Mondays with Mike: From George and Martha to Charlie Wilson

February 1, 2016 • Posted in Mike Knezovich, Mondays with Mike, Uncategorized by

You think you know a person. And then you watch a documentary.

So it was when I sat down on the couch to watch the latest edition of PBS’ American Masters series, this on a guy who’s one of the greatest filmmakers of our time—Mike Nichols.

Now, I knew he was good. I just didn’t realize how good. It’s hard to say that he flew under the radar. He was famous. Rich. And married to Dianne Sawyer. But the body of his work is just incredible.

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It’s also worth noting that his is still another story of immigrant-makes-good in the United States. He and his family immigrated to New York City from Nazi-era Berlin, thankfully, while, they still could.

He ended up studying at the University of Chicago, where he met the likes of Susan Sontag. And Elaine May (who directed this documentary), of course, with whom he developed an enormously successful comedy partnership—the two were also part of what became Second City.

That’s pretty good right there, in my book. But, he eventually was asked to direct a play, and the rest, as they say, was history. The first play? “Barefoot in the Park.”

His first movie? “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Think about that. Hello, Elizabeth and Richard, thank you for joining me on my debut. (And if somehow you’ve never watched it, shame on you and add it to your queue).

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His second movie: “The Graduate.” Think about that.

Plus, in his interviews for the documentary, he’s just charming, insightful, doesn’t take himself too seriously, and is just one of those people I’d give anything to have been around. (I especially liked his take on how the French view American film; I believe the word “frogified” was used.)

It’s really worth the watch. The PBS site indicates the hour-long film will be online through February (though as of this writing, the sites seems to be down). But I believe it’ll continue to be aired on local stations during that time, also.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the list of films that he directed:

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2007            Charlie Wilson’s War

2004            Closer

2003            Angels in America (TV Mini-Series) (2 episodes)

2001            Wit (TV Movie)

2000            What Planet Are You From?

1998            Primary Colors

1996            The Birdcage

1994            Wolf

1991            Regarding Henry

1990            Postcards from the Edge

1988            Working Girl

1988            Biloxi Blues

1986            Heartburn

1983            Silkwood

1980            Gilda Live (Documentary)

1975            The Fortune

1973            The Day of the Dolphin

1971            Carnal Knowledge

1970            Catch-22

1968            Teach Me! (Short)

1967            The Graduate

1966            Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

P.S. Oh yeah, there are also the theater credits:

BetrayalOct 27, 2013 – Jan 05, 2014
Death of a SalesmanMar 15, 2012 – Jun 02, 2012
The Country GirlApr 27, 2008 – Jul 20, 2008
The Apple TreeDec 14, 2006 – Mar 11, 2007
SpamalotMar 17, 2005 – Jan 11, 2009
WhoopiNov 17, 2004 – Jan 30, 2005
The Play What I WroteMar 30, 2003 – Jun 15, 2003
Sunday in the Park with GeorgeMay 15, 1994 – May 15, 1994
Death and the MaidenMar 17, 1992 – Aug 02, 1992
Social SecurityApr 17, 1986 – Mar 22, 1987
Whoopi GoldbergOct 24, 1984 – Mar 10, 1985
HurlyburlyAug 07, 1984 – Jun 02, 1985
The Real ThingJan 05, 1984 – May 12, 1985
Grown UpsDec 10, 1981 – Feb 20, 1982
FoolsApr 06, 1981 – May 09, 1981
Lunch HourNov 12, 1980 – Jun 28, 1981
Billy Bishop Goes to WarMay 29, 1980 – Jun 07, 1980
The Gin GameOct 06, 1977 – Dec 31, 1978
AnnieApr 21, 1977 – Jan 02, 1983
ComediansNov 28, 1976 – Apr 03, 1977
StreamersApr 21, 1976 – Jun 05, 1977
Uncle VanyaJun 04, 1973 – Jul 28, 1973
The Prisoner of Second AvenueNov 11, 1971 – Sep 29, 1973
Plaza SuiteFeb 14, 1968 – Oct 03, 1970
The Little FoxesOct 26, 1967 – Jan 20, 1968
The Apple TreeOct 18, 1966 – Nov 25, 1967
The Odd CoupleMar 10, 1965 – Jul 02, 1967
LuvNov 11, 1964 – Jan 07, 1967
Barefoot in the ParkOct 23, 1963 – Jun 25, 1967
Bonita Mall On February 1, 2016 at 10:03 am

There was an article on Nichols in the October (I think) Vanity Fair that included many testimonies to him – it was the best. Read it you must.

Mike On February 2, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Thanks, will do, Bonita!

Robert Ringwald On February 1, 2016 at 10:10 am

Hi Mike,

My daughter was in the West Coast production of “Annie”. Word was that Mike Nichols didn’t write “Annie”. But he took a failing show and turned it around and made a hit of it.


Mike On February 2, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Ha! She was? That’s great.

Mel Theobald On February 1, 2016 at 10:44 pm

Mike, like you said, it is as if Mike Nichols just sort of sneaked up on all of us. His list of credits is incredible. Add to your list the brilliant stand up routines that he did with Elaine May. Those treasures alone are worthy of more attention. If I may add a little more local color to your blog. My old friend Connie Zonka was the sister of Patricia Zipprodt who was the costume designer for The Graduate. Connie lived in the South Loop for years, was the wife of Sun-Times editor Bob Zonka and was part owner of the Quiet Knight. If you want to have some fun, look up PZ on Wikipedia, another over looked person in our midst. Thanks for threading this needle.

Mike On February 2, 2016 at 12:35 pm

What a great story. Yeah, I listened to a Terry Gross interview that was replayed after Nichols’ death and the included an old bit. It was fantastic! The premise was a Jewish mother berating her son for not calling–but he couldn’t call because he was launching Vanguard (which was a communications satellite of the day).

That’s terrific about Connie, will look her up.

Mel Theobald On February 2, 2016 at 11:04 pm

Mike, Connie won’t likely be listed, it is Patricia Zipprodt who has the Wikipedia page. They were both amazing. I met Connie on Aeroflot when she was taking Patricia’s chest of costumes to the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg Russia. So many more great stories after that.

Mike On February 3, 2016 at 9:25 am

Thanks Mel, a little scrambled brain there.

Benita Black On February 3, 2016 at 11:32 am

I count myself a fan from the Nichols-May sketch days. His immigrant-success story is almost identical to Andre Previn’s: same background, same US arrival, same brilliance. One fears to contemplate what we (the world) lose when we restrict refugees from entering our country.
In regard to Patricia Zipprodt, I was a great admirer of her Broadway and Met Opera work, but was unaware of her fabulously romantic personal story. Here it is in her NYT obit:

Mike On February 3, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Ha! How’d I know that you’d know Patricia Zipprodt? Thanks for the link BDB.

Benita Black On February 3, 2016 at 12:19 pm

You know her work without necessarily knowing her name. Artisans such as costume, set and lighting designers do work that, if great, doesn’t scream at us. We absorb it but rarely do we bother to know their names. Lucky to have a friend like Mel to single out PZ to you!

Mel Theobald On February 3, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Benita, thank you for your endearing words about Patricia and for adding the link. Connie always talked about how Patricia married Col. Bob and I never tired of hearing the story. Had Mike not mentioned Mike Nichols and The Graduate, I may never have written on his blog. So, I’m grateful to both of you for inspiring me and keeping tabs on those who have enriched our lives.

Benita Black On February 3, 2016 at 1:20 pm

I, too, am grateful for this opportunity to laud PZ and to “meet” you, Mel.

nbollero On February 3, 2016 at 10:17 pm

We watched it too…great story. Steven’s Mom just loved Nichols and May, she introduced them to me. Want to watch all those movies now. Snow day soon?

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