Thursday, October 1, 2020

Mike Nichols and the Rarity of Entertainment IQ


                          Mike Nichols directs Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. 

If we don’t accept the possibility of genius, it’s difficult to explain how consistently – if not contiguously - successful Mike Nichols was on screen and stage.  One person can’t direct that many hits; one can’t win that many awards.

Part of the mystery is no mystery at all: Mike Nichols had an odd talent which cannot be learned, copied or modified. He could sense material that had hit potential and was able to dust his work with a patina of artistic refinement. It had quality, not just fame. Very rare.

Nichols, Taylor, Burton on the couch in Virgin Woolf

Beginning with the films Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) and The Graduate (1967), he rarely took a false step. Same thing with theatre. Barefoot in the Park (1963) kicked it off and he just didn’t quit.

Born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky, in Berlin, in 1931, Nichols developed supreme survival instincts. He seemed to know what people wanted, what they liked, what they wished to see – and especially, in the beginning, what made them laugh. Similar to many funny people, he suffered depression, but he endured, and perhaps made the illness an unwelcome attribute.

Mike Nichols: Thinking it out

Regardless, when someone is so good at a difficult job, we must take note of the high-water marks, as if to say, we were lucky that such an artist touched down. We give thanks with votive candles that illume the illusion of life as we watch people - like Mike Nichols - paint in the dark, fifty feet high.