Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

In director Mike Nichols' searing and visceral four-person drama - his debut film, based on Edward Albee's play about a marital couple engaged in tempestuous, personal warfare:

  • the bawdy, volatile and saucy performances of Oscar-winning 33 year-old Elizabeth Taylor as 52 year-old, plump Martha - probably her greatest role ever as a delusional and drunken harridan, and Oscar-nominated Richard Burton as her husband - failed Associate Professor of History George; Martha's father was the president of the college
  • Martha's spouting of "What a dump!" to invoke Bette Davis - the film's opening line of dialogue
  • the arrival of their evening's guests: a new faculty couple, young colleagues from the university - impotent Biology Professor Nick (Oscar-nominated George Segal) and timid and pale Honey (Oscar-winning Sandy Dennis)
  • the sequence in which an inebriated Honey told George: "I didn't know that you had a son" - and then George glared at Martha - angry that she had violated their life-long pledge of discretion by revealing their make-believe procreation of a fantasy child, an imaginary son, that they could never have
  • the dramatic scene of George's retreat to a closet, with a swinging bare lightbulb, to avoid listening to Martha's humiliating tirade about him concerning a public "boxing match" they had; there, he found a shotgun, brought it out to the living room, and pointed it at the back of Martha's head as she told the guests an embarrassing incident from his past; when he pulled the trigger, an umbrella was released
George in Closet
Aiming the Shot Gun at Martha
Fake Umbrella-Gun
  • the drunken bantering-discussion scene in the yard between George and Nick, when Nick revealed that he had married Honey - not for love, but because of her wealthy family and an alleged pregnancy
  • the emotionally-charged scene in a deserted juke joint or road house, where Nick began to dance inappropriately with Martha, culminating in George's decision to play the first of their many fun and social games: ("Now that we're through with Humiliate the Host...and we don't want to play Hump the Hostess about a little round of Get the Guests?")
  • the scene in which George realized how he could ultimately triumph over Martha, when he purged and exorcised their son-myth - a final game called "Bringing Up Baby" - Martha was devastated: "YOU CAN'T KILL HIM. YOU CAN'T LET HIM DIE"; George explained his reasoning for killing their son - Martha had revealed their most-private secret to Honey: "You broke our rule Martha. You mentioned him, you mentioned him to someone else."
  • in the final scene as dawn approached, George sang softly to Martha: "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf?" Martha: "I am George."
    George: "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Martha: "I am George, I am."
Reconciliation of The Couple
as the Sun Rose ("Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?...")

Opening Line - Martha: "What a dump!"

George and Martha

Martha's and George's Guests: (l to r): Honey and Nick

Honey: "I didn't know you had a son"

Nick and Martha Dancing in Road House Followed by Social Games

Martha Slumping to the Floor - Yelling at George: "YOU CAN'T KILL HIM. YOU CAN'T LET HIM DIE"


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z

Welcome to Filmsite.
Please support the website by allowing ads.

We've detected that you are using AdBlock Plus or some other ad blocking software which prevents the page from fully loading.

With support from readers and visitors like you, we can continue to deliver the best commentary and film information on the web. You can support us for free by allowing ads.

Please add to your ad blocking whitelist or disable your adblocking software.