Third in my occasional series of fifty great films is this wonderful comedy classic featuring one of my favourite actors, Jack Lemmon (and this certainly won’t be the only Lemmon film in that list of fifty greats). Some films you enjoy, some you admire, but some you just love, and for me, this is the latter. I can watch this film anytime. You often hear the term ‘one for the Ages’ banded about regards movies but this is the Real Deal; this film is close on fifty years old now but its hardly aged at all- indeed, if it has aged at all, that’s only increased its charm as it calls out from the ‘sixties and its distant pop culture era. I’m sure that in a hundred years people will still watch this film and get a chuckle and marvel at the greatness of its two leads.
I have watched this film so many times over so many years and it never loses its appeal; indeed it just seems to get better and funnier the more times I watch it. Neil Simon’s writing is sharp and witty and knowing. There is an honesty to it. But what really makes this film soar is the partnership of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. There was a remarkable chemistry between these two actors, and they worked on several films together over the years, but were never better than in this film. Indeed I cannot think of a better pairing of two actors in any film, be it drama or comedy. There is a magic here, lightning caught in a bottle. I loved them in The Fortune Cookie and The Front Page and later in their twilight years in The Grumpy Old Men films but in The Odd Couple there are in their prime, and what a glorious prime it is.
“I can’t take it anymore, Felix, I’m cracking up. Everything you do irritates me. And when you’re not here, the things I know you’re gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. Told you 158 times I can’t stand little notes on my pillow. “We’re all out of cornflakes. F.U.” Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar!”
Ah, wonderful stuff.