Today, I'm reviewing the comedy, The Odd Couple (1968), starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as battling roommates.
Actor Jack Lemmon gave countless great performances throughout his long career, but he was never better than as newly divorced neurotic Felix Ungar in playwright Neil Simon's brilliant comedy, The Odd Couple (1968).
The Odd Couple begins when Felix, who has just found out that his wife is leaving him, tries and fails to commit suicide by jumping out of the window of a dingy New York City hotel (he injures his back trying to open the window). The despondent Felix then heads to the apartment of his friend Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau), who offers him a place to live until Felix can get back on his feet. Soon, neat freak Felix and "divorced, broke, and sloppy" Oscar are clashing about everything from turning on the dehumidifier to linguine in clam sauce.
The Odd Couple is an adaptation of Simon's hit Broadway play that starred Matthau as Oscar and The Honeymooners alum Art Carney as Felix. Paramount Pictures executives decided they needed a bigger box-office name to play Felix in the movie adaptation so they cast Lemmon, who had appeared so successfully opposite Matthau in writer and director Billy Wilder's satire, The Fortune Cookie (1966).
The result was a huge hit that established Lemmon and Matthau as a top screen team (the duo continued to make films together for the next 40 years), and made The Odd Couple a staple of pop culture. Simon's play spawned a 1998 sequel starring Lemmon and Matthau, three TV series, a Saturday morning cartoon, and countless theatrical revivals (at this point, I think every community theater in the U.S. has mounted a production of The Odd Couple).
|Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in a production still from The Odd Couple (1968).|
All that being said, the best recommendation for watching The Odd Couple is that it's hysterically funny, which is due in large part to Lemmon's precise characterization of Felix. There's no question that Matthau does great work -- he plays Oscar's casual slobbishness to perfection -- but he is essentially the movie's straight man, who reacts with mounting dismay to Felix's array of nervous tics and neuroses.
|A vintage Hungarian poster for The Odd Couple (1968).|
Both Lemmon and Matthau were nominated for Golden Globe awards for their performances, and they went on to appear in eight more films together, becoming one of cinema's great screen teams.
The Odd Couple is available on DVD and video on demand.