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Mike Nichols: A Life
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Description
An instant New York Times Bestseller!
A magnificent biography of one of the most protean creative forces in American entertainment history, a life of dazzling highs and vertiginous plunges—some of the worst largely unknown until now—by the acclaimed author of Pictures at a Revolution and Five Came Back

Mike Nichols burst onto the scene as a wunderkind: while still in his twenties, he was half of a hit improv duo with Elaine May that was the talk of the country. Next he directed four consecutive hit plays, won back-to-back Tonys, ushered in a new era of Hollywood moviemaking with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and followed it with The Graduate, which won him an Oscar and became the third-highest-grossing movie ever. At thirty-five, he lived in a three-story Central Park West penthouse, drove a Rolls-Royce, collected Arabian horses, and counted Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Leonard Bernstein, and Richard Avedon as friends.
Where he arrived is even more astonishing given where he had begun: born Igor Peschkowsky to a Jewish couple in Berlin in 1931, he was sent along with his younger brother to America on a ship in 1939. The young immigrant boy caught very few breaks. He was bullied and ostracized—an allergic reaction had rendered him permanently hairless—and his father died when he was just twelve, leaving his mother alone and overwhelmed.
The gulf between these two sets of facts explains a great deal about Nichols's transformation from lonely outsider to the center of more than one cultural universe—the acute powers of observation that first made him famous; the nourishment he drew from his creative partnerships, most enduringly with May; his unquenchable drive; his hunger for security and status; and the depressions and self-medications that brought him to terrible lows. It would take decades for him to come to grips with his demons. In an incomparable portrait that follows Nichols from Berlin to New York to Chicago to Hollywood, Mark Harris explores, with brilliantly vivid detail and insight, the life, work, struggle, and passion of an artist and man in constant motion. Among the 250 people Harris interviewed: Elaine May, Meryl Streep, Stephen Sondheim, Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Tom Hanks, Candice Bergen, Emma Thompson, Annette Bening, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Lorne Michaels, and Gloria Steinem.
Mark Harris gives an intimate and evenhanded accounting of success and failure alike; the portrait is not always flattering, but its ultimate impact is to present the full story of one of the most richly interesting, complicated, and consequential figures the worlds of theater and motion pictures have ever seen. It is a triumph of the biographer's art.
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
02/02/2021
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780399562259
ASIN:
B088QLXKXX
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APA Citation (style guide)

Mark Harris. (2021). Mike Nichols: A Life. Penguin Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Mark Harris. 2021. Mike Nichols: A Life. Penguin Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Mark Harris, Mike Nichols: A Life. Penguin Publishing Group, 2021.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Mark Harris. Mike Nichols: A Life. Penguin Publishing Group, 2021. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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fullDescription
An instant New York Times Bestseller!
A magnificent biography of one of the most protean creative forces in American entertainment history, a life of dazzling highs and vertiginous plunges—some of the worst largely unknown until now—by the acclaimed author of Pictures at a Revolution and Five Came Back

Mike Nichols burst onto the scene as a wunderkind: while still in his twenties, he was half of a hit improv duo with Elaine May that was the talk of the country. Next he directed four consecutive hit plays, won back-to-back Tonys, ushered in a new era of Hollywood moviemaking with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and followed it with The Graduate, which won him an Oscar and became the third-highest-grossing movie ever. At thirty-five, he lived in a three-story Central Park West penthouse, drove a Rolls-Royce, collected Arabian horses, and counted Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Leonard Bernstein, and Richard Avedon as friends.
Where he arrived is even more astonishing given where he had begun: born Igor Peschkowsky to a Jewish couple in Berlin in 1931, he was sent along with his younger brother to America on a ship in 1939. The young immigrant boy caught very few breaks. He was bullied and ostracized—an allergic reaction had rendered him permanently hairless—and his father died when he was just twelve, leaving his mother alone and overwhelmed.
The gulf between these two sets of facts explains a great deal about Nichols's transformation from lonely outsider to the center of more than one cultural universe—the acute powers of observation that first made him famous; the nourishment he drew from his creative partnerships, most enduringly with May; his unquenchable drive; his hunger for security and status; and the depressions and self-medications that brought him to terrible lows. It would take decades for him to come to grips with his demons. In an incomparable portrait that follows Nichols from Berlin to New York to Chicago to Hollywood, Mark Harris explores, with brilliantly vivid detail and insight, the life, work, struggle, and passion of an artist and man in constant motion. Among the 250 people Harris interviewed: Elaine May, Meryl Streep, Stephen Sondheim, Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Tom Hanks, Candice Bergen, Emma Thompson, Annette Bening, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Lorne Michaels, and Gloria Steinem.
Mark Harris gives an intimate and evenhanded accounting of success and failure alike; the portrait is not always flattering, but its ultimate impact is to present the full story of one of the most richly interesting, complicated, and consequential figures the worlds of theater and motion pictures have ever seen. It is a triumph of the biographer's art.
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from October 15, 2020
        Harris follows two outstanding works of film history (Pictures at a Revolution, 2008, and Five Came Back, 2014) with this robust biography of legendary director Mike Nichols. Harris' skill as a storyteller in on full view as he follows Nichols' immigrant's journey from Berlin in 1939, when the seven-year-old and his three-year-old brother, Robert, traveled alone to New York to join their father, through the early years as an outsider and indifferent student, and then on to his improbable and wildly successful career, first as an improv actor with Elaine May and then throughout a 50-year run as a stage and film director. This ground has been covered before, notably in the oral history Life Isn't Everything (2019), but Harris brings new dimension and context to the story, showing in vivid detail and with a novelist's feel for narrative, that Nichols' directorial career, despite its phenomenal beginning (Tony Awards for his first three Broadway shows and blockbuster success with his first two movies, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate), had its share of low points. Nichols' reactions to such film flops as Catch-22 and The Day of the Dolphin are covered much more fully here than in the necessarily celebratory oral history, and they provide some of the book's most revealing glimpses of Nichols' personal vulnerability. Like the best biographies, Harris brings his subject's life and work together in a perfectly unified whole.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        November 2, 2020
        Harris (Five Came Back) delivers an entertaining portrait of actor, director, and producer Mike Nichols in this bracingly candid biography. Drawing primarily on interviews conducted by himself and others, Harris captures the award-winner’s “precision and finesse” during his “five-decade career in movies and theater,” which included directing the 1967 film The Graduate and the 1984 play The Real Thing. Nichols’s first major success came in 1960 with An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May, a comedy act that “more than doubled its investors’ money”; his fame continued as he released his first feature film in 1966, an adaptation of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Though Nichols’s work style—he “wasn’t shy about using his personal experience to motivate his actors”—is front and center, Harris empathetically digs into his subject’s private life: never far below the surface was the self-aware young Jewish immigrant from Germany who became a master of self-presentation and invention (Nichols took “great care never to look or sound too excited about anything”). Harris also doesn’t gloss over Nichols’s demons, including his drug use, demand for perfection, and “irritability and condescension” on set. The result is a joyously readable and balanced account of a complex man. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        December 1, 2020

        Editor and journalist Harris's (Five Came Back) engrossing, pull-no-punches biography of American movie and theater director Mike Nichols (1931-2014) presents both well-known and more obscure portions of his subject's life and work through a chronological arrangement, with copious excerpts from interviews with actors, writers, designers, and other creative folks. The author divides the narrative into two- or three-year chunks, examining Nichols's Jewish family's escape from Germany on the cusp of World War II; his early successes in clubs, radio, and television as a duo with Elaine May; and his collaborations with Neil Simon on Broadway and his renown for movies such as The Graduate. Neither avoiding nor emphasizing Nichols's excesses of consumption and failed marriages, Harris creates a fully rounded portrait of a person who could command the respect and support of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and master his craft yet still feel insecure when confronted with disappointment. VERDICT A compelling storyteller, Harris sweeps readers up into the whirlwind of Nichols's life. Likely to become the definitive book about Nichols, Harris's exhaustive take should have widespread appeal, especially given the dearth of currently available literature about this important and influential entertainment icon.--Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH

        Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        December 1, 2020
        A full-dress biography of a quintessential artist who mastered stage, screen, and (especially) comedy. Mike Nichols (1931-2014) was a one-man argument against auteur theory: What aesthetic sensibility unifies his spiky routines with Elaine May, the gentle Neil Simon comedies he directed, films like The Graduate and Working Girl, and his epic TV adaptation of Angels in America? In this thorough and compassionate life, Harris doesn't search too hard for a common thread; more than anything, it seems, Nichols was hungry for an audience's attention and had an innate enough grasp of staging and actors to (usually) get it. The son of German immigrants, he was a college dropout who formed a tight (but not romantic) bond with May, who shared his taste in brainy comedy and disaffection with 1950s supper-club stand-up. Their success in New York gained him entry to Broadway and then Hollywood, where his acclaimed adaptations of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate made him a household name. Just as important for Nichols, success opened doors to high society, where he was guided by photographer Richard Avedon. (Harris debunks reports they had a sexual relationship.) Nichols ran hot and cold professionally, and the author is refreshingly honest about creative low points like Day of the Dolphin as well as his mercurial, addictive personality. He could be snappish and patrician with casts and crews, and by the 1980s, he had developed a Halcion addiction and a crack habit. Nichols' scattershot output makes him difficult to pin down, and by structuring the biography around his projects, Harris underdevelops his subject's inner character; we learn nearly as much about his prized Arabian horses as his children. It may simply be that Nichols' life was his work, but focusing on his creative triumphs at times obscures the man who made them. A sturdy, sympathetic biography about one of pop culture's rangiest creators.

        COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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shortDescription
An instant New York Times Bestseller!
A magnificent biography of one of the most protean creative forces in American entertainment history, a life of dazzling highs and vertiginous plunges—some of the worst largely unknown until now—by the acclaimed author of Pictures at a Revolution and Five Came Back

Mike Nichols burst onto the scene as a wunderkind: while still in his twenties, he was half of a hit improv duo with Elaine May that was the talk of the country. Next he directed four consecutive hit plays, won back-to-back Tonys, ushered in a new era of Hollywood moviemaking with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and followed it with The Graduate, which won him an Oscar and became the third-highest-grossing movie ever. At thirty-five, he lived in a three-story Central Park West penthouse, drove a Rolls-Royce, collected Arabian horses, and counted Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Leonard Bernstein, and Richard Avedon as...
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