Mike Nichols, the famous American film director, known also in the Arabian horse community as a passionate breeder, died yesterday in California from a heart attack at the age of 83. During his long career he was honoured with the most prestigious awards, as Oscar, Golden Globe or Emmy; as a breeder he is well remembered, among others, in Janów Podlaski, where the stallion Metropolis NA (Consensus – NDL Martinique/Muscat) is standing, being the sire of numerous get in Poland and succesfully participating in many competitions under saddle.
Nichols was born in Berlin, in a family of Russian Jews, who luckily escaped from the Nazi
Germany just before the World War II. He was brought up in New York and Chicago. He became a part of the Hollywood history as the director of such movies as „Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton), „Catch-22”, „Working Girl”, „The Birdcage”, „Postcards from the Edge” and „Closer”. For „The Graduate” (1967, with Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman), considered as his most important film, he won Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA aword. His last movie was „Charlie Wilson’s War” (2007). For television he directed the miniseries „Angels in America” (2003), with Al Pacino.
Working hard, he knew how to find time for this passion – the Arabian horses. In the years 1968– 2004 he owned a 60-acre farm in Connecticut – Nichols Arabians. He was a fan od Polish breeding – he leased such stars as the Janów’s Eula (Arbil – Euterpe/Probat) and the future World Champion, the Michałów’s Kwestura (Monogramm – Kwesta/Pesennik). In 1972 he won both the
US National Champion Mare and Stallion titles with Elkana (Aquinor – Estebna/Nabor) and Elkin (Aquinor – Ellenai/Wielki Szlem) purchased in Poland. He was also, especially in the 70s, the organizer of the famous Arabian horses’ auctions where historical prices for Polish horses were announced. Elkana established a new sales record at Mike Nichols’ auctions – 185 thousand dollars. Marek Grzybowski, the man who for 23 years organized and conducted the sale in Janów Podlaski, remembers that he learned how to organize big horses’ sales, at Nichols’ auctions.
For Mike Nichols Arabian horses gave a change from show business. But his auctions attracted many famous people. „On hand were such celebs as Candy Bergen, who has kept an Arabian horse of her own in California; Art Garfunkel, who starred with Candy in Nichols’ film Carnal Knowledge; Brooke Hopper, ex-wife of Dennis Hopper and daughter of film producer Leland Hayward; and Buck Henry, who wrote Mike’s top-grossing movie, The Graduate. Warren Beatty escorted Jacqueline Onassis, who rides to hounds and owns a New Jersey house where she
keeps horses. Mrs. Onassis bid unsuccessfully on a striking bay mare, Viva, who went for $14,500. Brooke Hopper picked up a 2-year-old, Paco, for a mere $5,250, the lowest price of the day”, wrote Marsha Cochran in 1976 in the „People” magazine. Nichols admitted in that occasion that he suffered a letdown after selling Elkana. „I walk by her stall and can’t look at her”, he said.
Many people tried to get Mike Nichols to do a film depicting the intertwined fates of people and Arabian horses. Now we can only imagine such a movie…