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Great role: Alan Alda in ''Crimes and Misdemeanors''

SCREEN GEM: Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

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Alan Alda, Woody Allen, ...
Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Kobal Collection

Great role: Alan Alda in ”Crimes and Misdemeanors”

PREMISE In one of the film’s two main storylines, Alda (left) is Lester, a crass but successful TV producer who commissions a documentary about himself from prinicipled but struggling filmmaker Cliff (Woody Allen, right), then snatches away the woman (Mia Farrow) on whom Cliff has a crush.

FUN FACT Lester’s aphorisms about comedy (”Comedy is tragedy plus time”) supposedly came from actual quotes by venerable TV comedy writer Larry Gelbart, who had worked with Allen on Sid Caesar’s sketch-writing team and with Alda on M*A*S*H.

WHY IT’S GREAT With this role, the onetime poster boy for sensitive masculinity began playing against type, the first of a long string of jerks and outright villains (Whispers in the Dark, Murder at 1600) that culminates in his weaselly senator in Aviator. Here, the former Hawkeye first revealed how much fun it is to be bad.