a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Mike Nichols 1I know. I know. It’s barely a week left to Christmas, and everyone’s counting down the Shopping Days. But there’s a post-holiday surprise coming that will reward and enlighten you for years and years to come. It’s going to be a cultural touchstone. And it’s directed by the great Elaine May.

And it’s a documentary about her late, great early career comic partner Mike Nichols, probably one of the greatest talents this country has ever seen. And he wasn’t American! He was German!

This insightful and also immensely profound and FAIR assessment of Mike Nichols overwhelming career that spanned decades and crisscrossed media with the speed of lightning, making film and theater and comic history as he went.

Elaine May is the perfect person to document and analyze all this within the confines of an American Masters special. It’s not on the air until January, but check you local listings and DON’T MISS IT!

From an unusual childhood background of escaping the Nazis, Nichols grew up on New York’s Upper West Side, the son of a successful doctor. He sits for a feature-length interview and reveals much that we have never been privy to before.

It’s like he was leaving his legacy to his early partner in comic improv and equally early success, Elaine May. Their break-up always stupefied me. But here they both are decades later setting the record straight and settling a few scores along the way.

May gets Nichols to reveal the downs as well as the ups of his astonishing career first as a comic sketch artist par excellence with his legendary duo of Him and Elaine May. Nichols and May. I grew up hearing about them, and glimpsing them occasionally on television in the sixties, when they were hotter than hot.Nichols and MayLater on in High School or college, I think I even bought one of their great comedy albums.

May allows a few laughs here, of course, but they are sprinkled very parsimoniously throughout this great doc. The tone is serious, as well it should be. He was a great artist. She even gets him to burst into tears when discussing Meryl Streep.

“I can’t talk about Meryl,” he reveals while fighting back sobs. What would he have told us, if he hadn’t broken down. He directed Streep in one of her Oscar nominated performances “Silkwood.”

There are gem-like moments as friends from Show Business pile on the praise and the details. And nobody is harder on Nichols than he himself. And he denotes that he feels he failed as much as he succeeded.

Interesting to note that his surviving wife Diane Sawyer, is nowhere mentioned. But Nichols’ life was so chock-full of incidents that I guess she wasn’t needed. It’s quite a complete portrait of an Artist in Full. And what a great Christmas present to know that it is coming soon!

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