"Plastics."
November 20, 2014 5:02 AM   Subscribe

Legendary director Mike Nichols, who made an incredible debut nearly fifty years ago with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and then managed to follow that up with The Graduate, has died at the age of 83. Younger audiences may also know him for The Birdcage, the HBO miniseries Angels in America and his last film Charlie Wilson's War.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (65 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by condour75 at 5:03 AM on November 20, 2014


Nichols was also a fine actor: check out The Designated Mourner.

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posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:06 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by allthinky at 5:06 AM on November 20, 2014


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posted by From Bklyn at 5:13 AM on November 20, 2014


Oh noo.

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posted by thereemix at 5:19 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Some of us also remember and love his comedy work with Elaine May. Here's the classic "Mother and Son" sketch.
posted by briank at 5:22 AM on November 20, 2014 [21 favorites]


Mike Nichols deserves a much better goodbye post than this.

His career starts much earlier than "His incredible debut" into the film world. Perhaps start with Nichols and May where their $65 funeral bit seems like a particularly apt tribute today.
posted by FreezBoy at 5:23 AM on November 20, 2014 [15 favorites]




. According to his wikipedia page he won an Oscar, four Emmys, nine Tonys, a Golden Globe and a Grammy.
posted by octothorpe at 5:28 AM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


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posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:28 AM on November 20, 2014


The Graduate is a classic of course, but I really liked Charlie Wilson's War. Sad news.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:33 AM on November 20, 2014


Second City, and thus SNL, and thus practically all American comedy of the past 60 years grew out of Mike Nichols pre-Broadway/Hollywood work. Truly a seminal figure of our time.
posted by hwestiii at 5:33 AM on November 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


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posted by Going To Maine at 5:41 AM on November 20, 2014


Cause of death was a heart attack, per the Daily Mail.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:43 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


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I loved his films so much. Especially if you think of The Graduate as Mrs. Robinson's story, rather than Benjamin's:
MRS. ROBINSON: How about art?
BEN: Art! That's a good subject. You start it off.
MRS. ROBINSON: You start it off, I don't know anything about it.
BEN: Well, what do you want to know about it? Are you interested more in modern art or in classical art?
MRS. ROBINSON: Neither.
BEN: You're not interested in art?
MRS. ROBINSON: No.
BEN: Then why do you want to talk about it?
MRS. ROBINSON: I don't.

BEN: What was your major subject?
MRS. ROBINSON: Art.
posted by sallybrown at 5:44 AM on November 20, 2014 [13 favorites]


He and Elaine also did a whole series of Jax Beer commercials...

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posted by jim in austin at 5:47 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dammit, no. He was supposed to be immortal.

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posted by pxe2000 at 5:57 AM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


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posted by djeo at 5:57 AM on November 20, 2014


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posted by Cash4Lead at 6:04 AM on November 20, 2014


He adapted one of my favorite novels to the silver screen, and made a film that excels in its own way without letting the story down at all (high praise indeed!). For Catch-22 I will always love and respect Mike Nichols.

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posted by carsonb at 6:12 AM on November 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


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posted by lalochezia at 6:12 AM on November 20, 2014


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posted by valkane at 6:18 AM on November 20, 2014


If you just look at the rhythms of the dialogue that sallybrown quoted above, and not the words, that's a vaudeville bit. Nichols' genius was to show characters' interior lives using the cadences of the comedy world. The Graduate holds up beautifully today. Will be pulling out my vinyl copy of "An Evening With Mike Nichols And Elaine May" tonight.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:24 AM on November 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


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posted by jasper411 at 6:27 AM on November 20, 2014


If you just look at the rhythms of the dialogue that sallybrown quoted above, and not the words, that's a vaudeville bit. Nichols' genius was to show characters' interior lives using the cadences of the comedy world. The Graduate holds up beautifully today.

Not only that, but also - the delivery of those lines is just crushing. You could read those lines as funny (and they are), but the direction of that scene also conveys this sense of futility and frustration that an entire generation of women felt at the silencing of their intellectual abilities.
posted by sallybrown at 6:30 AM on November 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


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posted by Thorzdad at 6:36 AM on November 20, 2014


He got his start here in Chicago as an announcer at WFMT, one of the city's classical music stations. While he was there, he created the station's long-running (1953 to the present day) Midnight Special program, which is the otherwise-classical station's showcase for folk and roots music ("folk music & farce, show tunes & satire, madness & escape"). He also wrote this announcer's audition for the station, featuring many befuddling words and names that an announcer just might encounter at WFMT. You can hear former head announcer Marty Robinson and former station manager Ray Nordstrand perform it in this MP3.
posted by orthicon halo at 6:38 AM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


RIP, funny guy.
Armand:
All right, I'll bite, where are you going?

Albert:
To Los Copa.

Armand:
Los Copa? There's nothing in Los Copa but a cemetery.

Albert:
I know, that's why I'm packing light.

Armand:
Oh I see, so you're going to a cemetery with your toothbrush. How Egyptian.
posted by resurrexit at 6:43 AM on November 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


As an improviser (though currently not performing), Nichols and May are, in my mind, equals to Del Close in that discipline. And even before I knew about long-form improv, I enjoyed Nichols' films, as well as studied them in school. He may not have been as showy or as demonstrative a person as some figures in American movies, but he was definitely one of the most influential.

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posted by droplet at 6:55 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Trivia that I just learned today: Art Carney played Felix Unger against Walter Matthau's Oscar in Nichols' first production of The Odd Couple on Broadway. That would definitely be a stop for me when I get that time machine operating.
posted by octothorpe at 7:11 AM on November 20, 2014 [10 favorites]


The hell of it is, "plastics" actually was good career advice at the time.
posted by GrammarMoses at 7:14 AM on November 20, 2014


You definitely are an icon when you have a one word epitaph and millions of people get it.
posted by bukvich at 7:40 AM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


> You definitely are an icon when you have a one word epitaph and millions of people get it.

See if it gets reused for Dustin Hoffman's obit thread. (which will hopefully be many years from now.)
posted by ardgedee at 7:44 AM on November 20, 2014


*puts on Bridge Over Troubled Water*

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posted by that silly white dress at 7:47 AM on November 20, 2014


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posted by gudrun at 7:50 AM on November 20, 2014




> The hell of it is, "plastics" actually was good career advice at the time.

"Plastics" was delivered in a confident, knowing way indicating the speaker is imparting insider information during an era when a white collar job in manufacturing was a screamingly obvious career move for somebody who wanted to reach middle age professionally and financially secure.

"Plastics" is so antithetical to Benjamin -- it was a token of the repellence he felt about the soul-deadened adults around him. The film was released in the same year as the Summer of Love. Coincidentally or not, "Plastics" beautifully summarized the friction between the social directions of the generations.

If the film was remade in 1999, that guy would have said, "Internet". It would have had the same "no shit Sherlock" obviousness that "Plastics" did in 1967, but a 20-year-old Benjamin in 1999 would probably have just snapped, "Already vested at my dotcom" rather than politely backed away, bottling his revulsion.
posted by ardgedee at 8:02 AM on November 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


Damn, what a hard loss. I can't watch Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? enough -- even though, God, is it an emotional slog. Probably the best performances that Richard Burton or Elizabeth Taylor ever gave -- and it still holds up, all these years later, without feeling dated. Well, it's very much a movie of its time, dark, dour, bitter, and unremittingly painful, but it reaches out and hits you upside the head and punches you in the gut in a way that many other films from that year never would (I'm looking at you, best-picture-winning A Man for All Seasons). Truly a movie that not only typifies the moment in time but the zeitgeist as well.
posted by blucevalo at 8:09 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm told that today was scheduled a big meeting with him to discuss this project.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:09 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here's an excellent recent Vanity Fair article. The man was a giant.
posted by whuppy at 8:13 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, and Carnal Knowledge too. Damn, damn, damn.
posted by blucevalo at 8:13 AM on November 20, 2014


Can't remember where I read this, but the story went that very early in his career when he had not found his metier, one of his older friends said sadly, "Oh Michael, you're so good, if only we could figure out what at".

No cite, as a I say, but I hope it is true

(Surely the line is Buck Henry's?)
posted by IndigoJones at 8:19 AM on November 20, 2014


Ah crap.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:36 AM on November 20, 2014


What a full and talented life.


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posted by blurker at 8:49 AM on November 20, 2014


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posted by hippybear at 9:03 AM on November 20, 2014


I remember watching Closer and marveling at just how cutting it was, then realizing that that was a bit silly to marvel at once I remembered that he'd also directed Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
posted by johnofjack at 9:03 AM on November 20, 2014


"Plastics" is so antithetical to Benjamin -- it was a token of the repellence he felt about the soul-deadened adults around him. The film was released in the same year as the Summer of Love. Coincidentally or not, "Plastics" beautifully summarized the friction between the social directions of the generations.

Just so. That's part of the painful irony. The advice is obvious and reductive and yet sensible. Admittedly, that's not attractive to Benjamin, or to the viewer, but flash forward and how many of the Summer of Love kids are now doing something of that ilk?
posted by GrammarMoses at 9:12 AM on November 20, 2014


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posted by LobsterMitten at 9:38 AM on November 20, 2014


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posted by Gelatin at 9:44 AM on November 20, 2014


Here's the classic "Mother and Son" sketch

(Oh my. I had never seen that before. But clearly my mother did, and thought it was a How To manual...)

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posted by dnash at 9:45 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by ZeusHumms at 9:54 AM on November 20, 2014


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posted by cazoo at 10:13 AM on November 20, 2014


The "plastics" thing is also a neat (probably unintentional) counterpoint to a leitmotif from the movie It's a Wonderful Life. In that film, getting in on the ground floor of Sam Wainwright's fledgling plastics business represented a route of escape for George Bailey—a road not taken. Whereas, a mere 21 years later(!), it had come to mean the exact opposite for Benjamin Braddock—an awful kind of trap.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:17 AM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Man, this was another sad celeb death to hear about. Thoughts with Diane and his kids.

[re: The Graduate] If you just look at the rhythms of the dialogue that sallybrown quoted above, and not the words, that's a vaudeville bit.

Armand:
Oh I see, so you're going to a cemetery with your toothbrush. How Egyptian …Egyptian.


The Graduate screenplay is credited to Calder Willingham and Buck Henry (based on a book by Charles Webb); English version of Birdcage to Elaine May. (Directors – even those who were good writers – get too much credit for screenplays!)
And yes, his film work in general is getting so much more attention than his many Broadway and comedy achievements.
posted by NorthernLite at 10:52 AM on November 20, 2014


Mike Nichols deserves a much better goodbye post than this.

posted by FreezBoy at 5:23 AM on November 20


My knowledge and admiration of Nichols mainly extends to his directorial career, which is suitably epic in its own right, and therefore was what I chose to highlight. Fortunately, there are plenty of people in the thread to fill in the gaps I have neglected. Sorry, folks.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 11:47 AM on November 20, 2014


It was that Vanity Fair article that made me realize that the comedian Mike Nichols and the director Mike Nichols were the same. He was great.

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posted by Duffington at 11:50 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dammit.

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posted by Room 641-A at 12:19 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by coolxcool=rad at 12:49 PM on November 20, 2014


Here's a seriously imperfect pdf of a New Yorker John Lahr profile of Nichols, which ends interestingly.
posted by goofyfoot at 1:56 PM on November 20, 2014




In 2010 Nichols was one of the participants in Henry Louis Gates' Faces of America, and I loved that the DNA testing showed he shared a common ancestor (last 250 years/10 generations) with his frequent directee Meryl Streep. The series shows him in an interesting light, I think.
posted by worldswalker at 5:46 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by theora55 at 9:50 PM on November 20, 2014


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posted by On the Corner at 12:39 AM on November 21, 2014


A man who understood exactly what fun is.

Thank you Mike.

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posted by Pudhoho at 2:16 AM on November 21, 2014


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posted by radwolf76 at 7:11 AM on November 21, 2014


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