Home / General / Jack Rollins, RIP

Jack Rollins, RIP


The legendary producer of Woody Allen’s 70s films and incredibly influential figure in the comedy of that era has died at the ripe old age of 100. Among his many achievements was working with Woody Allen to make him into the brilliant comedian and director he became.

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  • Murc

    Among his many achievements was working with Woody Allen to make him into the brilliant comedian and director he became.

    … are there two Woody Allen’s? The filmmaker of that name I’m familiar with made a long career of dressing his disgusting issues with women and/or his manifold masculinity neuroses under the guide of “comedy” and somehow it took people like thirty-odd years to catch on.

    • Origami Isopod

      Yeah, I was gonna say.

      • Whatever, Woody Allen’s work during the mid-70s through the mid 80s was brilliant.

        And to be clear, on the value of the art, I don’t care what kind of disgusting issues he had with women. The person may be disgusting, the art is outstanding.

        • Origami Isopod


          … seriously? Not even a goddamn footnote to the post?

          • Why?

          • wjts

            I’m not sure why a footnote decrying Woody Allen is necessary for a post about an obituary of a man who worked with him.

            • Warren Terra

              Also, I tend to think most people commenting here will already have a well-informed opinion about Woody Allen, such that you don’t really need to raise the issue.

          • djw

            If I’m parsing his comment correctly, Murc is claiming that Woody Allen’s work was never actually good, it just seemed good, before we figured him out. While tastes vary etc etc, that strikes me as indefensible nonsense. Even before we had any sense of the depth of his depravity, the fact that Annie Hall and Manhattan and the rest were, in part, based on Allen’s neuroses was perfectly obvious; that fact didn’t make the films any less brilliant or hilarious. At any rate, lots of great artists are bad people; I don’t think it’s obvious there’s an affirmative obligation to ritualistically caveat every discussion of the art with a critique of the person, especially when there are good reasons to assume the audience is clearly perfectly aware of the flaws of the person.

            • Murc

              If I’m parsing his comment correctly, Murc is claiming that Woody Allen’s work was never actually good, it just seemed good, before we figured him out.

              Yes. You have parsed me correctly, djw.

              At best, I will admit that Allen made a few films during his heydey that rise to the level of “good, but problematic.” That heydey was relatively short in the context of his overall career and he plunged into an abyss fast after it.

              And that’s if you catch me in a generous mood towards Allen’s oeuvre.

              • njorl

                So what you are saying is that you have idiosyncratic tastes which differ from most others by an enormous degree, and that they should cater to you because of this.

          • ajp

            This is ridiculous twaddle. If this were an obituary for Woody Allen, you’d have a point. Why shit up Jack Rollins’ post because of Allen? Do all the morally dubious people we’ve worked with have to be mentioned and throat cleared in our obituaries? Tone down the sanctimony, it’s overwhelming.

        • Murc

          And to be clear, on the value of the art, I don’t care what kind of disgusting issues he had with women.

          When those issues are right up there on the screen as part of the art, you probably should.

          • I don’t judge art based on the moral positions of its creator.

            • jamesepowell

              But, can you infer the moral positions of the artist from the art?

              I think that’s what Murc was getting at.

        • trollhattan

          He clearly said “gub.”

          Kids, these days….

          Attorney: “Name?”
          Witness: “J. Edgar Hoover.”
          “Head of the FBl.”
          “Tell the court why you’re dressed like this.”
          “l have many enemies and l rarely go out unless l’m in disguise.”

        • mch

          With you here 100%, Erik. The stuff about art and its producers is too tiresome. We listen to the argument. If we get hung up on the arguer, we’re shafted. We arguers and listeners are all hopelessly lost (until we are found). amazing.

    • Nick056

      Really? Sorry, but while Allen is — obviously — a disturbing person and maybe a child molester, many of his movies do exactly the opposite of projecting “disgusting issues with women.” Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters are two great examples of Allen movies with terrific female characters. I don’t think his one serious movie of the era, Interiors, is all that great, but it isn’t disgusting toward women. If anything, he seems to write consistently good roles for women, based on an understanding that men are often not very good to women — it’s just that he appears to do his own research.

      • Right. He created outstanding roles for women in much of his career. The fact that he is personally a sleaze ball toward women is irrelevant in evaluating the quality of films. The same goes for Polanski or so many other artists who were basically awful humans.

        The moment I start evaluating art based upon whether I agree with the life choices of the creator of that art is the moment I become a total hack.

        In lieu of that, I am going to start rereading Sabbath’s Theater.

      • citizen

        — it’s just that he appears to do his own research.

        Nick, Nick, Nick…
        This is the kind of intricate gold that makes reading worthwhile.

        Thanks for setting it down.

    • keta

      Yeah, Allen’s women issues were so insanely awful that no actresses would work with him…oh, wait.

      Diane Keaton: “It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that 179 of the world’s most captivating actresses have appeared in Woody Allen’s films,” she said. “And there’s a reason for this. And the reason is, they wanted to. They wanted to because Woody’s women can’t be compartmentalized. They struggle, they love, they fall apart, they dominate, they’re flawed. They are, in fact, the hallmark of Woody’s work. But what’s even more remarkable is absolutely nothing links these unforgettable characters from the fact that they came from the mind of Woody Allen.”

      I now return you to art produced only by people whose personal lives meet with your approval.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    I wonder if Allen’s movies aren’t moving into “Birth of a Nation” territory- where people look at them and say, “people really thought and acted this way and it was *okay*?” I think the more elite kind of critics who made his reputation are looking at his work much differently now and people who believe in his work are going to have to work a lot harder to justify calling him brilliant

    edit: I think what I’m saying is he’s no longer in a position where you can just say “he’s brilliant” without putting a lot more on the table to make the case

    • Except that Allen’s films don’t show said horrible values like they do for Griffith. It’s Allen’s personal life that does. Those Diane Keaton characters are largely very strong women. Maybe less so for Mia Farrow somewhat, but not entirely.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        yeah, I know it isn’t a straight line- part of my problem was I ran out of edit window. I do think an Allen movie was always taken to be a more truly personal thing than other directors’ work- so there’s going to be a more blurred line between the person and the art. And what we’ve learned about him is obviously changing how a lot of people feel about the art. I just think someone who wants that art to still be taken seriously is going to have to expect that they’ll be challenged to prove it transcends Allen’s personal flaws

  • jeer9

    Early comedies: Very inconsistent, though occasionally hilarious

    Annie Hall: yes

    Zelig: Mildly amusing

    Hannah And Her Sisters: Re-watched recently and doesn’t hold up well

    The rest: Lightweight and, unfortunately, prolifically so.

    Must stop thinking that because nothing new has been released lately we should give the latest WA film a viewing: Vicky Christina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmin, all execrable.*

    *Not Wetlands bad, however.

    • wjts

      Bullets over Broadway was pretty good.

      • mch

        I dunno. How old are you? Easy to say now that some movies are light this way or that when, at the time, they moved mountains. I don’t want to come across here as an Allen fan of a kind I am not. I am only saying that if you lived THROUGH certain times, you give a lot of credit to people who made happen the through that in retrospect is easy to assume was always there. It wasn’t.

        • wjts

          I’m in my late 30s. I saw Bullets over Broadway around the time it came out, so in high school or college (and I should probably add that I haven’t seen it since, so I have no idea if it’s held up well).

      • Scott Lemieux

        Crimes and Misdemeanors is great. Match Point, essentially a remake, is pretty good, although it lacks the comic qualities of C&M.

    • mikeSchilling

      Sleeper and Love and Death, are two of the funniest films ever.

  • Barry Freed

    I’m totally with Erik here. I recently saw a whole bunch of Woody Allen films on the big screen at a Gordon Willis retro and they really hold up very well indeed. And Manhattan is a masterpiece. So Jack Rollins, RIP. I hope they carve your tombstone in Windsor Light Condensed.

  • OT: Loomis will appreciate this:

    Heinz has apologised to a customer after a QR code on one of its tomato ketchup bottles linked to a porn site.

    After using a smartphone to scan the code, which was meant to provide information about a promotional campaign that offered personalised ketchup bottle labels, Daniel Korell was sent to a German adult site rather than a Heinz-run page.

    Is there no evil of which ketchup is not capable?


  • Davis X. Machina

    I used to enjoy playing Civilization IV until I found out about Miles Davis (Great Artist, Modern period…).

    • Ahuitzotl

      To be honest, Miles was a pretty repellant person at many levels, from what I’ve read – he treated women like shit, but he didnt treat men much better, and I’ve read at least a few horror stories of how he treated various band members.

      Not going to stop listening to Bitches Brew (ha), Kind of Blue or Milestones, though.

  • You know, Annie Hall is brilliant, and I really like Crimes and Misdemeanors (probably I should know better), and I think some of the recent European movies are good or at least interesting (maybe because I’m not a teenager anymore and I’m watching them when they were made, instead of fifteen years later, second half first, like I did with most of the 1970s ones and some of the 1980s ones). I will even put in a good word for Scoop (the scene where the Allen character follows Johanssen to a party, pretending to be her father, had me and one other woman in the theater laughing).

    But somewhere around Vicki Christina Barcelona, with Penelope Cruz’s brilliant and hilarious but in context horrifying performance of the Crazy Ethnic Middle-Aged Lady in the House (by contrast with the sweet nubile young things who don’t give the hero any trouble, not really)–just another version of the Crazy Ethnic Mother of New York Stories and the earlier movies–something snapped. Then Midnight in Paris, which made no sense except to display hostility to people Allen presumably doesn’t want to sleep with (men) and to women who want to sleep with people Allen doesn’t want to sleep with. And then you go back to Annie Hall and I realized–the last line of the movie is “We need the eggs”–which is really kind of a crappy, heartless thing to say. And it all kind of falls apart, though it still has a weird fascination (some of them more than others).

    I don’t think I can read Sabbath’s Theater again, except for the footnotes. The Dying Animal was somewhat better, and better than the again unfortunate movie, again starring Penelope Cruz.

    edit: and, no, there’s no reason to bring this up, but what reason is there to bring anything up in a blog comment box?

    • Ahuitzotl

      I absolutely adored Annie Hall when it came out and I was 16, but I found it *very* hard to rewatch a couple of years ago, and my wife was left with a serious ‘why did you like that’ afterwards.

      And of course this is all Woody Allen discussion, not the departed – and apparently pretty wonderful – Mr Rollins; or even Robin Williams

      • There’s a scientist NPR interviewed the other day who’s been campaigning for years to get trans fats banned and sounds pretty good for a 100-year-old. Can’t remember his name, but he doesn’t know mine, either.

  • keta

    Managed Lenny Bruce, steered Nichols and May to huge stardom, shepherded Allen’s career from writer to performer to writer/director/actor. Cavett, Letterman, Joan Rivers, Martin Short. And lived to be one hundred years old!

    I sure hope someone writes a biography of the man, because he worked with some of the true comic greats.

    • I think my comment was intended to go here. Anyway, Nichols is another one whose movies may or may not hold up. (I still can’t get over that he removed every scene in Angels in America that might have let it pass the Bechdel test.)

  • TopsyJane

    As early as the 60s, his first wife brought suit against Allen because of the relentless nastiness of the jokes he told about her in his standup routines. He quit, but Harlene Allen had to agree never to speak about their marriage publicly.

    I don’t see that the ditzy girls Keaton played so charmingly for Allen are such awesomely powerful women. In Manhattan , for example, she plays a superficial creature whose moral failure is conclusively demonstrated when she dumps Allen for his married friend, while Allen’s superior moral standing is conclusively demonstrated by his love for a high school student. (She did get to play an interesting character in Interiors, which is, unfortunately, still not good.)

    It is true that actors like Cruz and Blanchett have won Academy Awards working for him and presumably they found his direction helpful, but I would say that has more to do with what they brought to the roles than the roles as written.

    Roman Polanski has also written and/or directed better pictures with better roles for women, sympathetically portrayed. The cases are not exact equivalents, but I don’t think anyone would bring up a topic related to Polanski without also expecting at least a mention of the related scandal around his name. This thing is going to follow Allen around, and so it should. He does benefit from the fact that a lot of people still believe that Dylan Farrow and her mother are deluded/crazy/vengeful or some combination of the three. And he remains a powerful man with plenty of defenders in and out of the business.

    The relationship Allen established with Joffe and Rollins I think is unique in contemporary American filmmaking. Allen’s 70s movies weren’t colossal hits, but he brought them in efficiently and usually under budget. He was the opposite of the self-indulgent artiste. And in return they backed him totally.

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