Friday, August 26, 2011

Film | Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I guess I have been on an Elizabeth Taylor kick lately because this is my second film starring her that I have watched this week. I picked this film up for 40% off at Barnes and Noble right after Taylor's recent passing. The store had a 'featured' end cap with some of Liz's movies on mark down. My wife recently began reading a book where Stephen King described it as "the most riveting look at the dark side of marriage since Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", which got us interested to pop in the DVD. And boy... I was not ready for what came after.

You are cordially invited to George and Martha's for an evening of fun and games.

This 1966 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton is definitely full of games (such as "Humiliate the Host", "Hump the Hostess" and "Get the Guests"), the fun, however, would depend on what type of person you are. The film takes us through one night with Martha and George, a drunken couple who will try anything to bring each other down. Along the way, Nick and Honey (a young newly wed couple) join the ride, only to be brought down with them.

There are only 2-3 different locations in this movie, but most of it takes place at George and Martha's home. This movie does not rely on fancy camera work and different scenery to make its story work, it relies solely on the characters. The performances these actors produced and the emotions they convey on screen are remarkable. You feel for every one of them and by the end of this disastrous night, I was just as exhausted as the people in the film.

I recommend this film to any movie fan, not just those of Classic Hollywood. The acting is superb and I think it is one of the best movies out there. You shouldn't miss this one.

A few things I learned [from IMDB] about this film...

- Every credited member of the cast received an Academy Award nomination.

- Elizabeth Taylor gained nearly 30 pounds to play the role of a middle-aged wife just for this film.

- Early candidates for the role of Martha included Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Rosalind Russell and Patricia Neal. Early candidates for the role of George included James Mason, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Arthur Hill, Jack Lemmon and Peter O'Toole.

- Jack Lemmon was the only actor to be offered the role of George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? before Richard Burton was cast. He accepted the role but quickly changed his mind the next day without offering any explanation.

- According to director Mike Nichols, actress Marlene Dietrich visited the set and completely ignored Elizabeth Taylor, only speaking with Richard Burton and Nichols. Elizabeth later commented "It's a very strange thing to be ignored on your own movie set."

- The only Best Picture Academy Award nominee to be nominated for every award category in which it was eligible.

- The first movie to successfully challenge the Production Code Office and eventually force the Motion Picture Association of America to overhaul the Production Code Seal with the eventual classification system (G-GP-M-X) in 1968.

- The first movie to be given the MPAA tag: "No one under 18 will be admitted unless accompanied by his parent."

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