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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

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I just watched this film for the first time last night.  I know that it's been on 500 times in the past year and that it apparently seems to be a holiday classic (at least in TCM's eyes, lol). 

 

I could see it being holiday related-- there are probably people whose family holiday festivities are reduced to drunken arguing. 

 

But I digress.

 

I've read quite a few people on this message board say that they don't like this film because it's basically two hours of people yelling.  Which I can see their viewpoint.

 

However, call me crazy, but I really liked it.  Granted, I don't think it's a film I could just pop in at any time, I'd have to be in the mood to watch it and really pay attention; but I really liked it.  Elizabeth Taylor was really good--quite a different Elizabeth Taylor than I'm used to.  I had never seen Burton in a film before.  He was excellent as well.  I liked George Segal's performance.  I can't say I'm a fan of Sandy Dennis.  While she was good in the film, I don't know, I found her kind of annoying.  I can't really explain why either.

 

This film had so much going on I feel like it will require a second viewing.  I couldn't figure out the significance of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton repeatedly singing "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" to each other. I loved the cinematography-- such interesting camera angles and I liked the grittiness of how the film looked. 

 

I also want to see the Bette Davis/Joseph Cotten film that Elizabeth Taylor was describing at the beginning-- Beyond the Forest I believe is what it is called.  It is the film where Bette Davis utters her immortal line: "What a dump!" Plus the film is a film noir, makes it even more intriguing.

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Yes, I also like that film, based on Edward Albee's play. It's one of Liz Taylor's best parts and all the actors are good. I still wonder if hysterical pregnancy really is possible. I had heard of hysterical blindness, but not of that. There's a strong contrast between the two women and their views on having children or not.

 

The song is a drunken people's parody of "Who's afraid of the big bad woolf", the kind of humor that's funny when you're drunk, but silly when you're sober.

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I've read that hysterical pregnancy is possible.  Apparently many of the symptoms are psychosomatic, but there are physical symptoms that are consistent with actual pregnancy symptoms.  These symptoms are a result of an increase in the hormones that typically increase when a woman is pregnant.  A woman with hysterical pregnancy actually believes she is pregnant as a result of the physical symptoms she experiences.  This is different than women who pretend to be pregnant, that is known as a simulated pregnancy.

 

I would imagine that hysterical pregnancy was more common when medicine was a little more primitive.  Today with all the advances in ultrasound and other obstetrics medicine, I would figure that doctors are probably more accurate in diagnosing pregnancy. 

 

In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? wasn't it determined that Honey had actually had an abortion, but due to the stigma, she claimed it was "hysterical pregnancy?" Or did George just suspect she had had an abortion and let them maintain the charade? Or perhaps Honey told Nick it was hysterical pregnancy when in reality, she'd had an abortion? I was suspecting that Nick and Honey were remaining childfree by choice, but were pretending that they were planning.  I imagine that the plan for a married couple to remain childfree, especially a woman to remain childfree and not want children, was probably not a popular viewpoint to have.

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In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? wasn't it determined that Honey had actually had an abortion, but due to the stigma, she claimed it was "hysterical pregnancy?" Or did George just suspect she had had an abortion and let them maintain the charade? Or perhaps Honey told Nick it was hysterical pregnancy when in reality, she'd had an abortion? I was suspecting that Nick and Honey were remaining childfree by choice, but were pretending that they were planning.  I imagine that the plan for a married couple to remain childfree, especially a woman to remain childfree and not want children, was probably not a popular viewpoint to have.

 

"Honey" didn't have an abortion. Her "pregnancy" (which led Nick to marry her) turned out to be a false alarm.

The implication was that she was secretly using contraceptives after her marriage.

 

Nick is never mentioned by name in the play or in the movie.

I think "Honey" is not his wife's actual name, but is the term of endearment that he calls her by (similarly to the way Mr. Howell from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND calls Mrs. Howell "Lovey." I think Mrs. Howell's first name was given in one episode -- heard on a radio news story the castaways were listening to.)

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"Honey" didn't have an abortion. Her "pregnancy" (which led Nick to marry her) turned out to be a false alarm.

The implication was that she was secretly using contraceptives after her marriage.

 

Nick is never mentioned by name in the play or in the movie.

I think "Honey" is not his wife's actual name, but is the term of endearment that he calls her by (similarly to the way Mr. Howell from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND calls Mrs. Howell "Lovey." I think Mrs. Howell's first name was given in one episode -- heard on a radio news story the castaways were listening to.)

Okay.  I missed that the implication about the contraceptives.  I was thinking that he married her because he thought he "had to," and later it turned out to be a false alarm, after which, he felt trapped by her.  When he was discussing children with Burton, it almost sounded like one of them wanted children and the other was holding out.  In regard to Burton and Taylor's child, I was half expecting that whole situation to turn out to be untrue or some sort of delusion on both their parts, until the very end when it's revealed that the son had died in a car accident. 

 

I feel like I need to re-watch.  There was so much going on that I need more viewings to absorb the whole story.  It seems here on the board that Elizabeth Taylor is kind of hit or miss.  I think I prefer the adult part of her career when she's a little more "hardened" (if that's the right word).  When she's the goody two shoes Elizabeth Taylor of the 40s and early 50s, she doesn't do much for me.  I liked her better when she took on more of the bad girl/seductress type roles.  Anyway, I thought Taylor was great in this film.  Knowing how tempestuous the real Taylor/Burton relationship was, I wonder how true to life this film was for them.  What part was acting and what part was them just getting their anger out?

 

BTW: Mrs. Howell's real name was Eunice. 

 

Source: Reruns of Gilligan's Island every morning before school for most of my high school career.

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Okay.  I missed that the implication about the contraceptives.  I was thinking that he married her because he thought he "had to," and later it turned out to be a false alarm, after which, he felt trapped by her.  When he was discussing children with Burton, it almost sounded like one of them wanted children and the other was holding out.  In regard to Burton and Taylor's child, I was half expecting that whole situation to turn out to be untrue or some sort of delusion on both their parts, until the very end when it's revealed that the son had died in a car accident. 

 

 

Unless  I misunderstood your post, the son was a fabrication George and Martha created because of Martha's inability to have children.  George "killed" him off that night because Martha spoke about him to the younger couple, something that was apparently verboten.  The movie really does need to be watched several times in order to absorb everything, at least that was my experience with it.  

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Okay.  I missed that the implication about the contraceptives.  I was thinking that he married her because he thought he "had to," and later it turned out to be a false alarm, after which, he felt trapped by her.  When he was discussing children with Burton, it almost sounded like one of them wanted children and the other was holding out.  In regard to Burton and Taylor's child, I was half expecting that whole situation to turn out to be untrue or some sort of delusion on both their parts, until the very end when it's revealed that the son had died in a car accident. 

 

 

BTW: Mrs. Howell's real name was Eunice. 

 

Source: Reruns of Gilligan's Island every morning before school for most of my high school career.

 

George and Martha's son was imaginary.

George invented the accident that "killed" him to punish Martha.

Martha told George that he didn't have the right to "kill" the son---that they both had to make that decision since they had created him together. 

George responded that Martha had broken the rules by mentioning the son to others (the son was something they were to supposed to share only with each other) so George was justified in "killing" him (creating the accident).

 

PS. Thanks for the information on Mrs. Howell's first name.

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I just watched this film for the first time last night.  I know that it's been on 500 times in the past year and that it apparently seems to be a holiday classic (at least in TCM's eyes, lol). 

 

I could see it being holiday related-- there are probably people whose family holiday festivities are reduced to drunken arguing. 

 

But I digress.

 

I've read quite a few people on this message board say that they don't like this film because it's basically two hours of people yelling.  Which I can see their viewpoint.

 

However, call me crazy, but I really liked it.  Granted, I don't think it's a film I could just pop in at any time, I'd have to be in the mood to watch it and really pay attention; but I really liked it.  Elizabeth Taylor was really good--quite a different Elizabeth Taylor than I'm used to.  I had never seen Burton in a film before.  He was excellent as well.  I liked George Segal's performance.  I can't say I'm a fan of Sandy Dennis.  While she was good in the film, I don't know, I found her kind of annoying.  I can't really explain why either.

 

This film had so much going on I feel like it will require a second viewing.  I couldn't figure out the significance of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton repeatedly singing "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" to each other. I loved the cinematography-- such interesting camera angles and I liked the grittiness of how the film looked. 

 

I also want to see the Bette Davis/Joseph Cotten film that Elizabeth Taylor was describing at the beginning-- Beyond the Forest I believe is what it is called.  It is the film where Bette Davis utters her immortal line: "What a dump!" Plus the film is a film noir, makes it even more intriguing.

 

 

There are many of us who'd love to see Beyond the Forest again (or for the first time) It's fallen into rights hell and cant be shown. TCM  used to show it (10 or more years ago....) Hopefully the rights can be worked out and it'll be shown again at some point.....In the film the line is just said deadpan, it's not the big deal that Martha makes of it. But there are a lot of other funny lines in it........(not always meant to be funny)............

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George and Martha's son was imaginary.

George invented the accident that "killed" him to punish Martha.

Martha told George that he didn't have the right to "kill" the son---that they both had to make that decision since they had created him together. 

George responded that Martha had broken the rules by mentioning the son to others (the son was something they were to supposed to share only with each other) so George was justified in "killing" him (creating the accident).

 

PS. Thanks for the information on Mrs. Howell's first name.

 

Well thanks for this info on WAOVW.    Until now I believed that Martha had an abortion not that she was unable to have a child.

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Well thanks for this info on WAOVW.    Until now I believed that Martha had an abortion not that she was unable to have a child.

 

You're welcome. There's line by "Honey" (played by Sandy Dennis in the movie) to Martha after she realizes the truth about the "son": "You couldn't have children?"

I always thought it was touching that George responds "We couldn't" (or something to that affect).

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George and Martha's son was imaginary.

George invented the accident that "killed" him to punish Martha.

Martha told George that he didn't have the right to "kill" the son---that they both had to make that decision since they had created him together. 

George responded that Martha had broken the rules by mentioning the son to others (the son was something they were to supposed to share only with each other) so George was justified in "killing" him (creating the accident).

 

PS. Thanks for the information on Mrs. Howell's first name.

Wow.  I completely missed that he was fake.  I thought it was weird that a kid with only a learner's permit was off driving by himself and out of all animals to encounter to cause him to drive off the road--a porcupine?

 

Maybe I should watch the repeat of this movie when it airs again later this week.

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There are many of us who'd love to see Beyond the Forest again (or for the first time) It's fallen into rights hell and cant be shown. TCM  used to show it (10 or more years ago....) Hopefully the rights can be worked out and it'll be shown again at some point.....In the film the line is just said deadpan, it's not the big deal that Martha makes of it. But there are a lot of other funny lines in it........(not always meant to be funny)............

Ugh.  It's too bad that Beyond the Forest is being held up in rights limbo.  I see it's available on VHS on Amazon... though I'm not sure if my VCR still works.  I haven't used it in years. 

 

I'll have to add this film to the list of other films I keep suggesting to TCM that have also fallen into "rights hell."

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You're welcome. There's line by "Honey" (played by Sandy Dennis in the movie) to Martha after she realizes the truth about the "son": "You couldn't have children?"

I always thought it was touching that George responds "We couldn't" (or something to that affect).

Knowing that George said "We couldn't" as a means to support Martha kind of adds something to my perception of their relationship.  I kind of figured they were both bad drunks and unhappy in marriage.  Now, I get more of the impression that they're the type who passionately love and hate each other.  The only person they want to fight with is the other person.  Alcohol just adds another level to the "passion."  Their relationship seems like how I would imagine the real Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton relationship to be.  If I were part of the younger couple, I think I would have figured out a way to leave before they finally do at the end.  What an uncomfortable, but oddly fascinating evening it would be.  Maybe the curiosity is what kept them hooked.

 

At the end, I assume that Martha and George Segal's character hooked up right? That's what I inferred from Burton looking up at the shadows in the window. 

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Knowing that George said "We couldn't" as a means to support Martha kind of adds something to my perception of their relationship.  I kind of figured they were both bad drunks and unhappy in marriage.  Now, I get more of the impression that they're the type who passionately love and hate each other.  The only person they want to fight with is the other person.  Alcohol just adds another level to the "passion."  Their relationship seems like how I would imagine the real Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton relationship to be.  If I were part of the younger couple, I think I would have figured out a way to leave before they finally do at the end.  What an uncomfortable, but oddly fascinating evening it would be.  Maybe the curiosity is what kept them hooked.

 

At the end, I assume that Martha and George Segal's character hooked up right? That's what I inferred from Burton looking up at the shadows in the window. 

 

 

Well, sorta. Nick couldnt "do the deed" in the end. Too much alcohol..........

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You're welcome. There's line by "Honey" (played by Sandy Dennis in the movie) to Martha after she realizes the truth about the "son": "You couldn't have children?"

I always thought it was touching that George responds "We couldn't" (or something to that affect).

Yes, that "we" is revealing, how they both were deeply affected by the inability to have children.  

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Well, sorta. Nick couldnt "do the deed" in the end. Too much alcohol..........

Martha finally admitted he could do the deed and Nick thanked her for saying so.  (I've watched this movie too many times!)

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Martha finally admitted he could do the deed and Nick thanked her for saying so.  (I've watched this movie too many times!)

 

Martha lied about Nick being able to perform to upset George.

Nick was thanking Martha for lying to help him save face. 

When Martha and Nick are alone (before George enters), it's evident that Nick was a "flop." His excuse to Martha for his impotency was that he'd been drinking for hours. 

Before George entered, Martha made Nick the "houseboy" because he'd failed to "hump the hostess." 

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I thought he was being called the houseboy because he had humped the hostess!  This is a very complicated movie.  I have a feeling that this may be one of those films where you always notice/learn something new with each successive viewing.

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I thought he was being called the houseboy because he had humped the hostess!  This is a very complicated movie.  I have a feeling that this may be one of those films where you always notice/learn something new with each successive viewing.

 

That part is a little confusing. Yes, since this piece is dialogue driven, its easy to miss things or meanings with just one viewing.

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Martha finally admitted he could do the deed and Nick thanked her for saying so.  (I've watched this movie too many times!)

 

 

Yes, but I think she said that to help Nick save face and to throw it in George's face that they did the deed when in reality they didnt go "all the way".....

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I thought he was being called the houseboy because he had humped the hostess!  This is a very complicated movie.  I have a feeling that this may be one of those films where you always notice/learn something new with each successive viewing.

 

There's a line (I think spoken by George): "You're either a st*d or a houseboy."

Martha lies to George saying that Nick is not a houseboy (meaning he's a st*d). The audience knows she's lying from Nick and Martha's earlier private conversation about Nick's failure to "rise to the occasion." 

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There's a line (I think spoken by George): "You're either a st*d or a houseboy."

Martha lies to George saying that Nick is not a houseboy (meaning he's a st*d). The audience knows she's lying from Nick and Martha's earlier private conversation about Nick's failure to "rise to the occasion." 

Ah okay.  That makes sense.  Things between Nick and Martha seemed to be getting pretty hot and heavy when they were dancing in the dive bar.  I just figured things had gotten "hotter and heavier."  I wonder if both Nick and Martha had wanted sleep together and were disappointed by Nick's inability to "get it up" or whether or not this whole incident was a blessing in disguise.  Neither party seemed all that happy in their respective relationships.  Although, in Martha and George's case, they might be just as passionate lovers as they are passionate fighters.

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Martha lied about Nick being able to perform to upset George.

Nick was thanking Martha for lying to help him save face. 

When Martha and Nick are alone (before George enters), it's evident that Nick was a "flop." His excuse to Martha for his impotency was that he'd been drinking for hours. 

Before George entered, Martha made Nick the "houseboy" because he'd failed to "hump the hostess." 

Ah, that escaped me.  So Nick is a houseboy.   :)  Thanks, Holden.

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Yes, but I think she said that to help Nick save face and to throw it in George's face that they did the deed when in reality they didnt go "all the way".....

Thanks, Hibi.  Gosh, now I'm wondering what else I missed!

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I love this movie!!! Burton and Taylor blew the doors off that film!! The banter between them is incredible....and contrary to belief by many,they really were acting. My fav is Taylor sitting on the couch while in mid-conversation with Nick telling husband George (who is mixing drink #1,243,567) to ..."Shut up!...." without even breaking stride!! Hilarious...yet so real. Stick that in your hat New York Actors Studio snobs....yeah,Hollywood studios did train their people well.

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