The last movie by Woody Allen that didn't win an Academy Award was “Scoop.” I liked it. Even better was the previous one, “Match Point.” I loved that one. Like or love all Woody Allen movies. A not-so-good Allen movie is better than 95 per cent of all movies, it says here.
“Match Point” is a Hitchcockian mystery built around tennis. Allen, who has long suffered with the New York Knicks, played a sports writer in “Mighty Aphrodite.” And one of his previous forays into sports involved the takeoff on the old sports announcer, Bill Stern, in “Radio Days.”
I am reminded that Marty Glickman, the premier radio basketball announcer, upon whose lap Marv Albert learned about sportscasting, had an intimate involvement in the early casting of “Radio Days.”
Glickman told me that this started when he received a phone call from a casting director. The woman asked if Glickman would be interested in participating in an Allen movie. Glickman had long been a fan. They had come from the same Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn many years apart and he had seen Allen often at Knicks games at Madison Square Garden.
“I admired Woody’s movies so much,” Glickman said, “I was flattered to get the call.”
He agreed to an audition. He was intrigued because he had heard Allen was secretive about his auditions and scripts, that when he auditioned people he gave them only that portion of the script that applied to them. It was arranged that Glickman would go down to a small theater in Manhattan.
“When I got there,” Glickman said, “this casting director came out and escorted me into a little room where three other people were waiting. One was a very young girl, about 6, with her mother. She was obviously there for an audition. The other was a dwarf. A little girl, a dwarf and me.
“In a little while the casting director came out and asked me to come in. I went into another small room and there was Woody Allen. He was so shy and so uncomfortable-looking that when I reached out to shake hands with him, his grip was almost limp. We stood there looking at each other.”Allen said, “Well, Mr. Glickman, I have heard you broadcast for many years and I just wanted to get a look at you. I wanted to talk to you.” Glickman said, “We were standing there and he asked me how did I get started or something like that. I said, ‘Could we sit down?’
“He said, ‘Oh yeah, sure, sure.’ “We sat down on opposite sides of a desk. I was sitting on an antique chair. As I am sitting on it, I can feel it collapsing underneath me. We are talking and I am trying to balance myself on this chair. I said, ‘Woody, there’s something wrong with this chair. I think it’s collapsing.’ “ ‘Oh,’ he says, and he jumps up and pulls over another chair. It was like a scene from a movie, but he’s deadly serious. Finally he says, ‘Well, look, I’m gonna do a movie and I want you to be the radio announcer in it.’They talked for a few minutes about the Knicks, about Glickman’s career. Allen was shy, Glickman said, as halting as he often is in the movie. “He seemed uncomfortable in my presence. And that was shocking to me. Here was this internationally known movie actor and (film)maker and I’m just another sports announcer, and he’s uncomfortable with me, yet I am perfectly at home with him. “Then he stood up and I stood up, and I said, ‘Well, Woody, do I have the job?’
“He said, ‘Oh no, I want to talk to some other people, too. Would you come back another time and audition for me, read a part of the script?’ ” A few days later he got a phone call to come back for an audition. Allen wasn’t there when a casting director handed him a portion of the script to read. Glickman was to be the radio broadcaster in a scene in which the famed escape artist, Harry Houdini, was lowered into the East River chained and bound, trying to get out in a certain amount of time before drowning. He was to describe the scene of about four pages without ad-libbing. He recalled that “Woody came in (and) told me to read it the way a sportscaster would read it. When I started, it was at an excited pace and I realized that I was going too fast because I couldn’t build to a climax. After about three-quarters of a page I stopped. I asked Woody if he would mind if I started all over again “He said, ‘Oh, of course.’ “I read on and on at a rapid fire pace, almost like play-by-play. I described the lowering of the body, the excitement of the crowd, the worried wife, the suspense about whether he would come up. It was quite detailed, a long haul, and I began to get tired because of the pace. “Finally, to my relief, he said, ‘Thank you, Marty.’ “I said, ‘Well, do I get the job?’ “He said, ‘We’ll let you know in a couple of days. I want to hear a couple of other people.’ ” A few days later Glickman got a phone call from the casting director. Thanks, but no thanks, she said in effect. Glickman said, “The excuse given to me was that they were going with another actor. I was disappointed. I had been thrilled at the prospect of spending some time with Woody Allen. “What the hell, I thought. I guess I just didn’t read it well. I got tired, which was unusual for me. But it happened.” When “Radio Days” was released, and Glickman went to see it, he saw an old colleague, the voluble Guy LeBow, do the scene that was a takeoff on Bill Stern relating one of the outrageous tall tales of sports stories he used to concoct on his feature radio show. It was about a pitcher with no arms and legs or something. “LeBow played it with that big, booming voice,” Glickman said. “He played it straight LeBow. “I started to laugh. I thought, thank God I didn’t get the part. Because it was the part of a radio buffoon. It was a takeoff on Bill Stern, but it was more than that. It was all the things that are wrong with announcers. LeBow did it in a pompous way that I detest and most people dislike about the exaggeration of old radio broadcasters. “So I was pleased after all that I didn’t get the role in a Woody Allen movie.” And as Bill Stern would have said to end this, “And that’s the three-oh (30) mark for tonight.”