Monday, October 1, 2018

Vital Viewing (Symbiotic Relationship Edition)

The man on the right, actor Walter Matthau, was born on this day in 1920 (he died in 2000.) In 1998, he and frequent costar Jack Lemmon talked with Jay Leno:

I think Matthau was being facetious when he suggested he and Lemmon might have ended up driving or unloading a truck if not for the 1968 film version of The Odd Couple. At that point in time, Lemmon had been a pretty bankable movie star ever since winning an Oscar for playing Ensign Pulver in 1955's Mister Roberts. Matthau had a much slower start, but by his late 40s, he, too, was starting to become well-known. Not only had he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1966's The Fortune Cookie (the first film he appeared in with Lemmon)...

...but originated the role of messy Oscar Madison in the stage version of The Odd Couple, a humongous Broadway hit (that's Art Carney as tidy Felix Ungar, which reminds me, if, as Matthau said, Paramount Pictures originally wanted Jackie Gleason as Oscar, wouldn't it have made sense to pair him with the guy who played Ed Norton on The Honeymooners rather than Frank Sinatra?)

In the Leno clip, Matthau talks about how when making The Bad News Bears in 1976, the child actors he was working with knew only the sitcom version of The Odd Couple and thus Tony Randall as Felix, and Jack Klugman as Oscar

TV's most recent Oscar and Felix. Were they to remake The Bad News Bears a third time (the second was in 2005), I'm sure the child actors would recognize the names of Matthew Perry (Chandler on Friends) and Thomas Lennon (Jim Dangle on Reno 911!) before they would Klugman or Randell.

In 1982, there was an African-American Odd Couple with Ron Glass (Harris on Barney Miller) as Felix and Demond Wilson (Lamont of Sanford and Son) as Oscar. Since this TV version and the earlier one with Randall and Klugman were both produced by Garry Marshall, scripts from the first series were often used (with some black slang thrown in for authenticity's sake.) It only lasted one season.

A Saturday morning Odd Couple.

They have yet to make a movie or TV series based on it, but in the 1980s there was a female Odd Couple in another Broadway version that ran for about a year. Sally Struthers (Gloria on All in the Family) played neat freak Florence Ungar and Rita Moreno (Anita in West Si--aw, c'mon, the woman's a living legend!) portrayed sloppy Olive Madison.

Some have argued that Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen of Two and a Half Men were really just Felix and Oscar with different names.

In 1998, Neil Simon, the man who came up with the idea in the first place, wrote a movie sequel titled The Odd Couple 2 starring Matthau and Lemmon. It flopped at the box office, but I liked it anyway.

However, I like the 1968 movie version, which DIDN'T flop at the box office, much, much more:

Altogether, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon made 10 films together. One more and they would have tied with Fred and Ginger.


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  2. Matthau and Lemmon were both exceptional, and priceless together. I saw Struthers and Moreno in DC as The Odd Couple. They were great.

    1. Mitchell, anything with Moreno I'll watch (if I ever get Netflix, I'll watch the new One Day at a Time, which she's in.)

  3. I never watched any incarnation of the show.

    1. Adam, I wouldn't be surprised if there are 10 more incarnations down the road. One may capture your attention yet.

  4. Hi, Kirk!

    Happy birthday in heaven to Walter Matthaw. I can't say he was one of my favorites. However I loved Jack Lemmon in Mister Roberts, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Wackiest Ship in the Army, Notorious Landlady, Days of Wine and Roses, Irma La Douce, Good Neighbor Sam, How To Murder Your Wife, Fortune Cookie, The Out of Towners, Save the Tiger and China Syndrome.

    I might be one of the few people on earth who did not like The Odd Couple on Broadway, in movie theaters or on TV. I simply don't like nonstop conflict and bickering. I get enough of that at home. :) Nor was I crazy about Two and a Half Men which was undoubtedly inspired by The Odd Couple. Rose was the only character I liked in that series.

    Have a great week, good buddy Kirk!

    1. Shady, I've seen all those Jack Lemmon movies except for Notorious Landlady. In fact, I never even heard of it before, but as I love Lemmon too, I'll have to seek it out.

      I see Kim Novak is in it. She and Lemmon played a witch and a warlock in Bell, Book, and Candle.

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