Mike Nichols and the Cinema of Transformation

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About the Book

Mike Nichols burst onto the American cultural scene in the late 1950s as one half of the comic cabaret team of Nichols and May. He became a Broadway directing sensation, then moved on to Hollywood, where his first two films—Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and The Graduate (1967)—earned a total of 20 Academy Award nominations. Nichols won the 1968 Oscar for Best Director and later joined the rarefied EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) club. He made many other American cinematic classics, including Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971), Silkwood (1983), Working Girl (1988), Postcards from the Edge (1990), and his late masterpieces for HBO, Wit (2001) and Angels in America (2003). Filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh regard him with reverence. This first full-career retrospective study of this protean force in the American arts begins with the roots of his filmmaking in satirical comedy and Broadway theatre and devotes separate chapters to each of his 20 feature films. Nichols’ permanent achievements are his critique of the ways in which culture constructs conformity and his tempered optimism about individuals’ liberation by transformative awakening.

About the Author(s)

J.W. Whitehead directs the fine arts and honors programs at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia, where he teaches film, creative writing, and contemporary literature.

Bibliographic Details

J.W. Whitehead
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 344
Bibliographic Info: 24 photos, filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7145-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1642-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments    ix

Preface    1

Part I. Taking the Stage

1. The Little Exile, the Cabaret Comic, the Broadway Midas 13

Part II. The Auteur

2. “Peel the label”: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) 25

3. “This afternoon’s feature attraction”: The Graduate (1967) 36

4. “Like us”: Catch-22 (1970) 52

5. “Just act natural”: Carnal Knowledge (1971) 73

6. “Man is bad”: The Day of the Dolphin (1973) 89

7. “I must be dreaming”: The Fortune (1975) 103

Part III. The Pro

8. “A moral imperative”: Silkwood (1983) 115

9. “Willing to play the game”: Heartburn (1986) 129

10. “You have to take sides”: Biloxi Blues (1988) 137

11. “She’s your man”: Working Girl (1988) 144

12. “Not like in the movies”: Postcards from the Edge (1990) 155

13. “Say when”: Regarding Henry (1991) 170

14. “What God meant”: Wolf (1994) 183

15. “Family values”: The Birdcage (1996) 192

16. “True believerism”: Primary Colors (1998) 201

17. “Like a human being”: What Planet Are You From? (2000) 216

Part IV. The Late Nichols

18. “A little allegory of the soul”: Wit (2001) 225

19. “Threshold of revelation”: Angels in America (2003) 236

20. “RU4 real?”: Closer (2004) 273

21. “We’ll see”: Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) 286

Part V. Among the Stars

22. Tempered Optimism: The Cinematic Legacy of Mike Nichols 297

Filmography    309

Chapter Notes    313

Bibliography    323

Index    327


Book Reviews & Awards

“highly recommended…a must”—Examiner.com.