On Our Screens: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Film: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Year: 1966

Country: U.S.

Director: Mike Nichols

Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton


Every fairy tale we grow up with invariably closes with a promise, especially for girls, of ever after happiness through a marriage to a prince — the epitome of perfect physique, wealth, gallantry and tenderness. In some cases, boys learn to fit into the stereotype and girls will pick nothing less than that benchmark.

Martha, a university president’s daughter, naturally expects her spouse to be comparable to her accomplished father. When she marries George, a lowly history scholar, she holds on to a hope that one day George will rise above his equals, and will take over the History Department, and eventually extend his conquest across the whole university. She does not realize that she has bet her life on a castle in the air.

As days go by, Martha begins to realize that George is not living up to her expectation. The disappointment inside her begins to ferment, swell and start nibbling on her frustrated spirit.

And each day, George quietly bears the growing scorn and despise out of a face he once adores, but still tries hard to please, while living under the shadow of his father-in-law, to whom he owes his associate professorship in the university. Likewise, a seed of dissatisfaction is allowed to germinate.

The tension in the couple’s relationship tightens in time, until one fateful night they vent their long suppressed anger through what begins as a casual social conversation with a younger couple who just joins the university.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is a 1966 black-and-white film directed by Mike Nichols. The screenplay, written by Ernest Lehman, is based faithfully on Edward Albee’s play of the same title. Martha and George are starred by the legendary Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

The play is powerful in itself, and with the impeccable acting of the cast, the film will grip the attention of every audience whatever their age and marital experience.

Just remember this isn’t easy material. It’s best watched alone with a stiff drink in hand or with your lover after having a heart-to-heart about dreams and the fulfilment of them.


Rating (one to five whistles, five being the best): Four whistles


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Lead-in Image Courtesy of Warner Home Video