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Mike Nichols, Nine-Time Tony Award Winner, Dead at 83

By Jon Sobel j.sobel@classicalite.com on Nov 20, 2014 11:18 AM EST

Mike Nichols, the Renaissance man of popular entertainment who died last night at 83, received plenty of plaudits over his long career. A member of the elite EGOT club--winner of an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award--he had the unusual ability to capture the zeitgeist from decade to decade. But his record six Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Play may have been his most impressive accomplishment, as least as far as awards, which can admittedly have a popularity element, can indicate.

By the time Nichols won his first and only Academy Award for Best Director, for the 1967
angst classic The Graduate, he already had two Best Director Tonys on his mantel, one for Barefoot in the Park (1964) and one for Luv and the original production of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple with Art Carney and Walter Matthau (both 1965).

After The Graduate Nichols returned to Broadway and promptly won another Best Director Tony for Plaza Suite (1968), also by Neil Simon. Simon and Nichols teamed again a couple of years later for The Prisoner of Second Avenue, which starred Peter Falk, Lee Grant and Vincent Gardenia and netted Nichols yet another Best Director Tony Award.

That would likely have been the crest of an ordinary mortal's creative career. But in between making films (Silkwood, Working Girl, The Birdcage) and television (Wit, Angels in America) Nichols kept returning to Broadway. And the Great White Way continued to reward him, through further decades and into another century. The Tony Awards were good to him again in 1984, bestowing upon him yet another Best Director nod for The Real Thing (and another as producer). He won his final Tony just two years ago for directing Philip Seymour Hoffman in the most recent Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.

In addition to plays, movies and television, Mike Nichols was also at home in musical theater. Having won a Tony Award as a producer of Annie in 1977, he received a Tony 28 years later for directing the musical Monty Python's Spamalot.

All of that adds up to nine Tony Awards in all, including six--more than anyone else in history--for best direction of a play.

So when you read about Mike Nichols and his membership in that EGOT club, take a moment to remember that, at least in the eyes of our most prestigious award-bestowing academies, it was in live theater that he had his greatest success, winning more Tony Awards than Emmys, Grammys and Oscars put together.

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TagsMike Nichols, Tony Awards, annie, The Odd Couple, The Graduate, Barefoot in the Park, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Neil Simon, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Death of a Salesman

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