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Friday, November 21, 2014

Remembering Mike Nichols 1931 - 2014

Mike Nichols, who died Wednesday at age 83, began his career in 1955 with the Chicago improv troupe, The Compass Players (a predecessor to Second City). And in 1958, he and Elaine May began performing as the comedy duo, Nichols and May, which led to their 1960 Broadway show, An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and a Grammy Award-winning album. They discontinued their act in 1961, but the couple reunited in 1980 to star as George and Martha in a production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre (below you can watch Nichols and May in a sketch and as the Mystery Guests on What's My Line? on June 26, 1960).

Nichols then became an acclaimed Broadway director, winning ten Tony Awards for Barefoot in the Park (1963), Luv (1964), The Odd Couple (1965), Plaza Suite (1968), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971), Annie (1977) as a producer, The Real Thing (1984) as a director and a producer, Spamalot (2005) and Death of a Salesman (2012). Other Broadway directing credits include The Apple Tree (1966), The Little Foxes (1967), The Gin Game (1977), Hurlyburly (1984), Death and the Maiden (1992) and Betrayal (2013) (below you can watch his Tony Award acceptance speech for Death of a Salesman).

He also directed many films, including Catch-22 (1970), The Day of the Dolphin (1973), The Fortune (1975), Gilda Live (1980), Biloxi Blues (1988), Regarding Henry (1991), Wolf (1994), Primary Colors (1998), What Planet Are You From? (2000), Wit (a 2001 HBO movie for which he won two Emmy Awards), Closer (2004) and Charlie Wilson's War (2007). He was also an executive producer of the 1976-80 ABC drama, Family.

Nichols is survived by three children and his fourth wife, former ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer.

To celebrate Mr. Nichols' life and career, I'm featuring some of my favorite films and TV productions that he directed (in chronological order):

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.

The Graduate (1967) for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director.

Carnal Knowledge (1971) starring Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, Ann-Margret and Candice Bergen.

Silkwood (1983) for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.

Heartburn (1986) starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.

Working Girl (1988) for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.

Postcards from the Edge (1990) starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.

The Birdcage (1996) starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.

Angels in America, the 2003 HBO miniseries for which he won two Emmy Awards for directing and producing.

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