Book Vs. Movie: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf
The Edward Albee 1962 Play Vs. the 1966 Mike Nichols Film
The three-hour anger fest that is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf is one of the most celebrated and controversial of the 1960s. Edward Albee’s 1961 play is about middle-aged couple George & Martha, who have been drinking and battling for years, and one unfortunate evening they have with new friends Nick & Honey. It caused a stir at the time for its “racy” language, the three-hour runtime, and its intense performances by Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill, Ben Piazza, and Melinda Dillon.
The play was a sensation and broke box office records. So much, so that afternoon performances were added to meet the demand. It won the Tony Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle in 1963. The same year, it was up for a Pultizer Prize for Drama but lost due to its “profanity and sexual themes.” (There was no prize given that year.)
Mike Nichols directed the 1966 film with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who ate up each scene with their unique partnership of love, hate, and movie-star charisma. (Their real-life love story is another whirlwind of multiple marriages, addiction, and pain.) George Segal and Sandy Dennis play Nick and Honey, and the entire cast and most of the production received Academy Award nominations. (Taylor and Dennis won)
Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) said this was his first controversial film under his reign. Words like “screw” and “hump” were considered scandalous and had to be deleted from the script.
The story of George and Martha is one of the significant cultural landmarks of the 20th Century, with several productions over the past 60 years and several parodies, from The Carol Burnett Show to The Simpsons.
In this episode, the Margos discuss the original play and the 1966 adaptation and try to decide which we like better.
In this ep the Margos discuss:
- The work of Edward Albee
- The legend behind the title of the play
- The significant differences between the play and the movie
- The 1966 cast: Elizabeth Taylor (Martha,) Richard Burton (George,) George Segal (Nick,) and Sandy Dennis as Honey
- Opening Clip
- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? 1966 trailer
- Martha degrades George
- George “shoots” Martha
- Martha and Nick dance
- Nick talks about boxing
- “I swear if you existed, I would divorce you!”
- One day it snaps…
- Music by Alex North
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