Thursday, March 23, 2017

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a 1966 American black-comedy film.  It’s also, perhaps, my favorite classic film of all time.  It stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, a well known Hollywood couple from back then, as well as George Segal and Sandy Dennis.  This film, directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Carnal Knowledge, etc), was released by Warner Bros.  It is based on the stage play of the same name by Edward Albee.  It’s one of the only films to ever be nominated for every eligible Oscars category, winning five of them out of thirteen.   And that doesn’t surprise me, as performances from all four stars are fantastic, as well as being a great story with solid direction.

                Richard Burton plays a middle-aged college professor named George, who is married to Elizabeth Taylor’s character Martha.  George invites over a younger couple, played by George Segal and Sandy Dennis, and we get to spend a night with George and Martha as hosts as they drink alcohol and argue about their relationship in front of Segal’s and Dennis’ Nick and Honey characters.  George and Martha verbally abuse each other throughout, revealing to their guests the depth of their relationship with all of its problems.  Elizabeth Taylor certainly deserved the Best Actress Oscar that she won for her performance, while Sandy Dennis won for best supporting actress.  Richard Burton was nominated for Best Actor, but did not win, though he gives perhaps his best performance of his entire career in this film.

                I wouldn’t recommend trying to read or discover everything about the film before seeing it, as, if you’re like me, you’ll be shocked by the ending if you don’t understand for most of the film exactly what George and Martha are going on about.  They give contradictory reports about their children, for instance, much to the confusion of their guests.  Ultimately, I think the film is a shining example of what a married couple, dedicated to one another but troubled, may go through in the struggle to maintain their lives, their marriage, and their very sanity.  This film was a box office success, bringing in 40 million dollars for Warner Bros.  Anyway, without spoiling anything, I must insist that if you haven’t yet watched this film that you seek out to watch it ASAP.  I give it a full 4 out of 4 stars!  Don’t miss this one, even if you previously weren’t a fan of Burton or Taylor as an on-screen duo (or on their own, at that!).  This one’ll tear at your heart strings, in a way that I’ll never forget and I don't think you will either!

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