The Amazing Elaine May

A New Leaf Film 50th Anniversary

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

Spring is the perfect time to honor Elaine May – comedienne, film writer/director, and actor extraordinaire – whose laugh-out-loud, tour de force film A New Leaf is a testament to new beginnings and the transformative power of love.

May, who partnered with Mike Nichols (Academy Award-winning director of The Graduate) in the comedy act Nichols and May in 1957, has had a storied career in Hollywood, on Broadway, comedy clubs, and more.

Continually expanding her repertory, May’s focus is often on our abilities to reinvent ourselves. She has written, co-written or directed many of Hollywood’s biggest hits, including The Heartbreak Kid, Heaven Can Wait, Reds, Tootsie, and Dangerous Minds.


Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Walter Matthau, Charles Grodin, Cybil Shepherd, and Woody Allen have all praised her boundless talent. A two-time Academy Award nominee and Tony winner, May has received numerous accolades

Nichols and May’s popular comedy shows and TV appearances satirized social and intellectual trends while May proved that women could do stand-up comedy. Lilly Tomlin calls May one of her greatest influences. “There was nothing like Elaine May, with her voice, her timing, and her attitude.”

In SurfWriter Girls favorite film, A New Leaf – which was May’s writing and directing debut (1971) – she also stars as a wealthy botanist hoping to find an undiscovered plant opposite Walter Matthau, a bankrupt playboy who marries May for her money.

Little does Matthau know what he is getting into as the two opposites – the socially inept and unkempt May and the fastidious connoisseur of life’s finer things Matthau – hilariously embark on married life and the roller coaster of surprises it brings.

Based on a story by Jack Ritchie that May read in the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, A New Leaf is part murder plot and part love story, held together with quick wit that keeps the viewer guessing what’s going to happen right up to the end.

With spring planting underway and people seeking joy in nature’s new beginnings, what could be better than to discover A New Leaf and the cinematic talents of the aptly named Elaine May?

Surf’n Beach Scene Magazine

SurfWriter Girls

Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel hold the exclusive rights to this copyrighted material. Publications wishing to reprint it may contact them at Individuals and non-profit groups are welcome to post it on social media sites as long as credit is given.

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