Now every day the bracken browner grows,
Even the purple stars
Of clematis, that shone about the bars,
Grow browner; and the little autumn rose
Dons, for her rosy gown,
Sad weeds of brown

Now falls the eve; and ere the morning sun,
Many a flower her sweet life will have lost,
Slain by the bitter frost,
Who slays the butterflies also, one by one,
The tiny beasts
That go about their business and their feasts.

Mary Coleridge, 1861-1907

In Woody Allen’s career that’s spanned five decades, September is one of the most hectic shoots he ever had to work on. The story of the shoot isn’t very well known, as it doesn’t involve enough sex, drugs and tragedy to be an E! True Hollywood Story, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a story of a major motion picture shoot quite like it.

In 1987, Woody Allen had a big concept for a film. He wanted to create a movie that felt like a genuine “play on film.” Thus, he decided to make September with a small, nine person cast, a single shooting location and limited use of cuts and camera effects.

Allen had always wanted to do a “chamber piece,” a film involving a small cast and one location, he saw September as his chance to do so. He wrote the film with intentions to shoot the film at the Connecticut country house of his then-wife Mia Farrow. Yet Allen didn’t finish his screenplay in time, for when he was ready to shoot it was already winter and obviously, the film took place in September. So Allen began production on a soundstage at Kaufman Astoria Studios in New York City.

Allen shot two or three radically different versions of every scene. Yet in the middle of the shoot Christopher Walken came to the conclusion that he was wrong for the part he had been cast to play, thus he left the project. Allen replaced him with Award winning actor and playwright Sam Shepard. After the film was in the can, Allen started the editing process. Yet soon realized he absolutely detested the resulting film.

Allen was just coming off his biggest commercial success of all-time, Hannah and Her Sisters, thus he was in the good graces of big studio Hollywood, who have always put out Allen’s small films, which in themselves are always a far cry from typical Hollywood fare. So the studio let Allen do a complete do over of September! Thus Allen returned to Kaufman Astoria Studios to shoot the film again. This time with many cast members replaced...without the actors knowing they had been replaced. Maureen O'Sullivan was replaced by Elaine Stritch, Charles Durning was replaced by Denholm Elliott and Sam Shepard was replaced by Sam Waterston, making Waterson the third actor to play the part of Peter during the film’s production. Shepard was very open to how he felt Allen couldn’t work well with actors, despite the fact that he had given many actors their starts and directed many to Academy Award nominations and wins. The other six actors, whom included Dianne Wiest (fresh off an Academy Award win for Hannah and Her Sisters), Mia Farrow, Rosemary Harris, Ira Wheeler and Jack Warden, came back to shoot the film over again.

After the film wrapped again with its inflated $10 million dollar budget (it isn’t known if that was the original budget or if Allen had to ask for more) and the film way behind schedule, Allen apparently detested the film still. He had great anticipation for this project and wanted to do it right and was planning on a third go-round, but the distributor Orion Pictures denied Allen and released the second version of the film.

The film was released on December 18th, 1987 in prime Academy Award season. Yet September went down as the biggest Woody Allen flop of all time, earning making a paltry $486,434 in the U.S. and not faring much better overseas. Luckily, Allen had released Radio Days eleven months prior, which went on to be nominated for two Academy Awards including a Best Original Screenplay nomination for Allen. Years later, as Allen has earned more Academy Award nominations and continues to make movies (to criticism from some, who believe he’s done all he could do), September remains the lowest watermark in his career.

But man does that production tale make for a great story.

September is the ninth month of the year, the seventh of the Roman calendar. It is 30 days long. There are two astrological signs in the month -- Virgo runs 'til the 22nd, and Libra starts on the 23rd. Major September holidays include the first day of fall, the autumnal equinox, between the 21st and the 23rd, Labor Day on the first Monday of the month, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur (often but not always in September), and my birthday. It is my second favorite month.

September is traditionally the beginning of the school year. It's the month of new paper, new pencils, new lunchboxes, new crayons with a built-in sharpener. It's the month of new classes and teachers, clean restrooms and dorms, new clothing and classmates. It's kids crying for mama on the first day of kindergarten, meeting your first roommate in college, getting lost on the first day in high school, seeing people you didn't realize you missed all summer long.

September is the end of summer's worst heat and the beginning of autumn's cooldown. More moderate days, cool and comfortable nights. But there's still a hint of decay -- the end of summer means the approach of winter's killing freezes. Appreciate that pleasant weather while you can, because it won't be long before you're wrapped in winter coats, wishing for warmth again.

September is the month of football. It isn't the most important football month -- there are no championships at stake. But it's the beginning of the season, and optimism about the gridiron is at its peak. The pleasant weather and the new school year conspire to make the new football season a perfect autumn tradition. Everyone gets reacquainted with the cool autumn nights, marching band routines, spastic cheerleaders, snack bar cuisine, and the smack of pads hitting pads.

September is the traditional beginning of the harvest. Apples, summer melons, and grapes are some of the crops that are often harvested in September. You like caramel apples, don't you? Wouldn't a caramel apple taste good right now?

September is the best month for county fairs and carnivals. If you want to eat turkey legs or funnel cakes or a wide variety of deep-fried delicacies, the county fair is the place to be. The 4-H kids are showing off their steers and barrows and lambs and chickens, and the garden club gives demonstrations on flower arranging. Farmers' wives compete in cooking contests and display their canned preserves. You can ride the ferris wheel or bumper cars or the zipper, and you can throw your money away on shooting galleries and ball games.

September is my second favorite month. It's a good month for walking outside, a good month for sitting out on the porch and drinking a beer, a good month for staying up late and watching the moon. It's a good month, and I'll always consider it the real beginning of the year.

Sep*tem"ber (?), n. [L., fr. septem seven, as being the seventh month of the Roman year, which began with March: cf. F. septembre. See Seven.]

The ninth month of the year, containing thirty days.

 

© Webster 1913.

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