The Odd Couple (1968)

105 mins | Comedy | 2 May 1968

Director:

Gene Saks

Writer:

Neil Simon

Producer:

Howard W. Koch

Cinematographer:

Robert Hauser

Editor:

Frank Bracht

Production Designers:

Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

Paramount Pictures acquired film rights to Neil Simon’s play, The Odd Couple, before it was written, according to the 15 Dec 1963 LAT. The deal resulted from a trip Simon had made to Los Angeles, CA, to discuss an upcoming film adaptation of his 1963 play, Barefoot in the Park. During talks with Paramount executives, Simon mentioned the plot of The Odd Couple, a play he was contemplating, and Paramount negotiated to produce the film version. The 18 Dec 1963 Var noted the deal was better than the one Simon had received on Barefoot in the Park, for which he had been paid “$160,000 with an escalator clause that could eventually put the sum at $460,000.” After the stage version of The Odd Couple opened to “rave” reviews on Broadway on 10 Mar 1965, a 17 Mar 1965 Var item noted that Paramount’s pre-production deal for the film rights “probably saved them $250,000 or better.” The studio was said to have paid “an advance of $175,000 and 10% of the show’s gross on every profitable week of its run up to $257,000; plus 7½% of net profits on the film, up to $100,000.” The studio would pay a maximum of $432,500, of which Simon was entitled to sixty percent, and the production would receive the other forty percent. A 30 Oct 1964 NYT article indicated that Paramount was also allowed a stake of up to $75,000 in the stage production, which cost $150,000 to produce. On 9 Apr 1965, NYT reported that the play was already “in ... More Less

Paramount Pictures acquired film rights to Neil Simon’s play, The Odd Couple, before it was written, according to the 15 Dec 1963 LAT. The deal resulted from a trip Simon had made to Los Angeles, CA, to discuss an upcoming film adaptation of his 1963 play, Barefoot in the Park. During talks with Paramount executives, Simon mentioned the plot of The Odd Couple, a play he was contemplating, and Paramount negotiated to produce the film version. The 18 Dec 1963 Var noted the deal was better than the one Simon had received on Barefoot in the Park, for which he had been paid “$160,000 with an escalator clause that could eventually put the sum at $460,000.” After the stage version of The Odd Couple opened to “rave” reviews on Broadway on 10 Mar 1965, a 17 Mar 1965 Var item noted that Paramount’s pre-production deal for the film rights “probably saved them $250,000 or better.” The studio was said to have paid “an advance of $175,000 and 10% of the show’s gross on every profitable week of its run up to $257,000; plus 7½% of net profits on the film, up to $100,000.” The studio would pay a maximum of $432,500, of which Simon was entitled to sixty percent, and the production would receive the other forty percent. A 30 Oct 1964 NYT article indicated that Paramount was also allowed a stake of up to $75,000 in the stage production, which cost $150,000 to produce. On 9 Apr 1965, NYT reported that the play was already “in the black” after less than a month of its Broadway run.
       While the play was set entirely in a portion of “Oscar Madison’s” New York City apartment, the screenplay included an expanded view of the apartment, and some exterior scenes, including the baseball scene at Shea Stadium in Queens, NY, and a diner scene. Simon also added an opening sequence in which Oscar Madison attempts suicide “in a Times Square flophouse,” as noted in the 30 Apr 1968 DV review.
       The casting of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau was announced in a 12 May 1965 Var brief. A conflicting report in the 4 Aug 1965 Var stated that Frank Sinatra had recently announced on The Tonight Show (NBC, 1954-- ) that he would star in the picture, opposite Jackie Gleason. However, Lemmon and Matthau remained with the project. In an interview published in the 2 Jul 1967 NYT, Lemmon stated that he had seen The Odd Couple on Broadway before Paramount offered him the role of “Felix Ungar.” He reportedly agreed only if Matthau, with whom he had worked on The Fortune Cookie (1966, see entry), reprised the role of Oscar Madison, which he had originated onstage.
       On 20 Apr 1966, Var stated that Paramount had yet to assign a producer. Seven months later, a 10 Nov 1966 DV item announced that, after the recent acquisition of Paramount by Gulf & Western, Paramount chief Howard W. Koch was stepping down to assume the role of an independent producer with a three-picture deal at the studio. His first project was set to be The Odd Couple. The following month, Gene Saks was named director in the 14 Dec 1966 issues of DV and Var. As Paramount’s “first production of 1967,” filming was scheduled to begin on 25 Apr 1967 on location in New York City, with interiors to be shot at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The start of principal photography was slightly delayed to 8 May 1967, as stated in the 5 Apr 1967 LAT. After conferring with Lemmon and Matthau, Koch and Saks arranged a 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. shooting schedule, based on Saks’s opinion that actors “can’t give their best performances when obliged to get up at 5:30 or 6 a.m.,” according to the 20 Apr 1967 DV. A 24 Apr 1967 DV item noted that rehearsals were underway, and Simon was attending.
       The start of production was delayed again until 18 May 1967, according to A 21 Apr 1967 DV production chart and 24 Apr 1967 DV article. A $3-million budget was cited, although the 2 Jul 1967 NYT and 11 Jul 1968 LAT later estimated the film cost at around $4 million.
       Locations included the rooftop of an apartment building at 190 Riverside Drive in Manhattan, as noted in the 2 Jul 1967 NYT. Filming also took place in an apartment building at 131 Riverside Drive, and at Shea Stadium on 27 Jun 1967, prior to a game between the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates. A staged triple-play was shot there one hour before the start of the actual game. The 28 Jun 1967 NYT reported stated that three cameras were set up and a crew of seventy-five people was utilized, with only thirty-five minutes to capture the sequence needed once camera set-up was completed. Two takes took only four-and-a-half minutes, and cost roughly $10,000. Pittsburgh player Maury Wills and Mets player Roberto Clemente declined to appear for the $100 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) fee offered them.
       Items in the 24 May 1967 and 28 Jun 1967 Var stated that Minta Durfee, Fatty Arbuckle’s widow, and a taxicab driver named Milton Millian had been cast in unspecified roles.
       On 5 Dec 1967, the film was screened for exhibitors across the U.S. as a celebration of “Paramount Day,” as noted in the 22 Nov 1967 Var. The 10 Apr 1968 DV also noted a special screening was scheduled to take place on 15 May 1968 during the Federation of Motion Picture Councils conference at the Marcus-Esquire Theatre in Milwaukee, WI.
       Press reviews were forbidden prior to release, according to various contemporary sources including the 13 Mar 1968 Var, which stated that only The Sign, an obscure Catholic magazine, had published a critique of the film in its Mar 1968 issue. A positive review in the 30 Apr 1968 DV suggested the banning of early reviews was usually a practice reserved for potential failures, but The Odd Couple did not warrant such caution. Theatrical release took place on 2 May 1968 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, and the picture was immediately a commercial and critical success. A news brief in the 6 May 1968 DV announced The Odd Couple had set a non-holiday Saturday record at Radio City Music Hall, taking in $47,000 in one day. The film set another record when it surpassed Barefoot in the Park to become the longest running and highest grossing picture in a single theater, taking in $3,002,580 over fourteen weeks at Radio City Music Hall. The Los Angeles opening was set to take place on 19 Jun 1968 in five theaters, according to the 10 May 1968 LAT. By 11 Jul 1968, it was estimated that film rentals had taken in over $15 million in the U.S. and Canada, helping boost Paramount to its most profitable fiscal quarter since Oct 1966. On 19 Mar 1969, DV stated the film was still performing well at the box office, with a cumulative gross of over $20 million.
       The Odd Couple became the first picture to be rebooked by a major airline when Pan Am and United brought it back for a second run of in-flight screenings, as noted in the 24 Oct 1968 DV. A soundtrack album was released, as well as seventeen single releases of Neil Hefti’s theme song, according to an item in the 31 Oct 1968 DV.
       Academy Award nominations went to Frank Bracht for Film Editing and Neil Simon for Writing (Screenplay –based on material from another medium). The 30 Jan 1969 DV stated that Walter Matthau and Howard W. Koch were honored at the United Motion Picture Association’s Show-A-Rama, which awarded Matthau with “Male Star of the Year” and Koch with “Producer of the Year.” Grammy nominations for Best Instrumental Theme and Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special also went to Hefti.
       Lemmon and Matthau reprised their onscreen roles in a sequel titled The Odd Couple II (1998, see entry). In Oct 1969, ABC-TV bought television rights for an adaptation starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, as announced in the 22 Oct 1969 DV. The show, created by Jerry Belson and Garry Marshall, aired on ABC between 1970 and 1975. A later television adaptation with African-American lead actors, titled The New Odd Couple, aired on ABC 1982-1983, and a third version, titled The Odd Couple, debuted in 2015 on CBS. A Saturday morning cartoon “homage” aired on ABC in 1975 under the title The Oddball Couple. An item in the 7 Aug 1975 LAT listed the lead characters as “Spiffy, a very neat cat, and Fleabag, a sloppy dog.”
       The film was ranked #17 on 100 Years…100 Laughs, AFI’s 2000 list of the funniest American movies of all time. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Nov 1966
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
14 Dec 1966
p. 1.
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1967
p. 8.
Daily Variety
20 Apr 1967
p. 5.
Daily Variety
21 Apr 1967
p. 6.
Daily Variety
24 Apr 1967
p. 1, 11.
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1968
p. 15.
Daily Variety
30 Apr 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
6 May 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
4 Sep 1968
p. 1.
Daily Variety
24 Oct 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
31 Oct 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
30 Jan 1969
p. 1.
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1969
p. 16.
Daily Variety
19 Mar 1969
p. 8.
Daily Variety
22 Oct 1969
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
5 Apr 1967
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
10 May 1968
Section D, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
11 Jul 1968
Section D, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
7 Aug 1975
Section E, p. 20.
New York Times
15 Dec 1963
p. 123.
New York Times
30 Oct 1964
p. 32.
New York Times
9 Apr 1965
p. 18.
New York Times
28 Jun 1967
p. 39.
New York Times
2 Jul 1967
p. 49.
Variety
18 Dec 1963
p. 18.
Variety
17 Mar 1965
p. 1, 102.
Variety
17 Mar 1965
p. 17.
Variety
12 May 1965
p. 1.
Variety
4 Aug 1965
p. 4.
Variety
20 Apr 1966
p. 4.
Variety
16 Nov 1966
p. 7.
Variety
14 Dec 1966
p. 12.
Variety
24 May 1967
p. 24.
Variety
28 Jun 1967
p. 16.
Variety
22 Nov 1967
p. 7.
Variety
13 Mar 1968
p. 6.
Variety
7 Aug 1968
p. 2.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men's ward
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hairstyle supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Scr cont
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Odd Couple by Neil Simon (New York, 10 Mar 1965).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
2 May 1968
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 2 May 1968
Los Angeles opening: 19 June 1968
Production Date:
began 18 May 1967
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures
Copyright Date:
2 May 1968
Copyright Number:
LP36430
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
105
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Following the collapse of his marriage, TV newswriter Felix Ungar decides to commit suicide in a cheap hotel room near Times Square. He fails at even this, however, and dejectedly makes his way to the weekly poker game being held at the Riverside Drive apartment of his best friend, Oscar Madison, a divorced sportswriter. Felix accepts an invitation to share the 8-room apartment, but his hypochondria and his compulsion for order and cleanliness drive the slovenly Oscar to distraction, and the two men are soon quarreling. Eventually, Oscar suggests they double-date Cecily and Gwendolyn Pigeon, two giddy English sisters who also live in the building, and Felix agrees on the condition that he be permitted to cook dinner. The evening ends disastrously when Felix's meatloaf burns, and he breaks down into a sobbing account of his broken marriage that elicits sympathetic tears from the Pigeon sisters. Finally, Felix's refusal to accompany the women upstairs so enrages Oscar that he restores his apartment to its original disorder and throws Felix out. After Felix departs, the card-playing cronies turn on Oscar and criticize his harsh treatment of their friend. They conduct a futile search for Felix, but he suddenly reappears and announces that he is moving in with Cecily and Gwendolyn until he can straighten out his life. Once Felix has left, the "boys" sit down for their weekly poker game, and they are surprised when Oscar rebukes them for spilling ashes on the ... +


Following the collapse of his marriage, TV newswriter Felix Ungar decides to commit suicide in a cheap hotel room near Times Square. He fails at even this, however, and dejectedly makes his way to the weekly poker game being held at the Riverside Drive apartment of his best friend, Oscar Madison, a divorced sportswriter. Felix accepts an invitation to share the 8-room apartment, but his hypochondria and his compulsion for order and cleanliness drive the slovenly Oscar to distraction, and the two men are soon quarreling. Eventually, Oscar suggests they double-date Cecily and Gwendolyn Pigeon, two giddy English sisters who also live in the building, and Felix agrees on the condition that he be permitted to cook dinner. The evening ends disastrously when Felix's meatloaf burns, and he breaks down into a sobbing account of his broken marriage that elicits sympathetic tears from the Pigeon sisters. Finally, Felix's refusal to accompany the women upstairs so enrages Oscar that he restores his apartment to its original disorder and throws Felix out. After Felix departs, the card-playing cronies turn on Oscar and criticize his harsh treatment of their friend. They conduct a futile search for Felix, but he suddenly reappears and announces that he is moving in with Cecily and Gwendolyn until he can straighten out his life. Once Felix has left, the "boys" sit down for their weekly poker game, and they are surprised when Oscar rebukes them for spilling ashes on the table. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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