Mike Nichols, the celebrated director, writer and comedian who died Wednesday at the age of 83, left a considerable mark in the marriage of music, musicians and visual images. He cast musicians as actors, giving several prominent ones their first major roles; opened two of his films to established songwriters; and provided American vehicles for a legendary French composer.
Broadway to Dim Lights for Mike Nichols
Here are nine significant musical moments in the career of Mike Nichols:
Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall
In 1962, before Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett were household names in America, CBS took a chance on a special featuring the two of them that was broadcast on June 11. Nichols wrote the script and co-wrote, with Ken Welch, the song “You’re So London.”
One of the most in-demand — and prolific — composers in France in the 1960s, Nichols had the Francois Truffaut collaborator score three of his films: Biloxi Blues, Silkwood and The Day of the Dolphin, which is widely hailed as a masterwork.
J.D. Souther in Postcards From the Edge
In the 1970s, J.D. Souther was first known as the songwriter behind hits for Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor and as a collaborator with the Eagles before scoring hits of his own. In the late 1980s, he ventured out as an actor appearing first on TV before taking on his first major film role in 1990’s Postcards From the Edge.
Carly Simon and Working Girl
“Let the River Run” was the title song in Nichols ‘ 1988 dramatic comedy, one of five Simon songs on the soundtrack. “River” hit No. 11 on the AC chart and No. 49 on the Hot 100. It was Simon’s last Hot 100 single.
“Love is in the Air” in The Birdcage
Christine Baranski and Robin Williams sing the number Stephen Sondheim had cut from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum as Nichols assembled a collection of disco hits and show tunes. (It was replaced by “Comedy Tonight.”)
Art Garfunkel in Catch-22
Art Garfunkel made his acting debut in Catch-22, and while he was in Mexico, his musical partner Paul Simon wrote “The Only Living Boy in New York,” which had a second life decades later after it was featured in 2004’s Garden State. Nichols liked what he saw, casting Garfunkel in his next film, Carnal Knowledge.
Cher in Silkwood
On the heels of her first major film role on the big-screen adaptation of the play Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Nichols cast Cher in Silkwood, the first film to look at the dangers of nuclear power.
Simon & Garfunkel/The Graduate
Nichols set the stage for the integration of one musical act’s work in a film, using instrumental and vocal versions of five Simon & Garfunkel songs alongside Dave Grusin‘s score in 1968’s The Graduate. “The Sound of Silence” is used three times, a model for every filmmaker since.