a monthly look at the faces
that have made history

Diane Keaton

The neurotic by moonlight: Who'd have ever pegged her a romantic archetype? That just might be the legacy of Diane Keaton—and the part that made her famous, Annie Hall. Though she's played roles enough for any actress since, Annie's the one that stuck. They're not one and the same, of course, though Keaton was born Diane Hall and did fall in love with Woody Allen, just like Annie Hall did with Alvy Singer on screen. But despite the other roles and other loves, where one's concerned, the other's always loomed large; even after three Godfathers, no one ever called the off-screen Keaton a Corleone.

The Diane/Woody years are a key part of PBS' new Woody Allen: A Documentary, and just as large a part of Keaton's new memoir Then Again, which showcases Keaton's ability to be at once daffy and deft. "Her specialty has been lyrical neurosis," wrote noted film critic Pauline Kael, in praise of Diane. (She went on to point out that this "can be deliriously reassuring to the nervous wrecks in the audience"—and for the record, this wreck agrees.) Part flower child, part square, her talent is for unearthing the steel in the willowy ones, and the softness in the steely.

Still, it's hard to put your finger on that Keaton something—the mousy bangs, the menswear, and all—which brings us back to Annie Hall. In one of the film's most famous scenes, Annie and Alvy stumble through first-date small talk, with Allen, in a genre-breaking move, broadcasting what they actually mean in subtitle underneath. They're discussing art—classic first-date bull. "They're wonderful, they have a…quality," Alvy says of her pictures. I'm talking about Keaton's pictures and I couldn't have said it better myself. Unless I cut the small talk and went to the subtitle: You are a great-looking girl.

—Matthew Schneier

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