27 Facts About Elaine May


Elaine May first gained fame in the 1950s for her improvisational comedy routines with Mike Nichols, before transitioning her career as a groundbreaking film director and screenwriter.


Elaine May was honored with the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2013, and the Honorary Academy Award in 2022.


In 1955, May moved to Chicago and became a founding member of the Compass Players, an improvisational theater group.


Elaine May began working alongside Nichols and in 1957, they both quit the group to form their own stage act, Nichols and May In New York, they performed nightly in clubs in Greenwich Village alongside Joan Rivers and Woody Allen, as well as on the Broadway stage.


Elaine May became the first female director with a Hollywood deal since Ida Lupino when she directed the 1971 black screwball comedy A New Leaf.


Elaine May received rapturous reviews for her performance, and won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, becoming the second-oldest performer behind Lois Smith to win a Tony Award for acting.


Elaine May Iva Berlin was born on April 21,1932, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Jewish parents, theater director and actor Jack Berlin and actress Ida Berlin.


In 1964, May married her psychoanalyst, David L Rubinfine; they remained married until his death in 1982.


In 1955, Elaine May joined a new, off-campus improvisational theater group in Chicago, The Compass Players, becoming one of its charter members.


Nichols was personally asked to leave the Compass Players in 1957 because he and Elaine May became too good, which threw the company off balance, noted club manager Jay Landsman.


Nichols then left the group in 1957, with Elaine May quitting with him.


Elaine May wrote the one-act play George is Dead, which starred Marlo Thomas and was performed on Broadway from late 2011 into 2012 as part of the anthology play Relatively Speaking along with two other plays by Woody Allen and Joel Coen, directed by John Turturro.


Elaine May made her film writing and directing debut in 1971 with A New Leaf, a black comedy based on Jack Ritchie's short story The Green Heart, which she read in an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.


Elaine May quickly followed her debut film with 1972's The Heartbreak Kid.


Elaine May worked with Julian Schlossberg to get the rights to the film and released a director's cut in 1980.


In 2019, Elaine May worked with The Criterion Collection to create the newest director's cut.


Elaine May did not direct another film for 29 years, when she directed the TV documentary Mike Nichols: American Masters in 2016.


Elaine May contributed to the screenplay for the 1982 megahit Tootsie, notably the scenes involving the character played by Bill Murray.


Elaine May reunited with her former comic partner, Mike Nichols, for the 1996 film The Birdcage, an American adaptation of the classic French farce La Cage aux Folles.


Elaine May received her second Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay when she again worked with Nichols on the 1998 film Primary Colors.


In December 2013, Stanley Donen was reported to be in pre-production for a new film, co-written with Elaine May, to be produced by Nichols.


In 2018, Elaine May returned to Broadway after 60 years in a Lila Neugebauer-directed revival of Kenneth Lonergan's play The Waverly Gallery opposite Lucas Hedges, Joan Allen, and Michael Cera.


In 2019, it was announced that Elaine May is set to direct her first narrative feature in over 30 years.


Elaine May was awarded the National Medal of Arts for her lifetime contributions to American comedy by President Barack Obama, in a ceremony in the White House on July 10,2013.


In January 2016, the Writers Guild of America-West announced that Elaine May would receive its 2016 Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement at the Writers Guild of America Award ceremony in Los Angeles on February 13.


On June 9,2019, Elaine May won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Gladys in the Broadway revival of Kenneth Lonergan's The Waverly Gallery.


Elaine May was honored at the annual Governors Awards alongside Samuel L Jackson, Liv Ullman, and Danny Glover on March 25,2022.