A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (film)

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (film)

Infobox Film
name = A Funny Thing Happened
on the Way to the Forum

image_size = 215px
caption = theatrical poster
director = Richard Lester
producer = Melvin Frank
writer = Source:
Titus Maccius Plautus
Burt Shevelove
Larry Gelbart
Melvin Frank
Michael Pertwee
narrator =
starring = Zero Mostel
Jack Gilford
Phil Silvers
music = Stephen Sondheim
cinematography = Nicolas Roeg
editing = John Victor-Smith
distributor = United Artists
released = 16 October fy|1966 "(NYC)"
14 December "(London)"
January fy|1967 "(gen'l)"
runtime = 99 minutes
country = United Kingdom / FilmUS
language = English
budget = $2 million (est.)
gross = $3 million (US)
imdb_id = 0060438

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" is a fy|1966 musical comedy film, based on the stage musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart.

Inspired by the farces of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus (251-183 B.C.) – specifically "Pseudolus", "Miles Gloriosus" and "Mostellaria" – it tells the bawdy story of a slave named Pseudolus and his attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master woo the girl next door.

The film was directed by Richard Lester, with Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford recreating their stage roles. It also features silent movie legend Buster Keaton in his last motion picture role, and the man who turned down the lead in the Broadway production, Phil Silvers. Also appearing are Lester favorites Michael Crawford, Michael Hordern and Roy Kinnear.

The musical was adapted for the screen by Melvin Frank and Michael Pertwee. They rearranged the plot and cut most of the songs. The movie was not well-received when first released, although it did turn a profit, and the creators of the musical have frequently expressed their dissatisfaction with it.


This film takes place in the city of Rome sometime during the reign of Emperor Nero. Pseudolus (Zero Mostel) is "the lyingest, cheatingest, sloppiest slave in all of Rome", whose only wish is to buy his freedom from his henpecked master Senex (Michael Hordern) and his dominating wife Domina (Patricia Jessel). When he finds out that Senex's handsome but none too smart son, Hero (Michael Crawford), has fallen in love with Philia (Annette Andre), a beautiful virgin concubine from the house of procurer Marcus Lycus (Phil Silvers) next door, Pseudolus makes a deal: he will get the girl for Hero, in return for his freedom. Unfortunately, the virgin has been sold to the great Roman legionaire, Captain Miles Gloriosus (Leon Greene), who even now is on his way from conquering Crete to claim her as his bride. Pseudolus blackmails his overseer, Hysterium (Jack Gilford) into masquerading as the corpse of Philia to fool the general, but, as they always must in a farce, things go wrong at every turn.

In the end, the boy gets the girl; Senex's next-door neighbor, Erronius (Buster Keaton) finds the long-lost children he has spent years searching the world for; and Pseudolus gets his freedom and a beautiful concubine to be his wife, compliments of Marcus Lycus.


;Cast notes
*Veteran film comedian Buster Keaton was terminally ill with cancer at the time of filming. Nevertheless, the 70-year-old actor was able to do many of his own stunts in the film, to the amazement of the cast and crew. ["", Thames Television documentary (aired in the U.S. on Turner Classic Movies)] "Forum" would be his final film appearance. [IMDB [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000036/ Buster Keaton] ]
*Future "Doctor Who" star Jon Pertwee, brother of screenwriter Michael Pertwee, appears briefly as Crassus, who reports that there is no plague in Crete. He had originally played the part of Lycus in the 1963 West End stage production.
*Roy Kinnear appeared in eight other films directed by Richard Lester: "Help!" (fy|1965), "How I Won the War" (fy|1967), "The Bed Sitting Room" (fy|1969), "The Three Musketeers" (fy|1973), "The Four Musketeers" (fy|1974), "Juggernaut" (1974), "Royal Flash" (fy|1975) and "The Return of the Musketeers" (fy|1989). [IMDB [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0455702/ Roy Kinnear] ]


* "Comedy Tonight" — Pseudolus and Company
* "Lovely" — Philia and Hero
* "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid" — Pseudolus, Senex, Lycus, and Hysterium
* "Bring Me My Bride" — Miles Gloriosus and Company
* "Lovely" (reprise) — Pseudolus and Hysterium
* "Funeral Sequence" - Pseudolus, Miles Gloriosus and Company)
* "Finale" — Company

Songs from the original Broadway score which were cut for the film: "Love I Hear" (Hero), "Free" (Pseudolus and Hero), "Pretty Little Picture" (Pseudolus, Hero, Philia), "I'm Calm" (Hysterium), "Impossible" (Senex and Hero), "That Dirty Old Man" (Domina) and "That'll Show Him" (Philia)

Stephen Sondeim's music was adapted for the film version of "Forum" by Ken Thorne, who previously worked with The Beatles on "Help!" (fy|1965) and went on to compose music for "How I Won the War" (fy|1967), "The Bed Sitting Room" (fy|1969), "Juggernaut" (1974) and "Royal Flash" (fy|1975), all directed by Richard Lester, as well as many other films.Jessica Handler [http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title.jsp?stid=75846&category=Articles "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (TCM article)] ] [IMDB [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006322/ Ken Thorne] ] Thorne received the only award that "Forum" garnered, a 1967 Academy Award for "Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment".IMDB [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060438/awards Awards] ]


Although the musical had originally been written with Phil Silvers in mind, Zero Mostel starred on Broadway as PseudolusIBDB [http://ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=2779 "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"] ] , and Richard Lester was his choice to direct the film version. Other directors who were considered included Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Mike Nichols.

"Forum" was filmed at Samuel Bronston Studios in Madrid, Spain, and on location around that city, [IMDB [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060438/locations Filming locations] ] on an estimated budget of $2 million. Filming took place from September to November of fy|1965.IMDB [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060438/business Business data] ]

Like Mostel, Jack Gilford was recreating his stage role as "Hysterium", but there are other connections to the Broadway production as well. Tony Walton, who designed the production, including the costumes, was also the designer of the Broadway show. For Walton, who was married to Julie Andrews from 1959 to 1967, "Forum" came at the beginning of both his film and stage careers: it was his second Broadway production, and his third film - he had designed costumes for "Mary Poppins" in fy|1964, and did the overall production design of "Fahrenheit 451" in fy|1966. [IMDB [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0910589/ Tony Walton] ] [IBDB [http://ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=25417 Tony Walton] ]

George Martin, who with Ethel Martin is credited with the choreography of the film, [TCM [http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title.jsp?stid=75846&category=Full%20Credits Full credits] ] was the assistant to choreographer Jack Cole on Broadway. [IBDB [http://ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=22028 George Martin] ] (Jerome Robbins also did some uncredited work on the stage show as well.)

Other members of the "Forum" team are notable as well. Cinematographer Nicholas Roeg moved up to the director's chair to make films such as "Walkabout" (fy|1971), "Don't Look Now" (fy|1973), and "The Man Who Fell To Earth" (fy|1976) with David Bowie.

The animated end credits created by Richard Williams feature many houseflies, a reminder of the fly problem the production suffered through when the fruits and vegetables which festooned the set were left out to rot overnight after the end of the shooting day.

"Forum" premiered in New York City on 16 October fy|1966 [TCM [http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title.jsp?stid=75846 Overview] ] and in London on 14 December of that year. [IMDB [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060438/releaseinfo Release dates] ] . It went into general release in January 1967. It received about $3 million in rentals in the U.S.


Music director Ken Thorne received an Academy Award for "Oscar Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment" in 1967. In addition, the film was nominated that year for a Golden Globe as "Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy". [IMDB [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060438/awards Awards] ]


External links


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