Settling into his new chair, he asked whether Hilton ever felt embarrassed when he met socially artists whom he had criticized in print. “No,” Hilton replied, “Why should I? They are the ones who made the bad art; I just described it.” Allen, Hilton recalled, lapsed into gloomy silence. It was only on his way home that Hilton remembered that he had written a highly critical piece on The Front, a PC movie about the Hollywood blacklist in which Allen acted.
A few days later, a group of Hachette employees staged a walkout to protest the book’s publication. The next day, Hachette announced that it was hopping onto the cancel culture bandwagon and dropping the book.
“The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one,” said a spokesman for the publisher (so difficult it took twenty-four hours to achieve). “At hbg we take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books.”
Translation: Hachette, as Oscar Wilde said in another context, can resist anything except temptation. Just so long as a book does not attract the ire of the politically correct establishment, the firm is all for publishing “challenging” books. (Item: Commandant of Auschwitz, a memoir by Rudolf Hoess, is published by Hachette.) But trespass on that PC orthodoxy and watch the capitulation, leavened by moralistic hand-wringing, begin. As Groucho Marx is supposed to have said, “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”
But Hachette had determined that many readers would be interested in Allen’s life story. They simply forgot to check with the feminist commissars to see if Woody Allen passes muster in the age of #MeToo. He doesn’t.
The pack of children, mostly adopted, in the Farrow household is hard to keep straight. For this story, the important figures are Moses—whom Farrow adopted after her divorce from Previn and whom Allen himself adopted in 1991—and a daughter called Dylan, whom Farrow adopted in 1985 (Allen also adopted her in December 1991).
There is also Soon-Yi Previn, an abandoned South Korean girl whom Farrow and Previn adopted in 1978 when she was about eight. Allen raised eyebrows in 1992 when he began an affair with Soon-Yi, then in her early twenties. He and Farrow split, acrimoniously. In 1997, Allen and Soon-Yi married.
In a long and thoughtful blog post published in May 2018, Moses Farrow laid out the particulars of the Farrow–Allen melodrama as he understood them. He paints a very different picture from that offered by Mia, Ronan, and Dylan Farrow. For one thing, after meticulously reviewing the details of Allen’s relations with his family, he concludes that “I never once saw anything that indicated inappropriate behavior at any time.”
Regarding Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi, he notes that they “rarely even spoke during her childhood. It was my mother who first suggested, when Soon-Yi was 20, that Woody reach out and spend time with her. He agreed and . . . [t]hat’s how their romance started.” When the affair went public, many were appalled that Allen should be involved with his “step daughter.” But Moses observes that Soon-Yi was “not Woody’s daughter (adopted, step, or otherwise).” He acknowledges that the affair was
unorthodox, uncomfortable, disruptive to our family and it hurt my mother terribly. But the relationship itself was not nearly as devastating to our family as my mother’s insistence on making this betrayal the center of all our lives from then on.
According to Moses, after discovering Allen’s affair with Soon-Yi, Mia Farrow embarked on a campaign of vilification against them both, “drilling it into our heads like a mantra: Woody was ‘evil,’ ‘a monster,’ ‘the devil,’ and Soon-Yi was ‘dead to us.’ ”
He goes on to describe a horrifying regimen of physical and psychological abuse meted out against the children by his mother. There was also this:
My mother, of course, had her own darkness. She married 50-year-old Frank Sinatra when she was only 21. After they divorced, she moved in to live with her close friend Dory Previn and her husband André. When my mother became pregnant by André, the Previns’ marriage broke up, leading to Dory’s institutionalization.
Not exactly Marmee in Little Women.