Queen of Comedy

ISHTAR | © Viennale

Elaine May has inspired the careers of the most famous comedians in the American tradition. She formed a comedy duo with her partner Mike Nichols that left a lasting mark on the genre in the late 1950s and early 1960s. A writer, performer, actress and director, she is one of the few women to have made a name for herself as a filmmaker in Hollywood. After Ida Lupino, Elaine May was the first to stand behind the camera and open the door for women to a largely male-dominated industry.

A NEW LEAF | © Viennale

During her career, which continues to this day, she has conquered a wide variety of genres and media – from theater to television, from the small stage to the grand cinema of the film industry. Over the years, she has worked with numerous renowned colleagues such as Warren Beatty and Walter Matthau, always with great success. A final milestone was the honorary Oscar that she received for her lifetime achievement this year.

Intelligent and appealing comedy certainly represents one of the most difficult tasks in the film business, which is why notable examples in auteur cinema can be counted on one hand. Elaine May is an innovator and experimenter, whose uniqueness and talent behind the camera we want to celebrate at this year’s Viennale, presenting four films she directed that still make us laugh, but also give us food for thought.


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