The celebration of the career of Diane Keaton at the Film Society of Lincoln Center gala April 9, 2007, was among the very best in the long line of such tributes. The wit of the noted speakers who came to Avery Fisher Hall to honor the actress soared, and the assembled film clips revealed Keaton’s versatility to an extent that many may not have realized previously. There was stress on how she helped alter the image of women on screen, whether by fashion or the types of roles that she played, with her performance in “Annie Hall” as a touchstone for what was to follow.
Sarah Jessica Parker set a convivial tone as the first speaker by telling how much of a role model Keaton was for her. Parker’s remarks were laced with a mix of adulation and references to the experience of finally getting to work with Keaton. The warmth and humor that Parker exuded established an air of sincerity in counterpoint to some of the roast-like comments to follow.
Woody Allen received a rousing reception from a crowd especially pleased that he was there and began by saying “I’m sure you’ve all heard of the term passive-aggressive.” He joked that what came to his mind when he first met her were two words, Eve Harrington, a reference to the conniving actress in “All About Eve” bent on replacing the star. This brought a roar of film buff laughter. There was more sarcasm from Allen, as he paid tribute to such Keaton virtues as having a wonderful handwriting and being thrifty. But fooling around aside, he crediting her with building his career by making him look good, and called her one of the greatest comedians that the world has ever seen.
Meryl Streep continued the run on humor by referring to Keaton as achieving the feat of having an all American image while still “being popular in France.” She spoke fondly of their working together, concluding, “I love you, Diane—even though you never call me.”
Lisa Kudrow also spoke warmly of Keaton, as did Steve Martin, who decided to pay tribute by plunking out a banjo tune in her honor, and getting laughs by the simplicity of the number and tauntingly going on for what seemed like forever. Martin Short was also very funny in his congratulatory remarks, and writer-director Nancy Meyers related anecdotes about the star, including how at ease she was as a woman her age going nude in “Something’s Got to Give.” Keaton’s attitude was, said Meyers, “‘If a woman my age is going to be nude in a film it might as well be me.’”
Keaton drew a standing ovation and spoke with what was obviously heartfelt sincerity about the road she had traveled, from childhood aspirations to her extensive career and appreciation of friends and those with whom she worked. Gracious and informative in her observations, she choked up at the end, struggling to hold back tears before leaving the stage with a broad smile.
The emotion had built as the honoree sat in the first tier watching the compendium of film clips that summarized the variety of what she had accomplished, scenes from “Annie Hall,” “Sleeper,” “Love and Death,” “Manhattan Murder Mystery,” “Godfather II,” “Looking for Mr. Goodbar,” “Marvin’s Room,” “Reds,” “Mrs. Soffel,” “Father of the Bride,” “Shoot the Moon,” “The Family Stone,” “Baby Boom” “Something’s Gotta Give,” “Father of the Bride II,” and “First Wives Club,” as well as films she directed, “Hanging Up,” “Wildflower,” and “Unstrung Heroes.” (Mercifully, her disappointing recent “Because I Say So” was absent.). The total effect was tremendously impressive, and although I have admired her work from the outset, I must admit that the breadth of what she has accomplished registered a more powerful impression upon seeing the cumulative evidence at the gala.
The smoothly run, colorful tribute was directed and edited by Wendy Keys, produced by Tony Impavido and written by Joanna Ney.