The Hamptons International Film Festival got me thinking about the starring role the Rattray family’s Amagansett house played in “Annie Hall,” Woody Allen’s 1977 movie starring Diane Keaton. I haven’t seen “Annie Hall” in a long time, but much of it has stayed with me.
Surely you remember the “Annie Hall” look, a fashion style that Keaton made all the rage, with her baggy khakis and menswear ties? But do you remember the lobster scene, in which Woody is comically terrified by his crawling-crustacean dinner? That was our house!
The story is that Allen and the production crew had a notion to use a colonial-style house on the oceanfront in East Hampton for “Annie Hall.” But an oceanfront colonial? No such thing, at least at the time. When nothing was to be found that filled the bill, our house, sitting as it did among the dunes facing Gardiner’s Bay, was “discovered,” as they say in show biz.
My late husband, Ev, and I were at work at the Star office one morning when we got a phone call from someone who said Woody Allen was interested in renting our house for a film.
I thought it was a joke.
“Hello,” the voice on the phone said. “You’re not going to believe this, but I am in your house with Woody Allen.”
Were we supposed to be pleased?
In any event, we couldn’t help but be intrigued.
In those years, the Amagansett house was locked up each winter, as our family spent the school year at our other house, in “town,” in East Hampton Village. The doors at the beach house were locked, so the movie director and his scout had broken in.
The filming required a lot of redecorating. Our kitchen floor was tiled in brick-red quarry tiles, and they wanted to cover it — I guess because the lobsters might be hard to see against a brick-red background. They covered the floor with wood, but in order to do that the kitchen door had to be cut down, because, otherwise, it couldn’t be closed. The refrigerator — a big, yellow 1970s thing — had to be moved temporarily to the basement to make way for a camera.
Apparently the set designer found our décor too spare: They put colorful printed curtains on the kitchen windows. (I still don’t believe in curtains.)
It turned out that one room in the house didn’t pass muster: The bedroom, which was to be used for a scene
in which Diane smokes pot in bed,
was recreated in a professional studio. (Maybe Silvercup?)
The project took only a few days. Four, I think. We were glad to receive the $1,200 they paid us, and to have the house set back to rights. My kids were amazed to find snippets of actual film footage scattered around the driveway after the crew left town.
Woody may have fallen from grace, but “Annie Hall” seems to be living on as a movie immortal. Not a bad claim to fame after all these years, I think.