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The Odd Couple(1968)

If you’ve ever referred to a sloppy friend as Oscar or a neat freak as Felix, you can thank this picture, now celebrating its golden anniversary. The screen adaptation of Neil Simon’s classic comedy gave Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, the latter re-creating his stage role, their ultimate co-starring vehicle. Various rumors exist on who Simon based the play on, from Mel Brooks to Simon’s brother Danny. The story goes that after Brooks’ (or Danny’s) divorce, he moved in with a divorced friend only to find the new living situation mirroring past marital problems. The play ran for almost a thousand performances on Broadway, spawning numerous revivals, four TV series and even an all-female version. When the film version was to be made, studio executives originally considered teaming Frank Sinatra as Felix with Jackie Gleason as Oscar, and at various times looked at Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, who would go on to star in the first TV series, as well as Mickey Rooney and Dick Van Dyke. Around the time of development, Lemmon and Matthau had scored a big hit co-starring in Billy Wilder’s The Fortune Cookie (1966), and this became the second of their 13 films together. Matthau campaigned to play Felix, arguing that he was closer to that character. It was Lemmon who insisted he stick with playing Oscar, which created one of the duos most memorable roles together. (d. Gene Saks, 105m, Digital)

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