The Odd Couple


The Odd Couple

"The Odd Couple" was a 1965 Broadway play by Neil Simon, followed by a successful film and television series, as well as other derivative works and spin offs, many featuring one or more of the same actors. The plot concerns two mismatched room-mates, one uptight and the other slovenly.

Sources vary as to the origins of the play. Most sources claim that Simon was inspired to write the play when he saw his brother Danny Simon and theatrical agent Roy Gerber living together after recent divorces. However, in the Mel Brooks biography "It's Good to Be the King", author James Robert Parish claims that the play came about after Simon observed Brooks, in a separation from his first wife, living with writer Speed Vogel for three months. Vogel later wrote that Brooks had insomnia, "a brushstroke of paranoia," and "a blood-sugar problem that kept us a scintilla away from insanity."

Danny Simon, also a writer, took the first crack at the play, but later handed over the idea to Neil. The show, directed by Mike Nichols, ran for 966 performances and won several Tony Awards, including Best Play.

Felix Ungar, a neurotic, newswriter (photographer in the television series), is thrown out by his wife, and moves in with Oscar Madison, a slovenly sportswriter. Ungar was played by Art Carney and Madison by Walter Matthau. Matthau was later replaced with Jack Klugman.

The play and the film both spell Felix's name "Ungar", while the television series spells it "Unger".

Characters

*Oscar Madison: A slovenly, recently divorced sportswriter.
*Felix Ungar: A fastidious, hypochondriac newswriter whose marriage is ending. (In the television series, he is a professional photographer, portraits a specialty.)
*Murray: A cop, one of Oscar and Felix's poker buddies. (In the television series, Murray's last name was revealed to be Greshler.)
*Roy: One of the poker buddies. Oscar's accountant. Roy has a dry wit but is less ascerbic than Speed.
*Speed: One of the poker buddies. Gruff and sarcastic, often picking on Vinnie and Murray.
*Vinnie: One of the poker buddies. Vinnie is mild-mannered and henpecked, making him an easy target for Speeds verbal barbs.
*Cecily and Gwendolyn Pigeon: Oscar and Felix's upstairs neighbours, a pair of British sisters. The former is a divorcée, the latter a widow.

tage revivals

"The Odd Couple" was also revised by Neil Simon in 1985 for a female cast (Sally Struthers and Rita Moreno starred). It was based on the same story line and same lead characters, now called Florence Ungar and Olive Madison, the poker game becoming "Trivial Pursuit" and the Pigeon sisters becoming the Costazuela brothers (played in the original cast by Lewis J. Stadlen and Tony Shalhoub in his Broadway debut). The play ran on Broadway for 295 performances and was directed by Gene Saks.

In 1994 a version of the play moved to Glasgow and toured Scotland, starring Gerard Kelly as Felix and Craig Ferguson as Oscar. Kelly reprised the role of Felix at the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe, opposite Andy Gray.

In a 1997 issue of "Premiere Magazine", Billy Crystal and Robin Williams announced a possible stage revival, in anticipation of success of their film "Fathers' Day". When that film failed at the box office, the Crystal/Williams revival was quickly forgotten.

A similar announcement was made in "Premiere" in 2005 by Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, in light of their success on stage and screen as the leads in "The Producers". Broderick and Lane played Felix and Oscar, respectively. The production opened at The Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York on October 27, 2005. Lane was replaced for two weeks due to illness by Brad Garrett, who had previously played Murray.

Neil Simon wrote an updated version of "The Odd Couple", called "Oscar and Felix: A New Look At The Odd Couple", in 2004. Simon's updated version incorporated modern-day references and elements into the original storyline. The Evangeline Players performed this production in St. Martinville, LA with Steven "Smitty" Smith Jr. as Oscar and Vincent P. Barras as Felix. Erin Segura and Kayla Heintz added to the "who is going to come out of which door" mayhem as Ynez and Julia "Hoolya" Costazuela.

Film and TV adaptations

1968 film

In 1968 "The Odd Couple" was made into a highly successful film starring Jack Lemmon as Felix and Walter Matthau (once more) as Oscar. Most of the script from the play is the same, although the setting is expanded: instead of taking place entirely in Oscar's apartment, some scenes take place at various outside locations. The film was also written by Simon (who was nominated for an Academy Award) and was directed by Gene Saks.

In 1998 Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau reprised their roles for the film "The Odd Couple II", produced by Neil Simon.

1970-1975 ABC sitcom

The success of the film was the basis for the 1970-75 ABC television series, starring Tony Randall as Felix and Jack Klugman as Oscar. Klugman was familiar with the role as he had replaced Walter Matthau in the original Broadway run.

Randall and Klugman also reunited in 1993 for a made-for-TV reunion film based upon the series.

Animated series

DePatie-Freleng's "The Oddball Couple" was an animated version of Neil Simon’s popular play-turned-movie-turned hit TV show. In the cartoon version, Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison were replaced by a cat named Spiffy (voiced by Frank Nelson) and a dog named Fleabag (voiced by Paul Winchell). Spiffy, as his name implies, was the more orderly of the two, while Fleabag was always a shambles. 32 installments of the series (2 10-minute segments per half-hour show) were produced for the series, which aired on ABC Saturday Morning from September 6, 1975 to September 3, 1977.

1982-1983 ABC sitcom

In 1982, ABC aired a new version of the series, entitled "The New Odd Couple", with a predominantly African-American cast. Ron Glass played Felix and Demond Wilson played Oscar. This new version was not successful and was cancelled after just 13 episodes.

External links

* [http://ibdb.com/production.php?id=3230 The Odd Couple (1965 original) at IBDB]
* [http://ibdb.com/production.php?id=4375 The Odd Couple (1985 revival) at IBDB]
* [http://ibdb.com/production.php?id=394870 The Odd Couple (2005 revival) at IBDB]


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