RIP Mike Nichols!
The brilliant Director Mike Nichols has died of a heart attack at the age of 83. Nichols was married to New Anchor Diane Sawyer…
He was a brilliant Director of stage and screen, and left us with so many incredible films like these….
Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolf?
If you’ve never seen this film, it’s an intense look at a deteriorating marriage, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor…
Nichols directed this iconic film as well – his career varied widely, from heavy drama to light comedy like “The Birdcage”. He won the Best Director Oscar for “The Graduate”, and has an incredible long list of achievmeents.
Here are two of his films – the “yin and yang” of an amazing career….
“Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna. Never will.”
Working Girl – Released in 1988.
Melanie Griffith was Oscar nominated for Best Actress – and held her own against a great cast including Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack and Kevin Spacey.
Melanie plays Tess McGill – a frustrated secretary, struggling to forge ahead in the world of big business in New York. Her latest boss is a first for her – a woman – Katerine Parker, played by Sigourney Weaver, who had a head for business.
Katherine Parker: “Ugh! What a slob.”
Tess McGill: “You were so smooth with him.”
Katherine Parker: “Never burn bridges. Today’s junior *prick*, tomorrow’s senior partner.”
Tess gets her chance to show her ability when her boss breaks her leg on a skiing holiday. McGill takes advantage of her absence to push ahead with her career. She teams up with investment broker Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) to work on a big deal.
[in the bar]
Tess McGill: I have a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?
Jack Trainer: Uh, no. No.
The film is full of great moments and one-liners, like when Joan Cusack is looking at some of Sigourney’s wardrobe in shock:
Cynthia: “Six thousand dollars? It’s not even leather!”
Mike Nichols’ Wedding Problem!
Kevin Spacey has a small role as well – and on the day the scene was shot, Mike Nichols sent a car to Spacey’s New York apartment, with a copy of the script in the back seat. Spacey learned his lines while on the way to the shoot. Nichols was under pressure to finish the scene so he wouldn’t have to postpone his wedding to Diane Sawyer two days later!
Then there is this fun scene between Griffith and Harrison Ford, having some fun with Ford’s real-life chin scar…
Tess McGill: “How did you get the scar?”
Jack Trainer: “Some guy pulled a knife in Detroit.”
Tess McGill: “Really?”
Jack Trainer: “No. No. I was nineteen and I thought it’d be cool to have a pierced ear. My girlfriend stuck the needle through and I heard this pop and fainted and hit my chin on the toilet.”
Joan Cusack also gets to showcase her innner Jersey girl, as Tess’s friend, who doesn’t share her big dreams…Nichols showed a deft hand with comedy, especially when it was tinged with a bit of melancholy and regret….
Cyn: “Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna. Never will.”
While “Working Girl” was social comedy, Nichols also made what I consider one of the most brilliant anti-war films of all time – the dark dark dark black comedy “Catch-22″…
The phrase “Catch-22” is probably one of the most iconic in history, but do you know what it means?
“That’s some catch that catch-22.”
“One of the best!”
Well, we are about to explore the origin of the phrase, and also re-discover one of the most neglected films of the 1970’s…
“Catch -22” was a massive bestselling novel, turned into the blackest of black comedies by one of the film’s greatest Directors. It was also one of the biggest flops of the 70’s! Yes, the cult novel turned literary sensation was a massive box office disaster upon release – and it is a brilliant black comedy action war movie, from one of the greatest novels ever written…time to rediscover a classic movie:
Talk about a catch: a film based on one of the world’s most acclaimed anti-war novels, released at the height of the country’s anti-war movement over Vietnam, and it was directed by the hottest movie Director working at the time, with an all-star cast…
Maj. Major Major Major: Is something wrong?
Tappman: No, no. I . . . just thought I saw something.
Maj. Major Major Major: A naked man in a tree?
Tappman: Yes, that’s it.
Danby: [looking through binoculars] That’s just Yossarian.
In 1970, on the heels of the success of “MASH”, anti-war statements were the rage. So acclaimed Director Mike Nichols took on one of the most celebrated novels of our time.
Here is the unique trailer from 1970, which shows the scene that explains exactly what “Catch-22” is:
“Catch-22” tells the story of Yossarian, a WW2 bomber pilot who desperately wants to stop flying. But there’s a catch…
Yossarian: “Let me see if I’ve got this straight: in order to be grounded, I’ve got to be crazy and I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I’m not crazy any more and I have to keep flying.”
Crazy pilots were grounded. But “Catch-22” required the pilots to request being grounded. But if they made the request, they were no longer crazy, so they had to keep flying…as I said:
“That’s Some Catch, That Catch-22!”
This movie had it all: Director Mike Nichols was coming off his Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Director for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff” and his Oscar win for directing “The Graduate.” Here is the director on the set of “Catch-22” with Orson Welles…
Nichols was the hottest Director in film at the time, and his movies captured perfectly the changing culture in America, and so, with “Catch-22” he was determined to capture the madness of war…
The novel was one of the most acclaimed works of fiction of the 60’s – a scathing anti-war book at a time when the country was divided over our involvement in Vietnam…
Robert Altman’s masterpiece “MASH” had been released to critical and commercial acclaim, and it seemed the country was ready for another anti-war film…with an all-star cast…
Look At This Cast!
Nichols took this acclaimed novel and created a darkly comic look at war, and populated it with a “who’s who” of the time. Look at the stars who lined up to be in the film:
The cast included Alan Arkin, Bob Newhart, Richard Benjamin, Charles Grodin, Jon Voight, Art Garfunkel, Bob Balaban, Anthony Perkins, Martin Sheen and legendary Director Orson Welles:
– that’s right, ORSON WELLES, here being interviewed by Director Peter Bogdanovich on-set while Candace Bergen takes a photo – it was the biggest, loudest, most star-studded movie of it’s time!
The Simon & Garfunkel Rift!
Here is great trivia, courtesy of IMDB: “Since shooting took longer than planned, Art Garfunkel wasn’t able to make it back to New York in time to start writing and recording the Simon & Garfunkel album “Bridge Over Troubled Water”!
Angered by the delay, Paul Simon wrote the track “The Only Living Boy in New York” about the incident. The lyrics
“Tom, get your plane right on time / I know your part’ll go fine / Fly down to Mexico”
were a thinly veiled attack aimed at Garfunkel (who was “Tom” of Simon & Garfunkel’s earlier incarnation, Tom & Jerry), leaving Simon alone in New York to write the bulk of the album himself.”
“Catch-22” had it all, and when it was released, it bombed spectacularly! Dark comedy and satire is tough to pull off, and the film is unflinching in its depiction of war – it is also a very hard “R” rating for the time…and America rejected it!
Soderbergh Talks Up Nichols!
This surreal nightmare of a war film is not perfect, but there are some amazing sequences in the film, as well as many disturbing images…it’s a black comedy with a social sting, and it is worth discovering – especially since the DVD special edition includes a conversation between Director Mike Nichols and Director Steven Soderbergh, who is a huge fan of the film!
It’s a great chance to hear Nichols himself discussing this film and movies in general…
RIP Mike Nichols!
This is jus the tip of the iceberg on an amazing career – read more about his films and discover pure cinema!
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