Synopsis: Fictional documentary about the life of human chameleon Leonard Zelig, a man who becomes a celebrity in the 1920s due to his ability to look and act like whoever is around him. Clever editing places Zelig in real newsreel footage of Woodrow Wilson, Babe Ruth, and others.
Genre: Comedy
Director(s): Woody Allen
Production: Warner Home Video
  Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 14 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
79 min

He was the phenomenon

of the twenties.

When you think that he was

as well-known as Lindbergh...

it's really quite astonishing.

His story reflected the nature

of our civilization...

the character of our times.

Yet it was also

one man's story...

and all the themes

of our culture were there--

heroism, will,

things like that--

but when you look back on it,

it was very strange.

Well, it is ironic...

to see how quickly

he has faded from memory...

considering what

an astounding record he made.

He was,

of course, very amusing...

but at the same time

touched a nerve in people...

perhaps in a way in which they

would prefer not to be touched.

It certainly is

a very bizarre story.

The year is 1928.

America, enjoying a decade

of unequaled prosperity...

has gone wild.

The Jazz Age, it is called.

The rhythms are syncopated.

The morals are looser.

The liquor is cheaper,

when you can get it.

It is a time of diverse heroes

and madcap stunts...

of speak-easies

and flamboyant parties.

One typical party occurs

at the Long lsland estate...

of Mr. and Mrs.

Henry Porter Sutton...


patrons of the arts.

Politicians and poets...

rub elbows

with the cream of high society.

Present at the party

is Scott Fitzgerald...

who is to cast perspective

on the twenties...

for all future generations.

He writes in his notebook...

about a curious little man

named Leon Selwyn, or Zelman...

who seemed clearly

to be an aristocrat...

and extolled the very rich

as he chatted with socialites.

He spoke adoringly of Coolidge

and the Republican Party...

all in an upper-class

Boston accent.

"An hour later,"

writes Fitzgerald...

"I was stunned

to see the same man...

"speaking with

the kitchen help.

"Now he claimed

to be a Democrat...

"and his accent seemed coarse,

as if he were one of the crowd."

It's the first small notice

taken of Leonard Zelig.

Florida, one year later.

An odd incident occurs...

at the New York Yankees'

training camp.


anxious as always...

to immortalize the exploits

of the great home-run hitters...

notice a strange new player...

waiting his turn at bat

after Babe Ruth.

He's listed on the roster

as Lou Zelig...

but no one on the team

has heard of him.

Security guards are called...

and he's escorted

from the premises.

It appears as a small item

in the next day's newspaper.

Chicago, Illinois,

that same year.

There is a private party...

at a speak-easy

on the South Side.

People from the most

respectable walks of life...

dance and drink bathtub gin.

Present that evening

was Calvin Turner, a waiter.

A lot of gangsters

come in the place.

They're good tippers

and take care of us.

We take care of our customers.

On this particular night,

here's a strange guy coming in.

I'd never seen him before.

So I asked the one

or the other...

I said, "John,

you know this guy?

"You ever seen him?"

So he looks.

"No. I ain't never

seen him before.

"I don't know who he is...

"but I know one thing--

he's a tough-looking hombre."

So I looked over, and then...

the next thing,

the guy had disappeared.

I don't know where he went to.

But about this time,

the music starts...

and the band

started playing.

I looked. Here's a colored boy

over there playing trumpet.

Man, he was playing back,

and I looked at the guy...

and I said, "He looks

just like that gangster...

"but the gangster was white,

and this guy is black."

So I don't know

what's happening.

New York City.

It is several months later.

Police are investigating

the disappearance of a clerk...

named Leonard Zelig.

Both his landlady

and his employer...

have reported him missing.

They tell police he was an odd

little man who kept to himself.

Two clues are found in

Zelig's Greenwich Village flat.

One, a photograph of Zelig

with Eugene O'Neill...

and one of him as Pagliacci.

Acting on a tip, they trace

his whereabouts to Chinatown...

where, in the rear

of a Chinese establishment...

a strange-looking Oriental...

who fits the description

of Leonard Zelig is discovered.

Suspicious, the detectives

try to pull off his disguise...

but it is not a disguise,

and a fight breaks out.

He is removed by force

and taken to Manhattan Hospital.

In the ambulance,

he rants and curses...

in what sounds

like authentic Chinese.

He is restrained

with a straitjacket.

When he emerges from the car

twenty minutes later...

incredibly, he is no longer

Chinese, but Caucasian.

Bewildered interns place him

in the emergency room...

for observation.

At 7 a.m., Dr. Eudora Fletcher,

a psychiatrist...

makes her usual rounds.

When I first heard

about this emergency case...

I didn't think

anything peculiar...

and when I first

laid eyes on him...

it was a bit strange because

I mistook him for a doctor.

He had a very professional

demeanor about him.

As a young psychiatrist...

Eudora Fletcher is fascinated

by Leonard Zelig.

She convinces the conservative

staff at the hospital...

to allow her to pursue

a study of the new admission.

So, what do you do?

Oh, me? I'm a psychiatrist.

I work mostly

with delusional paranoids.

Tell me about it.

There's not much to tell.

I work mostly

on the continent...

and I've written quite a few

psychoanalytic papers.

I worked with Freud in Vienna.

We broke over the concept

of penis envy.

Freud felt that it

Rate this script:4.5 / 4 votes

Woody Allen

Heywood "Woody" Allen is an American actor, comedian, filmmaker, and playwright, whose career spans more than six decades. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "Zelig" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 5 Mar. 2024. <https://www.scripts.com/script/zelig_23966>.

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