Edward Albee wrote one of the greatest dramas of the twentieth century, but when “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ was adapted from the stage to screen, he didn’t get the credit he deserved at the 1966-67 Oscars.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” led the Oscar derby with the most nominations (13), compared to 8 for the film adaptation of another stage play (“A Man for All Seasons”) and “The Sand Pebbles.” However, Edward Albee was absent from the contenders’ list. Producer Ernest Lehman was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay even though he’d changed very few words or scenes from Albee’s original script.
The academy’s decision over who was eligible to be nominated for that prize was also peculiar because both Edward Albee and Ernest Lehman were nommed by the Writers’ Guild of America – and they won, beating “Harper,” “The Professionals” and “The Sand Pebbles.”
At the Oscars, “Virginia Woolf” ended up losing the screenplay award to the same film that robbed it of winning Best Picture: “A Man for All Seasons.” “Woolf” ended up with five Oscars: Best Actress (Elizabeth Taylor), Supporting Actress (Sandy Dennis), Art Director (B&W), Costume Design (B&W) and Cinematography (B&W).
Albee’s snub and “Virginia Woolf’s” losses are all the more terrible considering history’s ultimate judgment. Today “Virginia Woolf” is widely regarded as an enduring masterpiece while “Man for All Seasons” is seldom regarded at all by cineastes.