The Screening Room
odd couple
Is there a screen duo today that has the chemistry of Lemmon & Mattau?

"The Odd Couple" is now available on DVD as a part of Paramount's Centennial Collection.

Screen duos have been around since the dawn of cinema. Perhaps, in a sense, they're relatives of the old vaudville acts. By the 1960s, screen duos seemed to have dwindled away. The old timers like Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, and Martin & Dean had either passed away, retired, or had broken up. To audiences of the late-1960s, Lemmon & Mattau re-energized the concept of two different personalites who end up making for a great duo.

"The Odd Couple" is very much of its time, a film based on Neil Simon's play. The idea of divorced husbands making it on their own in the late-1960s must've been pretty heavy material. But in the hands of Lemmon & Matthau, it's all in good fun. Today it might seem to be a cliche one-line concept of pairing a slob with a neat freak, but back in its day, "The Odd Couple" was probably fresh and hit close to home to many divorced men and women.

The story is simple as they come. Lemmon is now on his own after many supposedly happy years of marriage. As a last resort, he stays with his slobbish, yet lovable pal, Oscar Madison. Oscar loves to let loose and enjoy a good card game and women. Felix is content on thinking about everything too much and making Oscar's life miserable. It's the original "bromantic" comedy.

I've often seen bits and pieces of the feature version of the film on television. Even when it was shown during the 1970s, it always had a dated quality about it. The takes are long and the lighting is steeped in the "let's blast the set!" style. The ideas and lingo are dated, as well. But looking at the film, and reflecting upon my own childhood of witnessing the wreckage of that era with divorces and plush carpeting, there is some charm to it.

There's no denying what a great duo Lemmon & Mattau made. It's obvious that no matter how good they were as actors, you can see that they were close friends and had a mutual admiration for one another. They play off each other with the utmost respect and professionalism. Matthau reminds me of my old relatives who just loved to have a great time. Lemmon reminds me of, well, Jack Lemmon. He's always been a fine actor.

The film might not play well with most viewers under the age of, say, 35. The last time anyone really saw and appreciated Lemmon & Matthau was in "Grumpy Old Men" (1993). To modern audiences, and even to me growing up, they just seemed "old." I'm older now and can appreciate their genius.        

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.
DVD Quick Glimpse


Classic buddy comedy

Director: Gene Saks  

Cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau 

Delted scenes, commentary and more


Picture: Good
Sound: Good

It would be interesting to compare the feature to the TV series

Aspect Ratio (2.35:1)

Dolby Digital 2.0

March 24, 2009
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