Cocktails with George and Martha
Movies, Marriage, and the Making of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
by Philip Gefter
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Pub Date 13 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2024
Bloomsbury USA, Bloomsbury Publishing
"Very smart and entertaining . . . dishy-yet-earnest . . . Gefter shows why Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? hit the ‘60s like a torpedo."—NPR, Fresh Air
“Raucous, unpredictable, wild, and affecting.”—Entertainment Weekly
An award-winning writer reveals the behind-the-scenes story of the provocative play, the groundbreaking film it became, and how two iconic stars changed the image of marriage forever.
From its debut in 1962, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was a wild success and a cultural lightning rod. The play transpires over one long, boozy night, laying bare the lies, compromises, and scalding love that have sustained a middle-aged couple through decades of marriage. It scandalized critics but magnetized audiences. Across 644 sold-out Broadway performances, the drama demolished the wall between what could and couldn’t be said on the American stage and marked a definitive end to the I Love Lucy 1950s.
Then, Hollywood took a colossal gamble on Albee’s sophisticated play—and won. Costarring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the sensational 1966 film minted first-time director Mike Nichols as industry royalty and won five Oscars. How this scorching play became a movie classic—surviving censorship attempts, its director’s inexperience, and its stars’ own tumultuous marriage—is one of the most riveting stories in all of cinema.
Now, acclaimed author Philip Gefter tells that story in full for the first time, tracing Woolf from its hushed origins in Greenwich Village’s bohemian enclave, through its tormented production process, to its explosion onto screens across America and a permanent place in the canon of cinematic marriages. This deliciously entertaining book explores how two couples—one fictional, one all too real—forced a nation to confront its most deeply held myths about relationships, sex, family, and, against all odds, love.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 14 members
Terrific in-depth analysis and history of the controversial and influential play and subsequent movie that is essential reading for any fan.
Really enjoyed this book. It begins with several chapters about Edward Albee's life in Greenwich Village. I wasn't expecting so much detail, but it was very interesting reading about the homosexual scene in the Village in the late 50s and early 60s. The book, in my opinion, really took off once it came to the film adaption. Between Mike Nichols, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, you haver three iconic figures and Gefter does a tremendous job giving you an inside seat over the power dynamics between the three. you really get a look behind the curtain. Also fascinating is the role played by screenwriter/producer Ernest Lehman who is caught between the three trying to navigate the three huge egos involved.
Gefter ends with a look at where the film stands in comparison to other movies made about marriage. All in all, a very thorough look at a classic film.
Netgalley provided me with a free e-galley of the book in return for an honest review.
I, personally, loved this book, and have already recommended it to a friend who's been involved with theater since I met her in the '80's, However, I doubt that it's a title that my local, very rural and conservative community library would be interested in having on their shelves.
That aside, I thought it was a very insightful study of what is involved with the production of a film, and the players , personalities, and talents that have to mesh in order to make it a success. Of course I had to watch the movie while I was reading the galley, which made it even more fun.
Really well done.