(director: Gene Saks; screenwriter: Neil Simon; cinematographer: Robert B. Hauser; editor: Frank Bracht; music: Neal Hefti; cast: Jack Lemmon (Felix Unger), Walter Matthau (Oscar Madison), John Fiedler (Vinnie), Herbert Edelman (Murray, the cop), David Sheiner (Roy), Larry Haines (Speed), Iris Adrian (waitress), Monica Evans (Cecily Pigeon), Carole Shelley (Gwendolyn Pigeon); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Howard W. Koch; Paramount Pictures; 1968)
“The film still remains fresh, as amazingly the many one-liners and the wacky situation still work.”

Gene Saks (“Barefoot in the Park”/”Cactus Flower”) provides a faithful adaptation in his directing of this snappy comedy classic about an unlikely duo based on the 1965 play by Neil Simon. It was based on the adventures of Neil’s brother Danny, who took in as roommates two divorced friends who drove him crazy. The combination of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as Felix Unger and Oscar Madison is magical, and the script is top notch. They are a pair of divorced husbands with opposite personalities, Felix is a neurotic, hypochondriac and compulsive neatnik while Oscar is a happy-go-lucky slob, who set up house together to combat their loneliness and in the process learn what makes them both unsuitable husbands to their mates.

When TV news-writer Felix is thrown out of his house by his divorce-bound wife Frances, the suicidal man fails to open the window during his failed suicide attempt in a seedy Times Square hotel and then aimlessly makes his way through the streets of New York before finding his way to the Riverside Drive apartment of his divorced sportswriter best friend Oscar, just in time before their weekly poker game breaks up.

Invited to share Oscar’s 8-room apartment, Felix is compulsively driven to cooking and cleaning up the messy place and this leads to feuds between the two. Oscar finally convinces Felix that they need to have some relaxation and hooks up a double-date with the “coo-coo” English sisters, Cecily (Monica Evans) and Gwendolyn Pigeon (Carole Shelley), who also live in the building. But to save money for alimony payments for Oscar, Felix agrees only on the condition that he be permitted to cook dinner instead of going out to a restaurant. After setting up a cheery conversation Oscar leaves the room to mix drinks, but Felix talks about his family and starts sobbing and this makes the previously giddy sisters also start sobbing. Felix’s meatloaf burns and the girls invite them to their rooms for a snack, but Felix refuses the offer. Oscar gets enraged and messes up the apartment back to its original decor, and kicks Felix out. But the sisters feel sorry for Felix and invite him to live with them.

On the stage Matthau played Oscar and Art Carney played Felix, and were directed by Mike Nichols. The film played for a record 14 weeks at Radio City Music Hall and was one of the year’s highest grossing movies. Shortly afterwards, it made a successful transition to a long-running TV series with Tony Randall as Felix and Jack Klugman as Oscar. The film still remains fresh, as amazingly the many one-liners and the wacky situation still work. Its only fault was that it was more like a play than cinematic.

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in The Odd Couple (1968)