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|George James Hopkins||Set Decoration/Design|
|Ernest Lehman||Producer, Screenwriter|
|M.A. Merrick||Sound/Sound Designer|
|Alex North||Score Composer|
|Irene Sharaff||Costumes/Costume Designer|
|Richard Sylbert||Production Designer|
Posted October 1, 2010
"No one under the age of 18 will be admitted unless accompanied by a parent or guardian." That adage would become the obligatory accompaniment of any film receiving an R rating, when the policy of rating motion pictures was established in the late '60s. The first film to carry this commentary was 1966's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", which in its time marked not only the significant screen translation of an important play (the best drama of the decade, according to some) but also the latest of those important movie milestones which help redefine the notion of the Hollywood product. Here were two of the current superstars, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, fresh from their success in the ultimate, and one of the last of the old-fashioned Hollywood super spectacles, "Cleopatra" but here they were now speaking language that had never been heard in an American commercial movie before, as they forsook the glamor of their previous pictures. "Virginia Woolf" created a strong public outcry for more stringent censorship of films, simultaneously excited and upset various portions of the moviegoing public, and forever left behind the notion that American films could not deal with adult material. In point of fact, Edward Albee had managed to shock even the legitimate theater when his play was first produced in 1962. In the early '60s, Albee's symbolic shorter plays - including "The Sand Box", "The Zoo Story" and "The American Dream" - had been presented off-Broadway, where these searing studies of the sickness in American society had been perfect in keeping with the avant garde attitudes of the audiences. Then, Albee's first ful-length play was presented in the legitimate Broadway Theater. Though his characters were no longer allegorical figures, but believable people caught up in a domestic situation of infidelity, self deception, and an inability to discriminate reality, "Virginia Woolf" still contained the acerbic implications and outlandish language of Albee's earlier works. By bringing them to Broadway, even in the guise of a domestic melodrama, Albee proved himself to be a creative force in the new, evolving generation of important playwrights. "Virginia Woolf" altered both the mentality and the conventions of legitimate drama and when, only four years later, the play was transferred to the screen, almost everyone assumed it would have to be hopelessly watered down since movies were at the very least ten years behind Broadway in terms of maturity. But Jack L. Warner, the old fashioned studio head who personally stood behind the project, insisted it be done without the expected hedging. So producer/screenwriter Ernest Lehman was given the go ahead to keep almost all the film's language intact, making only minimal changes in locale (the single room setting was opened up slightly to include the entire house) and retaining practically all of the play's salty language. Anyone who feared the super sexy couple of the decade would glamorize the frustrated college professor, George, and his blowsy wife, Martha, quickly discovered Burton and Taylor were actors as well as movie stars. Burton successfully squelched his strong screen magnetism, making himself look every bit the meek, mousey fellow, while Taylor ranted and raved with enough conviction that she came off as a miserable college town matron rather than a longtime Hollywood celebrity. In order to assure the project would be handled properly, Warner decided to hand the directorial chores to a young man who had never before done a motion picture - but was clearly in tune with the current styles of the 60s. Mike Nichols had worked as a popular satirist with Elaine May, and then achieved notoriety with his handsome direction of several Broadway plays by Neil Simon. Sensing the material in "Virginia Woolf" marked so drastic a departure from the usual screen fare that his stoc
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Posted October 30, 2008
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Posted May 7, 2010
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