1968 Fest – An Oddly Abrasive Pairing – The Odd Couple (1968)

“I cannot stand little notes on my pillow! “We are all out of cornflakes, F.U.” It took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Unger.”

Of course, most people (or at least those who remember it at all) will remember The Odd Couple as a TV show starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. However, before the television show was the Neil Simon play and the 1968 movie that was made from it.

The plot is relatively simple: uptight Felix Unger is thrown out of his house by his wife after 12 years of marriage. After an unsuccessful attempt at killing himself and an equally unsuccessful attempt to drown his sorrows, Felix makes his way to his friend Oscar Madison’s apartment.where the weekly poker game is in progress. Oscar and the other guys have already been alerted to Felix’s state of mind because they called his wife to see if she knew why he was late for the poker game. Finding out that he sent her a telegrammed suicide note, they are understandably concerned, and when he arrives they walk on eggshells to keep from letting him know that they know what is going on, instead waiting for him to reveal the situation himself.

Okay, long story at least a little bit shorter, prim and proper Felix winds up moving in with slob Oscar, and immediately begins attempting to change his way of living. In some ways this is great for Oscar because Felix is a wonderful cook and is helping Oscar finally get his life back in order for the first time since his own divorce, in other ways, it’s terrible because Felix is so obsessive that he is making Oscar’s life miserable.

Things finally come to a head when Oscar arranges a double date for himself and Felix with a pair of sisters that live upstairs in their apartment building. Though it seems at first that Felix is going to ruin the date by reminiscing about his children and wife while Oscar is out of the room getting drinks for everyone, it turns out that this just endears him to the girls, and when it turns out that the meatloaf he was fixing for their dinner is ruined, the girls suggest instead that they go up to their place for pot-luck.

After the girls leave to get things ready, however, Felix refuses to go, telling Oscar that he’s just not over his wife and not ready to try to be social yet. Though Oscar perseveres and winds up oing to the girl’s place by himself, it is obvious the next day that things do not go well. This leads to a near knock-down brawl, both physical and verbal, which ends with Oscar kicking Felix out of the apartment.

Immediately regretting his decision and concerned over what his friend might do to himself, Oscar immediately calls up the rest of the guys and they scour the city looking for Felix. Eventually giving up and returning to Oscar’s apartment, they soon discover…

Naah, I won’t give away the ending here. But I will say that it seems surprising, given the ending we’re shown, that the film would inspire such a long-running television series.

And I have to admit that I actually prefer the version of the characters we are presented with in the series to the ones in the movie. Though Jack Lemmon is charming as always, he is so neurotic that it’s easy to see why no one would want to live with him for long, and though I generally love Walter Matthau in almost anything, here he is so cranked up to twelve at all time, almost shouting every line, that even those moments when he is supposed to come off as tender seem completely forced.

Nevertheless, The Odd Couple was a certified box office hit, the number four money-getter of the year, and, as noted, it inspired a successful television show, so obviously there was a lot of appeal.

Here’s your trailer:

 

 

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