Elaine May

Director, Screenwriter, Actor
A true pioneer with a sardonic wit and keen insight into the human condition, Elaine May rose to prominence as one-half of an improvisational team, alongside future director Mike Nichols, before becoming a greatly ... Read more »
Born: 04/21/1932 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


Actor (13)

Small Time Crooks 2000 (Movie)

May (Actor)

Nichols and May -- Take Two 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)


In the Spirit 1990 (Movie)

Marianne Flan (Actor)

California Suite 1978 (Movie)

Millie Michaels (Actor)

A Last Laugh at the 60's 1969 - 1970 (TV Show)


A New Leaf 1970 (Movie)

Henrietta (Actor)

Enter Laughing 1967 (Movie)

Angela (Actor)

Luv 1966 (Movie)

Ellen Manville (Actor)

Jack Paar Presents 1959 - 1960 (TV Show)


The Jack Paar Special 1959 - 1960 (TV Show)

Writer (11)

Down to Earth 2001 (Movie)

from original screenplay("Heaven Can Wait") (From Story)

Runaway Bride 1999 (Movie)


Primary Colors 1998 (Movie)


The Birdcage 1996 (Movie)


Wolf 1994 (Movie)


Ishtar 1987 (Movie)


Reds 1981 (Movie)


Heaven Can Wait 1978 (Movie)


Mikey and Nicky 1976 (Movie)


Such Good Friends 1971 (Movie)


A New Leaf 1970 (Movie)

Director (4)

Ishtar 1987 (Movie)


Mikey and Nicky 1976 (Movie)


The Heartbreak Kid 1972 (Movie)


A New Leaf 1970 (Movie)



A true pioneer with a sardonic wit and keen insight into the human condition, Elaine May rose to prominence as one-half of an improvisational team, alongside future director Mike Nichols, before becoming a greatly revered writer-director-actor in her own right. After working together in the Chicago improv troupe The Compass Players, Nichols and May joined forces as a comedy team, performing in nightclubs and on stage and television, before dissolving the partnership to pursue separate interests. For May, that initially led to the theater, with efforts such as her play "Adaptation" receiving excellent notices. She soon turned her attention to film, with hilarious appearances in films like Rob Reiner's "Enter Laughing" (1967). Not long after, May wrote, directed and starred in the off-the-wall comedy "The New Leaf" (1971), co-starring Walter Matthau. As a director, she scored another triumph with the Neil Simon-scripted "The Heartbreak Kid" (1972), a quirky comedy that played like an inverse of pal Nichols' earlier seminal work "The Graduate" (1967). As a writer, May made an indelible mark in cinema when she co-wrote the much-beloved romantic comedy "Heaven Can Wait" (1978), along with its star, Warren Beatty. Unfortunately, when she helmed the historically reviled comedic misfire "Ishtar" (1981), May's reputation as a director took a hit from which it never truly recovered. Although her light as a filmmaker never again burned as brightly, May continued to work steadily as a respected script writer - both credited and non - adding hits like Mike Nichols' "The Birdcage" (1996) and "Primary Colors" (1998) to her already impressive résumé.


Jack Berlin

Performed in a Yiddish theater company Died 1942

Jeannie Berlin Actor

Born Nov. 1, 1949 in Los Angeles, CA; father, Marvin May; raised partly by her grandmother

John Calley Producer

Together in late 1960s

Stanley Donen Director

Donen reportedly proposed spring 2000

Reuben Fine

Married 1963 until his 1982 death

Sheldon Harnick Song

Married April 1962 Divorced 1963

Marvin May

Married 1948 when Elaine was 16 Divorced

Harvey Miller Director

Died Jan. 8, 1999 at age 68

Mike Nichols Actor

Met 1954 while both were living in Chicago Had brief romance before forming their famous on comedy partnership Professionally parted ways 1961

Edmund Wilson

Met in late 1950s


Playwrights Theatre

Chicago , Illinois

studied acting with Maria Ouspenskaya

University of Chicago

Chicago , Illinois 1950
attended "informally"; first met Mike Nichols

dropped out of high school at age 14



Resumed screen acting career with role in Woody Allen's "Small Time Crooks"


Wrote the Broadway comedy "Taller Than a Dwarf"


Returned to Off-Broadway as playwright and star (with daughter Berlin) of "Power Plays"; also co-starred opposite Alan Arkin


Wrote "Primary Colors", directed by Nichols; earned second Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination


Scripted Nichols-directed "The Birdcage", an Americanization of the French farce "La Cage aux folles"


Wrote play, "Mr. Gogol and Mr. Preen", presented at the Mitzi E Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center


Acted with daughter Berlin in "In the Spirit", co-scripted by Berlin; film also reteamed her with Falk


Scripted and helmed "Ishtar", reteaming her with Beatty and Hoffman; also co-wrote songs


Directed stage productions of "The Disappearance of the Jews", "Gorilla" and "Hotline", all at Chicago's Goodman Theatre


Made uncredited contribution to the screenplay of "Tootsie", starring Dustin Hoffman


Reunited with Nichols to co-star in stage production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, Connecticut; Nichols had directed the 1966 movie version starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton


Reteamed with Walter Matthau as co-stars in one segment of Herbert Ross' "California Suite"; screenplay written by Neil Simon based on his play


Co-wrote the remake "Heaven Can Wait" with Warren Beatty (who produced, co-directed with Buck Henry and starred); received first Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay


Third film, "Mikey and Nicky", starring Falk and John Cassavetes, taken away by studio (Paramount) when editing process dragged on; Paramount cut film and released it; a director's cut was later screened at the 1980 Toronto Film Festival


Helmed "The Heartbreak Kid", adapted by Neil Simon from a Bruce Jay Friedman story; reportedly provided uncredited polish on script; daughter Jeannie Berlin played the part of the dumped spouse and earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination


Film writing and directing debut, "A New Leaf"; also starred opposite Walter Matthau as a terminally klutzy and unworldly botanist and heiress


Wrote Otto Preminger's "Such Good Friends" under pseudonym Esther Dale; adapted from Lois Gould's novel


Wrote "Adaptation", performed Off-Broadway on double bill with Terrence McNally's "Next" under title "Adaptation-Next"; also directed


Film acting debut in "Enter Laughing"; also acted in that year's "Luv", her first association with Peter Falk


Stage directing debut, "The Third Ear"


Off-Broadway debut as playwright, "Not Enough Rope"; also wrote "A Matter of Position", performed at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre


Ended creative partnership with Nichols


Broadway debut in "An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May", directed by Arthur Penn


Quit TV series "Laugh Line" (NBC) after three weeks


TV debut (with Nichols), "The Jack Parr Show" (NBC)


Moved to NYC with Mike Nichols; began appearing in Greenwich Village nightclubs


Moved to Los Angeles after death of father


Worked as child radio actress


Began appearing on stage in father's productions

Was panelist on the CBS audience participation quiz show "Keep Talking"

Settled in Chicago

Was member of the ground-breaking improvisational troupe, The Compass Players (members included Mike Nichols and Alan Arkin)


Next >