms. Keaton. Ms. Streep spoke of Ms. Keaton’s allure in the US and France, as well. Mr. Martin spoke of the films’ “bedroom scenes” and also composed a song for banjo and sat down and played it; it was sensitive and melodic. Ms. Kudrow spoke of her habit of “stealing” Ms. Keaton’s personal and fashion style. Ms. Bergen spoke briefly and with self-deprecating humor. Mr. Short announced a “roast”, but his speech of praise was anything but. Ms. Meyers spoke about directing Ms. Keaton and Jack Nicholson in romantic arguments.

Finally, Diane Keaton appeared, in a perky white, long-sleeved blouse, high collar, black choker necklace, and long, black, slim-fitted skirt. Of course, she wore eyeglasses similar to the frameless ones in Annie Hall. It was this deeply personal speech, pre-prepared with heartfelt warmth, humility, gratitude, and genuine love of the art, that riveted the audience. She spoke of inherent shyness at speaking before crowds, and then she delivered one of the most memorable acceptance speeches of all time. It is no wonder that this artist has several new films in progress to add to her extensive portfolio, encompassing 37 years in the film genre. One of the running themes in the salutary speeches had been Ms. Keaton’s need for perfection. (Even Mr. Allen said she was “punctual”). Here, Ms. Keaton spoke about the moment that lives on after repeating a scene over and over. Then she tried to sing a bit of “Seems Like Old Times” from Annie Hall, and her voice cracked with tears. In the palpable silence that followed, Diane Keaton implored her fans to share this memorable moment with her. We did. Kudos to Diane Keaton, and kudos to The Film Society of Lincoln Center.

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