So sorry to hear about Mike Nichols. It’s the sorriest Mike Nichols news since he married Diane Sawyer, in fact, but there’s no accounting for taste. (You just hate to see artists you genuinely admire fall for former Nixon staffers with a fondness for those steamed-shower-door soft lenses.) Anyway, rest in peace, Mr. Nichols, and thanks for Mrs. Robinson.
I know Mrs. Robinson was a creation of many people, including Charles Webb, who wrote the novel “The Graduate” is based on; Buck Henry, who wrote the screenplay; Anne Bancroft, who played her; and Nichols, who directed her performance. Like Roger Ebert, I saw “The Graduate” when I was young and thought it was about one thing, and then watched it years later and realized it’s all about another thing, i.e., Mrs. Robinson.
I recommend clicking through this not-too-long slideshow at New York magazine, an appreciation of Mrs. Robinson’s “scary chic.” I was ashamed that I never noticed all her leopard prints until now. Nothing happens on a movie set by accident, so I have to assume it was deliberate, to underline either a) her sexiness (the writer correctly points out that was pretty much the only choice for mid-’60s lingerie that needed to telegraph that message), her wild-animal spirit (she’s a very, very bored lioness), or maybe something else. The term “cougar” to describe a sexually aggressive older woman hadn’t been coined yet. Maybe Nichols was ahead of his time that way.
(Oh, and as to the “older” thing: Bancroft was 36 when she played the part, and the character was probably about 40-42 — she got pregnant in college and has a college-age daughter. Ebert explains she was aged with shadows and makeup, but wowsa, that’s one sexy broad.) Ebert:
“The Graduate,” released in 1967, contains no flower children, no hippies, no dope, no rock music, no political manifestos and no danger. It is a movie about a tiresome bore and his well-meaning parents. The only character in the movie who is alive–who can see through situations, understand motives, and dare to seek her own happiness–is Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). Seen today, “The Graduate” is a movie about a young man of limited interest, who gets a chance to sleep with the ranking babe in his neighborhood, and throws it away in order to marry her dorky daughter.
Roy has a little more on his theatrical career, as well as his glorious early days with Elaine May.
I also loved “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and …most of the rest of his work. You just knew he was going to bring it.
Have a great weekend, all. I’ll be…working.