A few hours ago The Hollywood Reporter posted a Gary Baum-authored profile of former Woody Allen girlfriend Christina Engelhardt, and more precisely her eight-year relationship with the director-writer-actor-comedian that began in late ’76 and ended in ’84.
She was Allen’s secret sexual partner between the ages of 17 (although they first met when she was 16) and 24. No public dates, no dinners at Elaine’s — just furtive assignations at his Fifth Avenue apartment.
Engelhardt was one of two inspirations for Mariel Hemingway‘s Tracy character in Manhattan; the other was Stacey Nelkin, who hooked up with Allen when she was attending Stuyvesant High School in ’77 or thereabouts. Engelhardt tells Baum that she felt badly about how her Allen relationship came through in the film; it hurt to consider how Allen had objectified her or kept her at a distance.
But think about it — Tracy is the most centered and least neurotic or deceptive character in Manhattan.
Engelhardt’s Allen relationship was unequal and certainly exploitive on his end, but show me a relationship between any famous film-industry hotshot and any “civilian” that wasn’t similarly unfair or lopsided, especially in the context of the ’70s and ’80s when a whole different set of rules and assumptions were in effect.
Plus the Allen alliance opened a few doors. After they went their separate ways Engelhardt became a kind of half-employee and half-platonic muse for Federico Fellini. She’s currently working for producer Robert Evans and living in the Beverly Hills flats.
Baum’s article is smoothly written, carefully phrased, seemingly well-researched and for the most part fair-minded.
But at the same time a tad clueless. Because it applies a #MeToo filter to a story that happened during a time when urban upscale lah-lahs were frolicking in an almost I, Claudius-like culture that in some ways was more sexually impulsive and freewheeling and live-as-let-live than anything happening today. Which doesn’t seem quite fair.
The idea, at least on the part of Baum’s THR editor, seems to have been to “get” Allen by furthering the #MeToo-linked narrative that he used to be a manipulative and to some extent unscrupulous fellow who used his fame and power to get what he wanted from women. But Engelhardt doesn’t exactly cooperate with this goal. “I’m not attacking Woody,” she tells Baum. “This is not ‘bring down this man.’ I’m talking about my love story. This made me who I am. I have no regrets.”
Engelhardt was right in the thick of things when Allen began a somewhat committed relationship with Mia Farrow in ’80 or thereabouts. I’m using the term “somewhat” because Woody, Mia and Christine enjoyed a menage a trois thing for a while. Baum: “Despite the initial shock of jealousy, Engelhardt says she grew to like Farrow over the course of the ‘handful’ of three-way sex sessions that followed at Allen’s penthouse as they smoked joints and bonded over a shared fondness for animals.”