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8.0

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Running time: 129 min. | Genre: Drama
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Synopsis

Turning the underbelly of bourgeois academia into a microcosm of human relationships in all their arduous complexities, Mike Nichols' auspicious debut feature is a harrowing descent into the private lives and painful secrets of two couples thrown together for an evening. Based on the controversial play by Edward Albee, this noir-ish 1966 drama stars former real-life couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, in what many critics consider to be their best performances. George (Burton) is a senior professor of history who has turned to alcohol to deal with his vituperative, vicious wife Martha (Taylor), whose appetite for administering abuse knows no bounds. Invited to the couple's home for late-night drinks are new professor Nick (George Segal), and his naïve wife Honey (Sandy Dennis), where over the course of the evening, the polished veneer of the hosts tarnishes grotesquely. The witty repartee of consummate sophisticate Martha degenerates into increasingly violent verbal abuse of both her husband and guests, while George's stoic façade crumbles both physically and emotionally. The horrified Nick and Honey initially come off as happier foils to the misery of the older married couple, but the guests are soon mirroring George and Martha in their mutual antagonism, giving voice to buried resentments and alcohol-fueled revelations of repressed injuries.

A director with a reputation for delivering intelligent, "adult" films, Nichols made a remarkably smooth and successful transition from stage to screen with this adaptation of Albee's already-notorious play. Screenwriter Ernest Lehman kept the text of the play virtually intact, maintaining the intensity and sheer violence of the frankly foul language. The film shocked audiences, presenting them with a tortuous foray into a love-hate relationship and, ultimately, mental illness. WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? received Academy Award nominations in virtually every category it was eligible for, winning five of them.

Nominations & Awards

Academy Awards

Best Supporting Actress (Sandy Dennis)
WINNER
Best Leading Actress (Elizabeth Taylor)
WINNER
Best Cinematography - Black & White
WINNER
Best Art Direction - Black & White
WINNER
Best Costume Design - Black & White
WINNER
Best Supporting Actor (George Segal)
NOMINATED
Best Leading Actor (Richard Burton)
NOMINATED
Best Director (Mike Nichols)
NOMINATED
Best Adapted Screenplay
NOMINATED
Best Music (Score)
NOMINATED
Best Film Editing
NOMINATED
Best Picture
NOMINATED
Best Sound
NOMINATED

Golden Globes Awards

Best Picture - Drama
NOMINATED
Best Director (Mike Nichols)
NOMINATED
Best Leading Actor - Drama (Richard Burton)
NOMINATED
Best Leading Actress - Drama (Elizabeth Taylor)
NOMINATED
Best Supporting Actor (George Segal)
NOMINATED
Best Supporting Actress (Sandy Dennis)
NOMINATED
Best Screenplay
NOMINATED

BAFTA

Best Picture
WINNER
Best British Actor (Richard Burton)
WINNER
Best British Actress (Elizabeth Taylor)
WINNER

Directors Guild of America (DGA)

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film (Mike Nichols)
NOMINATED

New York Film Critics Circle

Best Leading Actress (Elizabeth Taylor)
WINNER
Best Picture
NOMINATED
Best Leading Actor (Richard Burton)
NOMINATED

Top 10 - Movies of the Year
WINNER
Best Leading Actress (Elizabeth Taylor)
WINNER

Details

Original title

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Director

Mike Nichols

Producer

Warner Bros. Pictures

Running time

129 min.

Screenwriter

Ernest Lehman (Teatro: Edward Albee)

Music

Alex North

Cinematography

Haskell Wexler (B&W)

Year

1966

Country

United States United States

Ranking

IMDb
8.0

 

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