A lot of you have asked me to post some of the scripts from my TCM stint hosting the Neil Simon Film Festival. Here's the first one. In all, I did seventeen of these. As you can see, I try to include a lot into a very short time. Hey, I can't get by on just smoldering looks to the camera. This was from last week. THE ODD COUPLE. This script was written by TCM producer Anne Wilson and me. Try saying it out loud without screwing up. If you can you're better than I am. NOTE: Thanks to an anonymous commenter who changed the text from all-caps to regular.
Hi, I’m Ken Levine – a playwright, tv writer and director and i’m thrilled to be TCM’s “Friday Night Spotlight” host for January. this month, we’re saluting a Pulitzer prize and Tony winning playwright and a screenwriter I’ve always admired, Neil Simon – someone with an amazing work ethic and also a master at using humor to both enrich his characters and move his stories forward. trust me, that’s an art and no one can do it better.
On Broadway, Simon has been prolific but he’s also had great success in Hollywood, which we will showcase every Friday night this month.
We start with his work that’s probably had the greatest longevity, originating on broadway in 1965 but with countless stage, TV and film versions done over the years. it’s “THE ODD COUPLE,” our movie released in 1968, starring jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau – Matthau reprising his stage role.
Lemmon plays Felix Unger, a man despondent over splitting with his wife. with nowhere to go, he moves in with his best friend Oscar Madison – that’s Matthau. the two are polar opposites: Felix is a neat-nick, hypochondriac, TV newswriter. Oscar is a slob, a sportswriter with a “who gives a crap?” attitude. so the comedic possibilities are endless.
The idea for the story actually came from Neil Simon’s brother Danny – also a writer – who was, himself, divorced and rooming with a friend who just split from his wife. the two brothers agreed the situation was ripe for a comedy so Danny started writing. but after several false starts, he eventually told Neil to take the story and run with it – so he did – still giving Danny a percentage of the profits.
Neil had trouble writing the play as well. In out-of-town previews, the first two acts were hilarious but the last act just died. neither Simon nor the play’s director Mike Nichols could figure out how to make it work. It was a theatre critic in Boston who suggested the fix – that two characters who appeared early in the play, “THE PIGEON SISTERS,” be brought back to help tie the story up. That did the trick.
It was a huge hit and won four Tony awards, including one for Neil Simon. This film version -- with an Oscar nominated Neil Simon screenplay -- was also a smash. Here -- from 1968, “THE ODD COUPLE.”
As i mentioned before the film, Neil Simon did numerous rewrites for the play, but by comparison he felt the screenplay for this movie was one of the easiest he’d ever written. That’s because nearly all of the dialogue from the play went directly into the film.
I’ve seen the play and it is great, but I admit some sequences play better in the film because they could open things up on location. One example is that scene with Jack Lemmon clearing out his sinuses in the diner – it’s way funnier in a public place.
now, Lemmon and Matthau were both terrific in this movie and they are one of the great movie teams. and I know I may get in trouble for saying this – but to me, when I think of Oscar and Felix, I think of the two actors who played them in the 1970’s TV sit-com: Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.
Maybe it’s a generational thing – you know, like the different answers you get when asking someone “who is ‘the real’ James Bond?” (Sean Connery) but to me, Klugman And Randall are “the real” odd couple.
Stick around for another Neil Simon treat. up next from 1970 -- once again starring Jack Lemmon.