Magazine March 22, 2021, Issue

Mike Nichols’s Brilliant Ascent

From the cover of Mike Nichols: A Life (Penguin Press)
Mike Nichols: A Life, by Mark Harris (Penguin Press, 688 pp., $35)

At the height of his career, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, film director Mike Nichols was widely regarded as something akin to the nation’s satirist in chief — our principal wit, wag, and wiseacre. He was known first as one half, with Elaine May, of the improvisatory tag team Nichols and May, then as the urbane stage director of such plays as Barefoot in the Park, and, finally, as the sophisticated director of darkly humorous films such as his debut, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), and The Graduate (1967). These films were snapshots of the spiritual decline

This article appears as “Up from Cynicism” in the March 22, 2021, print edition of National Review.

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Peter Tonguette — Mr. Tonguette is the author of Picturing Peter Bogdanovich: My Conversations with the New Hollywood Director.

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