Miss May Does Not Exist: The Life and Work of Elaine May, Hollywood’s Hidden Genius

St. Martin’s. Jun. 2024. 400p. ISBN 9781250279224. $30. BIOG
Known for being highly intelligent and often prickly, Elaine May proved herself a multifaceted talent as she transitioned from comedian to writer/director/actor and sought-after script doctor. Working tirelessly for most of the last 70 years, May (born in 1932) has remained an enigmatic figure whose work has often gone uncredited. She has always valued her privacy and reportedly has a penchant for half-truths and humorous exaggerations, but writer/editor/director Courogen skillfully takes on the challenge of discovering the woman behind the legend. She found that May, a single mother at 18, asked her own character-inspiring mother to raise May’s daughter while May partnered with Mike Nichols to revolutionize stand-up comedy and improvisation. She dabbled in acting and directing, most notably helming The Heartbreak Kid and Ishtar, which received advance reviews that sunk the film and created May’s lifelong distrust of the press. On the other hand, her work saved numerous films, including Tootsie and Primary Colors, and her role in the Broadway revival of The Waverly Gallery led to a Best Actress Tony win in 2019 when she was in her late eighties.
VERDICT The writing in this book is whip-smart and funny. It produces a fully realized portrait of a mysterious film genius.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing