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The Odd Couple is a play by Neil Simon. Following its premiere on Broadway in , the characters were revived in a successful film and s television series , as well as several other derivative works and spin-offs. The plot concerns two mismatched roommates : the neat, uptight Felix Ungar and the slovenly, easygoing Oscar Madison.
Sources vary as to the origins of the play. In The Washington Post ' s obituary of Simon's brother Danny , a television writer, Adam Bernstein wrote that the idea for the play came from his divorce. Simon had moved in with a newly single theatrical agent named Roy Gerber in Hollywood, and they invited friends over one night.
Simon botched the pot roast. The next day, Gerber told him: "Sweetheart, that was a lovely dinner last night. What are we going to have tonight? Simon replied: "What do you mean, cook you dinner? You never take me out to dinner. You never bring me flowers. 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". Simon credited Boston critic Elliot Norton with helping him develop the final act of the play.
Appearing on the public television show Eliott Norton Reviews , during Simon's conversation with the critic, Norton said that the play went "flat" in its final act. Simon told The Boston Globe :. He invited one of the stars and the writer. He loved the play and gave it a wonderful review but he said the third act was lacking something.
On the show he said, 'You know who I missed in the third act was the Pigeon Sisters,' and it was like a light bulb went off in my head. It made an enormous difference in the play. I rewrote it and it worked very well.
I was so grateful to Elliot Elliot had such a keen eye. I don't know if he saved the play or not, but he made it a bigger success. Felix Ungar, a neurotic, neat freak news writer a photographer in the television series , is thrown out by his wife, and moves in with his friend Oscar Madison, a slovenly sportswriter.
Despite Oscar's problems — careless spending, excessive gambling, a poorly kept house filled with spoiled food — he seems to enjoy life. Felix, however, seems utterly incapable of enjoying anything and only finds purpose in pointing out his own and other people's mistakes and foibles. Even when he tries to do so in a gentle and constructive way, his corrections and suggestions prove extremely annoying to those around him.
Oscar, his closest friend, feels compelled to throw him out after only a brief time together, though he quickly realizes that Felix has had a positive effect on him.
The play and the film both spell Felix's name Ungar , while the television series spells it Unger. The production starred Nick Stewart and Morris Erby. The cast also included Larry McCormick in his acting debut. In a 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.
The production was directed by Curt Wollan. This version incorporated updated references and elements into the original storyline. A Venezuelan production appeared at the Trasnocho Cultural Theater in The play was performed in the U. S and in Toronto, Canada and received good reviews.
The play was performed at Southbank Theatre , Melbourne from November 5 to December 22, , and received positive reviews. The Pigeon sisters became the Costazuela brothers, Manolo and Jesus. The Female Odd Couple opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on June 11, , and closed on February 23, , after performances and nine previews. Stadlen and Tony Shalhoub in his Broadway debut as the Costazuela brothers.
Paramount produced two theatrical films, three live-action TV series and an animated series based upon the play. 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. Klugman was familiar with the role as he had replaced Walter Matthau in the original Broadway run. Neil Simon originally disapproved of this adaptation, but by the series' final season, he reassessed the show positively to the point of appearing in a cameo role.
Randall and Klugman also reunited in for a made-for-TV reunion film based upon the series. The movie was initially broadcast on CBS on September 24, Jack Klugman's real-life throat-cancer surgery was written into the script, when Felix Tony Randall stays with Oscar and helps with his rehabilitation. The roles were played by a neat cat named Spiffy and a sloppy dog named Fleabag. Unlike every live-action incarnation of Neil Simon's work, the pair's jobs were reversed.
The neat Cat was a writer, while the sloppy Dog was a photographer. The New York Times reviewer noted: "What may be surprising is how little the spine of the show has changed. The dialogue has been updated a little, but the plots are essentially the same. The New Odd Couple bounces along nicely. It adds nothing new to the craft of situation comedy, but it does provide employment and a good showcase for talented black actors, who generally don't have an easy time of it on television these days".
Another adaptation, again called The Odd Couple , was a multi-camera comedy that ran for three seasons on CBS from to The series starred Matthew Perry as Oscar and Thomas Lennon as Felix; it was a pet project for Perry, who also served as the show's co-developer, co-executive producer and co-writer. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Main article: The Odd Couple film. Main article: The Oddball Couple. Main article: The New Odd Couple.
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His successful comedy, Come Blow Your Horn, had initiated his Broadway career in and Barefoot in the Park in had been an even bigger hit. But The Odd Couple, with its unforgettable pair of mismatched roommates, made Simon a cultural phenomenon, and he subsequently became in his own lifetime the most commercially successful playwright in the history of theatre. After its long run on Broadway, The Odd Couple was turned into a successful film in and then became a popular television series on the American Broadcasting Company network running from to The television show is still syndicated in reruns, the movie version appears frequently on television, and regional and local theatre groups mount productions of the play with great regularity.
At the age of fifteen Simon teamed with his older brother Danny to write comedy sketches for the annual employee party of a Brooklyn department store; their success in this endeavor convinced Simon that he wanted to be a comedy writer. He and Danny eventually wrote sketches for popular radio and television shows, but the partnership split in and Neil went on to write for television comedians like Sid Caesar , Garry Moore, Phil Silvers, Red Buttons, and Jerry Lewis.
Though successful enough to earn two Emmy Awards for television writing in and , Simon found writing for television unfulfilling and in the fall of began working, in his spare time, on his first play. Come Blow Your Horn, based on his relationship with Danny and their parents, took him three years to write, and he went through twenty-two completely different versions. With a young Robert Redford in one of the lead roles this comedy was even more successful than his first.
By all standards, the play was an enormous success. By the mids Neil Simon was rich, successful, and very famous. He was so prolific with his comedy hits in the late s and early s that he sometimes had as many as four shows running simultaneously on Broadway.
Simon subsequently married actress Marsha Mason, who would star in several productions of his work. Many of his subsequent plays adopted this new pattern and from to a trilogy of such autobiographical plays— Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and Broadway Bound —won Simon greater praise from critics. But the apartment is now a mess because Oscar is very sloppy and his weekly poker game is in progress. As the curtain rises on this smoke-filled room we see Murray, Roy, Speed, and Vinnie around the poker table.
They are concerned about the unusual lateness of one of their regular poker players, Felix Ungar. Oscar enters from the kitchen with food for his buddies, the phone rings. Felix admits that earlier in the day he swallowed a whole bottle of pills but then vomited them up. After heartfelt expressions of concern, Murray, Roy, Speed, and Vinnie go home, and Oscar tries to console Felix, massaging his neck and back, pouring him a drink. When Felix hums and hops from leg to leg, bellowing like a moose to clear his ears, we get an indication of the eccentricity that might have led his wife to expel him.
Felix confesses that he was unbearably obsessive about such things as petty finances, cleaning house, and cooking. Oscar sympathizes by describing the traits that led his wife to leave him. Felix agrees, imagining all the ways he can help Oscar—from fixing things to cooking and cleaning. Two weeks later, about eleven at night, another poker game is in session, but this time the apartment is immaculately clean.
Felix appears from the kitchen with carefully prepared food and reminds all the players to use their coasters to preserve the carefully applied finish on the table.
Some of the players, like Vinnie, are quite pleased with the new atmosphere. Others, like Oscar and Speed, are aggravated by the excessive concern for tidiness.
The game breaks up prematurely and Murray is the last to leave, commenting on how happy he thinks Oscar and Felix must be living the bachelor life. He asserts that Felix is obsessive about controlling things, including his own emotions, and ought to loosen up, relax, and have more fun. But when Felix tries to express his anger by throwing a cup against the door, he hurts his shoulder. Oscar met them on the elevator a week earlier, and he is eager to get to know them better.
Following an argument, Felix finally relents and agrees to help entertain the Pigeon sisters—. A few days later, about eight at night, the dining room table is set elegantly for four.
Felix is in the kitchen when Oscar enters cheerily. But Felix is angry because Oscar had told him he would be home at seven and that the sisters would arrive by seven-thirty. Gwendolyn and Cecily arrive and they all sit, but Felix does not join the conversation until he comments, quite inappropriately, on the weather. When Oscar goes into the kitchen to fix drinks, Felix becomes the center of attention for the Pigeon sisters and tells them how much he misses his wife and children.
Felix rushes into the kitchen to inspect his burned London broil and when he dejectedly returns, Gwendolyn and Cecily suggest that they all go upstairs to their apartment for dinner.
Oscar goes upstairs alone,. The next evening, about seven-thirty, the apartment is set up for yet another poker game. Felix leaves just as the other poker players arrive. His friends are worried about him but have started to play poker nonetheless. The doorbell rings and Gwendolyn, Cecily, and Felix appear. Oscar sent her money to pay all his alimony, and he expresses a desire to talk with her again.
The poker game begins and Oscar admonishes the players to be careful of their cigarette butts. Within two weeks, however, Oscar regrets the invitation. The year-old Oscar is carefree, pleasant, and very appealing as a character. In both the original Broadway stage production in and in the movie version of , Oscar. In the five-year television series beginning in , Oscar was played by Jack Klugman. Murray, one of the poker players, is a policeman and a methodical, even slow, thinker.
He is also very gentle and caring, and demonstrates the most concern for Felix. Murray is fairly unflappable, but he is also a bit simple and naive.
In the second act he storms from the game because the fastidious Felix has put disinfectant on the playing cards. As his name implies, Speed is always in a hurry. He is the impatient poker player —sarcastic, complaining, and even a little mean.
Maverick, is this your first time on the riverboat? In the movie, the role was rendered by Jack Lemmon , and in the television series Tony Randall portrayed Felix. At the end of the play, when Felix accepts the invitation from the Pigeon sisters to stay in their apartment, he is perhaps demonstrating a less conventional aspect of his personality. Vinnie, the last of the poker players, is nervous and eccentric. When two good friends newly separated from their wives decide to live together, the arrangement fails miserably because the two friends have personal habits and domestic lifestyles that are diametrically opposed.
Felix likes to live in an extremely ordered and tidy living space while Oscar not only tolerates living in disorder and messiness but even seems to prefer it. Simon is more interested in creating compelling character types and raucous laughter than he is in investigating ideas, but to the extent that The Odd Couple deals with theme it focuses on the friction between radically different personalities.
When Felix accepts the invitation to live with Oscar, he characteristically adopts the very behavior patterns that drove his wife to dismiss him. Oscar and Felix are best friends, but before moving in together they share only a public life with one another. When they finally share a living space, they discover that the pressures of private life are much more demanding. The same living space and the experience of round-the-clock sharing magnifies differences and makes the discord inescapable and intolerable.
Oscar and Felix were certainly aware of their personality differences before they lived together, but they encountered these differences only briefly in their public relationship, largely at the Friday night poker game. Simon communicates this theme by drawing attention to the way the relationship between Oscar and Felix is very much like a marriage.
What do you want, a ring? The whole marriage. Simon strengthens this aspect of the theme by calling attention to the marital and near-marital relationships that surround Oscar and Felix. In direct contrast to Oscar and Felix, the Pigeon sisters seem to live together without serious conflict—perhaps because, unlike Oscar and Felix, they are so much alike. Finally, Simon puts this theme into perspective by using the public relationships between the poker players as a backdrop for Oscar and Felix.
The poker players meet once a week and as a result know one another well, but their apparent camaraderie is never tested by the more demanding situation of living together over a long period of time.
And Simon is careful to show that their relationships are filled with potential conflict and tension due to personality differences.
The irascible Speed, for example, seems always on the verge of quitting the group. But at the end, even Felix vows to come back to the next poker night.
The only way that marriages survive is through the compromise that must occur when inevitable conflicts arise. This is my house, not a pig sty. The change in Felix is much more mysterious. Moving in even temporarily with the Pigeon sisters, nearly total strangers, is something Felix would not have been able to do when the play began.
Or is he making a huge change and considering a romantic relationship with either or both of the sisters? It is interesting to note then, that the popular television series presumed a different scenario. The series did, however, preserve much of the friction between the two characters, in order to maintain comical conflicts similar to the play. In November of , Simon sold the screen-rights for The Odd Couple to Paramount Pictures before he had even written a single word of the play upon which the movie was eventually based.
One sentence was all Paramount needed to know that Neil Simon could deliver another hit. The inherently funny conflict between the fussy Felix Ungar and the messy Oscar Madison is subtly established by the end of Act I, is effectively intensified in Act II and the beginning of Act III, and then finally is resolved by their separation and small changes in personality at the end of the play.
The conflict is comically ironic because the solution the two men come up with for their separate divorces ends up creating yet another kind of divorce. From the beginning of the rehearsal period, it was clear that the first two acts were effective but that the third act was a disastrous failure.
This last act did not get a satisfactory rewrite until well after the first out-of-town performances had begun and Simon had realized that the key to resolving the conflict was bringing the Pigeon sisters back into Act III.
Simon creates these contrasting character types with the effective use of theatrical detail, most notably with carefully crafted dialogue. Sometimes Felix and Oscar are effectively characterized by what others say about them. Did you know Felix was once locked in the john overnight. He wrote out his entire will on a half a roll of toilet paper! Heee, what a nut! They mostly embody single, predominating traits—as in Oscar the carefree, irresponsible, and sloppy type and Felix the precise, uptight, and extremely orderly type.
Simon draws his character types precisely, using carefully crafted dialogue to reveal their characteristics. Simon perfected his skill at one-liners writing for television shows in the s and no dramatist has ever been more adept at this skill.