You guys keep requesting my intros and outros so here's another one. One of my favorite Neil Simon films was BILOXI BLUES, primarily because of Christopher Walken, ol' Captain Hook himself. Here was my wraparound for last night's showing on TCM.
Hi, I’m Ken Levine – a tv writer and director, a former major league baseball announcer – but my coolest gig ever is this – hosting TCM's Friday Night Spotlight this month.
We’re focusing on writer extraordinaire Neil Simon and up next we have the second story in Simon’s “Eugene Trilogy,” which was a trio of more loosely-autobiographical tales that nostalgically looked back at Simon’s youth and early adulthood. Eugene, by the way, is the lead character’s first name, modeled after Simon himself.
All three began as Broadway plays – the first being “Brighton Beach Memoirs” in 1983, then “Biloxi Blues” in 1985, followed by “Broadway Bound” in 1986. The first two were turned into feature films, and we have the movie version of “Biloxi Blues” right now – which was released in theaters in 1988.
The film was directed by Neil Simon’s long-time collaborator Mike Nichols and it stars Matthew Broderick as “Eugene,” he also played the role on stage. It’s based on Simon’s experiences suffering through army boot camp in Biloxi, Mississippi during World War Two. Broderick plays an aspiring writer trying to figure out his place in the army. As if anyone can.
In his memoirs, Neil Simon said that during rehearsals for the movie, Walken completely paraphrased a big speech – which was unusual for actors when working with Neil Simon dialogue. Simon was actually ok with doing it Walken’s way but Walken told him that was just his process and when cameras rolled he intended to do it as written. Imagine! Christopher Walken with a strange process?
Here he is, in the film version of a story that won a Tony as the best play on Broadway: from 1988, “Biloxi Blues.”
It’s so interesting to me how movie habits have changed. When this film was released in 1988, i was working as the announcer for the Syracuse Chiefs, a minor league baseball team. It’s Syracuse, so it was snowing – in the spring – and the Friday night game was snowed out.
So i decided to go to the movies and “Biloxi Blues” was what I saw. It was date night, so there were plenty of young couples in the theater. And looking back, i realize how date night and movies in general are so different today. If “Biloxi Blues” was released in 2015, it would be considered an “art” movie. Kids in Syracuse today are seeing “Sex Tape” or “Hangover 7.”
fortunately, there will always be an audience for the work of Neil Simon. And up next, we have a Simon comedy from 1980 that marked the second on-screen teaming of Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase.