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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