When I came into the living room this evening, my husband was viewing something on his laptop computer and he kept chuckling and laughing. I finally asked him what was so funny? He told me that he was watching The Odd Couple, that Netflix Streaming had it on their movie list as of today, April 25th, 2013. I was so glad to hear that this film was now available for streaming and our seventeen year old even chimed in with the comment that he would like to see it too.
The Odd Couple, was first a comedic play written by Neil Simon. It opened on Broadway on March 10th, 1965 at the Plymouth Theatre and then moved to the Eugene O’Neill Theatre and remained there until it closed on July 2nd, 1967. The play’s director was Mike Nichols, and the two main characters were played by Walter Matthau, as Oscar Madison, and Art Carney, as Felix Unger. Since the play had been such a huge hit on Broadway, it was a no-brainer that the playwright, Neil Simon, would write the screenplay for the film version of his play. In 1968 the movie, The Odd Couple, was released by Paramount Pictures. Directed by Gene Saks, with Walter Matthau reprising the stage role of Oscar Madison and Jack Lemmon cast as Felix Unger.
This delightful comedy deals with two men, friends, both divorced, who decide for a time to share an apartment. The comedy revolves around the clashing of their personalities. Both Oscar and Felix are newspaper men. Oscar is a sportswriter and Felix is a television news writer. They have a weekly poker game on Friday nights and the movie begins with a depressed Felix wandering around New York City, contemplating suicide as his wife Frances has kicked him out of the home that evening. Meanwhile, back at the weekly poker game, Oscar and his friends are getting worried as Felix is uncharacteristically late for the game and after a phone call is made, they learn about Felix being kicked out of his home. Wondering outloud what they should do, worrying that this could drive Felix over the edge, in walks Felix, who breaks down in front of everyone and tells them of his plight, that his wife Frances wants a divorce. His friends try to cheer him up and Oscar suggests that Felix move in with him. Felix cheers up and agrees to Oscar’s plan and tells Oscar to not be shy in letting him know if he is getting on Oscar’s nerves.
The comedic moments begin to flow rapidly as we see that Oscar is a slob, with a filthy apartment, spoiled food in the kitchen, dirty dishes stacked in the sink, and messy clothes lying all over the place. Felix, it is quickly revealed, is a neat freak, a gourmet cook, who loves to keep things neat and clean and organized. These two friends begin clashing immediately and it leads to comedic gold. The two friends begin to nag at one another in the way that long-married couples might do! There are two British sisters, the Pigeon Sisters, who live in the apartment above Oscar and Felix’s apartment and the attempt to date the ladies ends in much sympathy for Felix and nothing but frustration for Oscar. A visit to a diner leads to one of the film’s funniest moments when Felix has to clear his sinuses while the patrons in the diner are trying to eat their meals. As Felix snorts and hums and makes ridiculous sharp, loud noises in his sinus clearing efforts, Oscar grows more embarrassed and angry as all eyes in the diner are on them!
Many more antics ensue, but by the film’s end, the friends have truly come to terms with each other’s personalities and quirks. Besides the two leads, the other characters in the movie are: John Fiedler, Herb Edelman, David Sheiner, and Larry Haines as the poker playing buddies, and Monica Evans and Carole Shelley as the Pigeon Sisters.
At one point during the talks about making the film version of the play, it was suggested that Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason play the parts of Felix and Oscar! I am very glad the movie was cast with Matthau and Lemmon. The movie was a huge hit, one of the four top grossing movies in America for 1968. Neil Simon was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing- Adapted Screenplay, the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture-musical or comedy at the Golden Globes, and both Matthau and Lemmon were nominated for Best Actor in a Motion Picture -musical or comedy at the Golden Globes.
The movie was so successful that it led to a television series, in 1970, that ran for 5 seasons and aired on ABC. It starred Jack Klugman as Oscar Madison and Tony Randall as Felix Unger. I hope that Netflix Streaming will begin to air the televison version of this great comedy too!