Tuesday 30 January 2007

The Odd Couple (1968) Gene Saks

My lass remembers this well as a television show, with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. First it was a play, by Neil Simon no less, with Art Carney and Walter Matthau, and in between the play and the show it was a film, with Matthau reprising his role and Jack Lemmon taking the Art Carney part because he was a bigger name in cinema. I vaguely remember possibly having seen the show but may well have a faulty memory. Any which way, this one's new on me.

Lemmon plays Felix Ungar, who starts the film committing suicide, or at least he would be if he could get the hotel window open. The other half of the couple, Matthau is Oscar Madison, and the two of them are as odd as you'd expect from the title. Felix is a neat freak, with a bad back and a broken marriage, and Oscar is a slob, living in an apartment where the fridge hasn't worked for two weeks. Inevitably Felix moves into Oscar's huge apartment for a day or two and ends up there permanently. Hilarity ensues.

To make a change, hilarity does actually ensue. I'm so used to using that phrase in complete sarcasm that it seems strange to really mean it. Jack Lemmon is hardly a small comedic talent but even when he has the better lines, I can't help but laugh at Walter Matthau who has such incredible timing it's unreal.

The two of them bounce off each other wonderfully, and there's a hilarious scene with them and a couple of randy English secretaries where the comedy is controlled with a magic touch by Neil Simon. One moment we're laughing aloud at the double entendres and the next Felix is showing them pictures of his wife and his former front room and everyone bursts into tears. It's true masterclass. It's hard to imagine that other actors who happened to be on screen at the same time aren't laughing for real.

Incidentally these two English girls ended up being a double act elsewhere too, and not just in four episodes of the Odd Couple series. They both worked on various animated Disney films, including stints on The AristoCats and major parts in Robin Hood, where Monica Evans was Maid Marian the fox and Carole Shelley was Lady Kluck the hen. How much more different could comedy material get?

1 comment:

benning said...

My favorite line? Oscar tosses the plate of linguine at the kitchen wall and growls "Now it's garbage!"