"I should never have switched from scotch to martinis."- Humphrey Bogart, attributed last words.
"My one regret in life is that I am not someone else."- Woody Allen
As an emotionally challenged New York Jew, I identify with Woody Allen. As an American, steeped in its popular culture, I also revere Humphrey Bogart.
Like Allen, Bogart was a short New York native who, after multiple marriages, finally settled down with a partner many years his junior. In Allen's case, it was Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Allen's long-time love, Mia Farrow. In Bogart's, it was the breathtakingly beautiful, glamorous, (and Jewish) actress Lauren Bacall. Nevertheless, the Bogie persona was as quintessentially goyish (that's Gentile to all you gentiles) as Allen's is over-the-top Jewish.
Allen's films are steeped in the cultural anxieties of the Jew struggling to fit into a gentile world. Of course, in Jew York City, that's easier to do than it might be in Lynchburg, Virginia. But make no mistake - we wandering Jews are everywhere. It's just that New York City is the American capital of the Chosen People, hands down. Here, we can be much more comfy about getting in touch with our inner Jew without feeling like alien beings.
Allen addresses the Jew/goy divide in many of his films. In Annie Hall, (1977) when he first meets up with ultra-shiksa (non-Jewish woman) Annie, she quickly declares that he is what her Granny Hall would call "a real Jew." While visiting Annie's family, Allen demonstrates, via split screen, the stereotypical cultural chasm between Jew and Wasp. Annie's family is polite and reserved, not a hair out of place, choosing their words with care and constraint; Allen's family is noisy, messy, and generally chaotic. Annie's family talks of hunts and swap meets; Allen's family might talk, perhaps, of the relative who developed a large goiter, as the children throw food and chase each other around the dining room. Flung into this alien goyish world, with Granny Hall periodically looking up from her plate to glare at him with unadulterated anti-Semitic contempt, Allen is clearly both out of his element and in it - because his role as the striving but insecure outsider is part of what makes Woody, well, Woody. The struggle for identity is part of Allen's identity.