Best Supporting Actress
Small Time Crooks
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
A New Leaf
Best known as one half of the famed Nichols and May standup comedy team, Elaine May also carved out successful careers as an actress, writer, and director. Born April 21, 1932, in Philadelphia, PA, she was the daughter of Yiddish theatrical actor Jack Berlin and as a child occasionally performed with him on-stage. While still in her teens, she was married and divorced, giving birth in 1949 to daughter Jeannie Berlin. May later went on to study method acting under the tutelage of actress Maria Ouspenskaya before relocating to the Midwest to attend the University of Chicago; there she first encountered fellow student Mike Nichols, harshly criticizing his performance in a production of Miss Julie. They met again in 1955 when both joined the Compass Players improvisational ensemble, a group of Chicago-based satirical players which also included up-and-comers Alan Arkin and Shelley Berman.
After the Compass Players disbanded in 1957, Nichols and May continued on as a team; developing a highly literate and lightning-quick comic style, the duo emerged as darlings of the New York club scene, releasing their first LP, Improvisations to Music, in 1959. The following year, they graduated to Broadway, mounting a cerebral sketch comedy showcase titled An Evening With Nichols and May. The production was enormously successful, but already both performers were itching to spread their wings, and they delivered their last show in July 1961. Nichols soon rose to even greater fame, beginning an acclaimed directorial career with the hit film Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? May, on the other hand, kept a lower profile, pursuing a career in theatrical writing. In 1967, she finally returned to performing with a pair of feature comedies, Clive Donner's Luv and Carl Reiner's autobiographical Enter Laughing.