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Monday, February 22, 2016

Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

In a small New England university town, the wife (Elizabeth Taylor) of a history professor (Richard Burton) invites a young biology teacher (George Segal) and his wife (Sandy Dennis) for a nightcap in the wee hours of the morning after a late night campus get together. It will be a long night's journey into dawn. Edward Albee's award winning play was a landmark production when it first opened on Broadway in 1962. Its use of language alone had many thinking it could never be filmed without compromise but with a little tweaking by Ernest Lehman's screenplay, it arrived on screen basically intact. Albee's raw and searing look at a marriage held together by the most tenuous of illusions is perhaps indebted somewhat to Eugene O'Neill but it has spawned its own cottage industry in the theater, AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY being a recent example. There was much buzz at the time on the casting of Taylor, known more for her beauty and private life than her acting and whether she was up to the demands of the role. She was and got her second Oscar for it. In his best screen performance, Burton puts aside the ham and over emoting that too often ruins his work and he's stunning here. This was Mike Nichols' feature film debut as a director but its directed with an assured hand. A timeless adaptation of a great American play. 

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