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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

 -  Drama  -  22 June 1966 (USA)
8.1
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 43,354 users  
Reviews: 215 user | 64 critic

A bitter aging couple with the help of alcohol, use a young couple to fuel anguish and emotional pain towards each other.

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Title: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

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Top 250 #223 | Won 5 Oscars. Another 22 wins & 18 nominations. See more awards »

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Storyline

George and Martha are a middle aged married couple, whose charged relationship is defined by vitriolic verbal battles, which underlies what seems like an emotional dependence upon each other. This verbal abuse is fueled by an excessive consumption of alcohol. George being an associate History professor in a New Carthage university where Martha's father is the President adds an extra dimension to their relationship. Late one Saturday evening after a faculty mixer, Martha invites Nick and Honey, an ambitious young Biology professor new to the university and his mousy wife, over for a nightcap. As the evening progresses, Nick and Honey, plied with more alcohol, get caught up in George and Martha's games of needing to hurt each other and everyone around them. The ultimate abuse comes in the form of talk of George and Martha's unseen sixteen year old son, whose birthday is the following day. Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

You are cordially invited to George and Martha's for an evening of fun and games. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

TV-MA | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

22 June 1966 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$7,500,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In this film, Elizabeth Taylor does an exaggerated impression of Bette Davis saying a line from Beyond the Forest (1949): "What a dump!" In an interview with Barbara Walters, Bette Davis said that in the film, she really did not deliver the line in such an exaggerated manner. She said it in a more subtle, low-key manner, but it has passed into legend that she said it the way Elizabeth Taylor's delivered it in this film. During the Barbara Walters interview, the clip of Bette Davis delivering the line from Beyond the Forest (1949) was shown to prove that Davis was correct. However, since people expected Bette Davis to deliver the line the way Elizabeth Taylor had, she always opened her in-person, one woman show by saying the line in a campy, exaggerated manner: "WHAT ... A... DUMP!!!". It always brought down the house. "I imitated the imitators", Davis said. See more »

Goofs

When revealing the secret of his wife's money near the rope swing, George refills Nick's drink nearly full and it instantly becomes almost empty as Nick takes the glass back. See more »

Quotes

Nick: May I use the... uh... bar?
George: Oh, yes... yes... by all means. Drink away... you'll need it as the years go on.
See more »

Connections

Edited from The Letter (1940) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
That's what comes from too much alcohol and too few mutual respect
9 July 2003 | by (Erlangen, Germany) – See all my reviews

'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' tells the story of two couples that are quite different at first sight - one used to each other for years, the other one rather freshly wed in comparison. Actually it doesn't tell their story, but it displays their relationships.

The film begins on a Sunday morning at 2 o'clock, right after a party, and ends just after the sun rises. In these few hours we get to know these four people better then we might possibly want.

George and Martha are the older couple. He is a history professor, she is the daughter of the head of the university. Their relationship seems to be from hell, full of mutual disgust and humiliation. Their guests are Nick and Honey. He is the new, ambitious biology professor, she is his naive young wive. As all these four characters are more or less drunk throughout the entire film, alcohol works as a catalyst, and we quickly see the different kind of character traits they have: George is a cynic, Martha loves to torment her husband, Nick is an opportunist and Honey is very much a stupid blonde.

The two relationships deserve closer examination: We wonder why Martha and George married in the first place. They keep swearing at each other. Martha can't stop humiliating George, when they are alone as well as when Nick and Honey are there. Maybe there is still a rest of love in them, but there mutual respect has vanished completely. And then there is the strange story of their son, who is supposed to visit on his birthday. They way George and Martha talk about him make us feel that there is something peculiar about him. At the end we get to know more about him, and we can only guess how important the son is for their relationship.

Nick and Honey, on the other hand, seem to be quite the opposite. But, being used as weapons by the older couple, we see that their relationship isn't as perfect as it seems to be, either. Nick didn't marry Honey because he loved her, but because he thought she was pregnant and because of her money. And when Martha tries to seduce him to tease George, he plays the game with her, always in mind that this woman's father is the head of the university. Honey, on the other hand, is much more emotional than her husband, but she also is the most passive character, and the one most affected by the alcohol.

Mike Nichols assembled an outstanding cast for his film. Casting Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as Martha and George is a stroke of genius - not only are they terrific actors, but it also heats the imagination of the viewer how much their real-life-marriage resembled the relationship they had in this film. Elizabeth Taylor outshines her co-stars a little. Never was she any better than in this one; although her character is the meanest in the film, she manages that we still feel compassion for her at the end. But Richard Burton, George Segal and especially Sandy Dennis deliver memorable performances, too.

'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' succeeds at something rather difficult: It makes us care for characters we wouldn't want to have anything to do with in real life. And although it actually consist of nothing but four people talking for two hours, it never bored us for a second.


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