The Odd Couple (1968) starring Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau

[1] …the movie is a revelation. The script reveals surprising depth about love, hate, and human relationships. 

[2] …it’s a portrait of two friends helping each other through the agony of divorce. It’s also damn funny from start to finish, but it’s the kind of comedy that arises from realistic, stressful, and just plain awful situations.

[3] I remember something that Roger Ebert said in an interview with Martin Scorcese. Ebert said that “Raging Bull” was a great movie. People would protest that they didn’t want to see it, because they didn’t want to see a film about boxers. No, Ebert insisted. The subject matter of a film is not the heart of the film. Rather, it’s how well a film is made that matters. An expertly made film about boxers is better than a badly made film about a topic you may be interested in. So, no, I’m not a man; I’m not divorced. But “The Odd Couple” was so well made that I fell in love with it. I surprised myself by laughing out loud throughout the film. 

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Felix’s (Jack Lemmon- one of my faves) wife, Frances, has left him and he’s thinking of suicide. His friends sense his depression and one of them, Oscar (Walter Matthau), volunteers to take him in (after all, he has a HUGE apt on the UWS of Manhattan). The two of them are polar opposites- Oscar is fun-loving, extroverted, and V messy; Felix is a cautious, introverted, and an OCD-type of neat-freak. Being around Oscar cheers Felix up, but he quickly starts to irritate Oscar.

Don’t threaten me with jail, Blanche, because it’s not a threat. With my expenses and my alimony, a prisoner takes home more pay than I do. -Oscar comments to his ex-wife (over the phone)

I know him. He’s too nervous to kill himself. Wears his seat belt in a drive-in movie. -Oscar explains to his poker buddies (close friends) re: Felix

Funny, I haven’t thought of women in weeks. -Felix comments to Oscar (after Oscar proposes they set up a dinner date w/ his British neighbors- the Pidgeon sisters)I fail to see the humor. –Oscar replies

I put order in this house. For the first time in months, you’re saving money. You’re sleeping on clean sheets. You’re eating hot meals for a change and I did it. -Felix explains to Oscar

You leave me little notes on my pillow. Told you 158 times I can’t stand little notes on my pillow. “We’re all out of cornflakes. F.U.” Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar! -Oscar tells Felix (in their “break-up” scene)

I know him. He’ll kill himself just to spite me. Then his ghost will come back, following me around the apartment, haunting and cleaning, haunting and cleaning, haunting and cleaning… -Oscar laments to his friends (as they drive around looking for Felix)

This screenplay (written by Neil Simon) is full of hilarious lines; Simon also had a hit on Broadway w/ his play. Simon, who MANY consider to have a great ear for dialogue, died this past August at age 91. Felix is based on his older brother, Danny, who was also a playwright. Lemmon and Matthau (real-life friends) are perfect together! As a reviewer noted, buddy comedies are ALL about the actors and script. I’d NEVER seen this famous film before, BUT it’s a must-see! The term “odd couple” is a part of American pop culture; it’s often used to describe people who don’t seem to belong together. After this film, there were spin-offs, incl. 2 sitcoms (one of which was long-running) and even a cartoon. 

Click below to watch a NYT video tribute of Neil Simon. 

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