Woody Allen: Dylan's sex abuse claim casts shadow over Oscars

Allen denies 'disgraceful' charge – but should we be showering the man and his movies with accolades?

Column LAST UPDATED AT 09:09 ON Mon 3 Feb 2014
Charles Laurence

IS WOODY ALLEN, the 78-year-old auteur of an unrivalled string of indie hits from Annie Hall to Midnight in Paris, too sleazy as a man to be worthy of the accolades that keep coming his way on the movie awards circuit?

The question has once again been forced into the spotlight in the run-up to this year’s Oscars on 2 March, with his Blue Jasmine up for multiple awards, by the decision of the New York Times to publish a letter from Allen’s adoptive daughter, Dylan, describing the sexual abuse to which she has long alleged she was subjected.

As the ghost of Jimmy Savile and a clutch of ageing entertainers have discovered in Britain, there is no statute of limitations in the court of public opinion when it comes to the alleged abuse of children. But should we be buying tickets to Allen’s movies and showering him with accolades?

Dylan Farrow’s story first exploded into the headlines in 1993 when she was seven years old and her allegations became the darkest stain on Allen in his fall from grace.

After 12 years of a quirky relationship with Mia Farrow – they famously kept separate apartments on each side of New York’s Central Park and never married - Allen’s image as a kindly, nebbishy genius was forever destroyed in a vicious custody dispute.

The relationship with Farrow ended after she discovered naked photographs that Allen had taken of a daughter she had adopted while married to conductor Andre Previn, the then 20-year-old Soon-Yi.

Allen had begun an affair with Soon-Yi while still bedding Farrow, and she is now his wife. Technically, Soon-Yi Previn was not Allen’s daughter because he had not adopted her. But she was the sister of the two children he had adopted with Farrow, including Dylan, and the “natural” son Satchel they had had together. America’s jaw dropped.

Then Farrow made allegations that Allen had been sexually abusing Dylan. For a while, criminal charges seemed to be on the cards. Courts ordered an independent assessment: in the end a judge decreed that the evidence was inconclusive and that charges would not be in the interests of the child, but denied Allen visitation rights.

We have never before heard directly from Dylan Farrow, now 28, married and living in Florida with her own children.

“What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?” she begins her New York Times letter. “Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me.

"He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains.

“For as long as I could remember, my father had been doing things to me that I didn’t like.”

It is shocking stuff. It is also no coincidence that she starts with a direct reference to Allen’s films.

Only a couple of weeks ago at the Golden Globe awards, her brother Satchel, now Ronan, had launched a similar reminder. Allen was given a lifetime achievement award. Although he holds a record three Oscars for screen writing and another for directing, it is part of his shtick never to accept them in person, and Diane Keaton, star of Annie Hall, accepted the Globe on his behalf.

Ronan managed to seize the spotlight, however, with a tweet: “Missed the Woody Allen tribute - did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?"

Later in her New York Times letter, Dylan writes that the message Hollywood sends by lauding Allen is an affront to the victims of sexual abuse, and puts her question to the stars of his films, including Cate Blanchett, who is nominated for best actress for her role in Blue Jasmine.

“What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett?”, she asks. “Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?

"Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.”

Allen has never been charged with any crime, let alone convicted, and has issued a statement overnight calling Dylan's  allegations "untrue and disgraceful". The New York Times aired her charges in an odd way: rather than turning her letter into a headline story, or simply printing it on their letters page, they confined it to their website on the blog of one of their star columnists, Nicholas Kristof.

He wrote that “it’s important to note that Woody Allen was never prosecuted in this case and... deserves the presumption of innocence.”

So why would the Times rake over old coals once more?

Kristof's answer: “Partly because the Golden Globe… ignited a debate about the propriety of the award. Partly because the root here isn’t celebrity but sex abuse. Partly… it’s time for the world to hear Dylan’s story in her own words.”

Is this an argument or an excuse?

The real question is an old one: should the art be separated from the artist? Should the Marquis de Sade be in print or Paul Gaugin be hanging on the gallery walls? Was Lucien Freud a nice man?

Jimmy Savile left nothing of value behind. But Allen makes great movies. We have as much right to celebrate them as his unfortunate family has to continue their attempt to blacken their maker’s name. · 

Disqus - noscript

...all this is becoming rather tedious. From Jimmy Savile, Dave Lee Travis, Jim Davison, Ralph Harris, Bill Roache, Allen, Rennard -et al, history and the mores of history are being revisited and re-written to meet the Left-leaning agendas of political correctness, feminism, those die-hard people who "want" to be offended by something/someone, those seeking attention and those seeking money.

Add to that (in Allen's case) a bitter "divorce", possibly cynical, claims of sexual abuse that can never be proven/disproven and risk-free "pops" at anyone's reputation and we have all of the ingredients of serious miscarriages of justice - witness the Salem Witch Trials.

Perhaps we should see those acquitted of these allegations seeking redress from their accusers in the civil courts, for slander/libel - such allegations might then diminish in number and viciousness.

What planet are you from?

Just the act of attempting to pressure stars from Allen's movies tells us something is not right. Is that supposed to convince us that the 'victim's' account is correct? Does her husband and family agree with all this publicity? It comes across as attention seeking behavior.

...planet "Real World" - you should visit it some time!

Allan is at best a twisted tortured character,there has been an aweful lot of smoke over the years for there not to be a few flames there,

...in the light of Bill Roache's acquittal on all charges and with the news that the "evidence" fell apart in court, would you like to comment?