Odd Couple, The (1968): Neil Simon’s Oscar-Nominated Comedy, Starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau

Intermittently entertaining, The Odd Couple is a character-driven comedy, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as two mismatched middle-aged roommates, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison.

The divorced, highly opinionated pals soon discover the pitfalls (and few joys) of sharing an apartment with a partner who’s the polar opposite.

Adapted for the screen by Neil Simon from his hit Broadway play, partially based on the experiences of his real-life brother, The Odd Couple is directed by Gene Saks who had also helmed the stage production.

Opposites do not attract in this comedy, which is based on a single but good premise: Endless arguing and bickering based on the fact that Oscar is a messy slob, whereas Felix is obsessed with cleanliness, neatness and order.

The film features humor that could be described as “gay-friendly, ahead of its times, as well as another novel idea, domestic partnership of the same sex.

In this and other movies, Saks shows that he doesn’t know (or care) much about film as a unique medium.  His mise-en-scene is dull (or actually absent), betraying the roots of the literary source material.

However, with roles perfectly suited for their talents, Lemmon and Matthau, who have made other movies together (for Billy Wilder and others) dominate the screen, showing strong chemistry that helps overcome the limitations of a repetitive narrative.

Released on May 3, 1968, The Odd Couple was a huge commercial successful, one of the year’s top-grossers, which reaffirmed the status of all involved, Simon, Lemmon, and Matthau.

The hit movie then inspired an even more popular and long-running TV sitcom, starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman.

The film was Oscar-nominated for Best Writing and Best Editing.

Oscar Alert

Oscar Nominations: 2

Screenplay (Adapted): Neil Simon

Film Editing: Frank Bracht

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context

The winner of the Adapted Screenplay Oscar was James Goldman for “The Lion in Winter,” which was also nominated for Best Picture.  Frank P. Keller deservedly won the Editing Oscar for the Steve McQueen star adventure, “Bullitt” (See Review).

Credits:

Released by Paramount

Running time: 106 minutes