The Odd Couple
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGene Saks
Written byNeil Simon
Based onThe Odd Couple
by Neil Simon
Produced byHoward W. Koch
CinematographyRobert B. Hauser
Edited byFrank Bracht
Music byNeal Hefti
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
Running time
105 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.2 million
Box office$44.5 million[3]

The Odd Couple is a 1968 American comedy film directed by Gene Saks, produced by Howard W. Koch and written by Neil Simon, based on his 1965 play. It stars Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as two divorced men, neurotic neat-freak Felix Ungar and fun-loving slob Oscar Madison, who decide to live together.

The film was successful with critics and grossed over $44.5 million,[3] making it the third highest-grossing film of 1968 in the United States. The success of the film was the basis for the ABC television sitcom of the same name, starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman as Felix and Oscar.


Felix Ungar checks into a sleazy hotel near Times Square with the intention to kill himself by jumping from the ninth floor, but he throws his back out while trying to open the window. He leaves the hotel and slowly limps along, and attempts next to get drunk while watching Go-go dancers at the Metropole Cafe; he ends up hurting his neck when he throws back his head and drinks a shot. He leaves, stands on a bridge, and contemplates jumping into the water.

Meanwhile, in the frowzy Upper West Side apartment of divorced sportswriter Oscar Madison, it is a hot, humid summer evening; Oscar and his card-playing cronies Speed, Roy, Vinnie, and policeman Murray have assembled for their Friday night poker game. Murray is concerned because their mutual friend Felix is unusually late for the game; Speed is annoyed because he is losing; Vinnie keeps mentioning he has to leave by 12 o'clock, and Roy complains about how hot, smelly and messy the apartment is. Oscar's refrigerator has been on the fritz for two weeks and at one point he serves the group brown sandwiches and green sandwiches containing "either very new cheese or very old meat". Murray's wife calls and informs them that Felix is missing. Oscar then calls Felix's wife Frances, who tells him that she and Felix have broken up. As Oscar and his friends are discussing what to do, and worried that Felix might try to commit suicide, Felix arrives not knowing that everyone has already heard that he and his wife have separated.

The group attempts to act nonchalant and pretend nothing is wrong, but Felix eventually breaks down crying and his friends attempt to console him. After everyone leaves, Oscar suggests that Felix move in with him, since Oscar has lived alone since he split up with his own wife, Blanche, some time earlier. Felix agrees, and urges Oscar to not be shy about letting him know if he gets on Oscar's nerves.

Within only a week, Oscar is going nuts. Felix is a neurotic, obsessive-compulsive nut, who runs around the apartment cleaning, picking up after Oscar, and berating him for being such a slob. At the next poker game, Roy complains about how clean and sterile the apartment and their poker game have become; Felix has even washed the cards. Felix also refuses to have any fun, spending most of his time thinking about Frances. The game breaks up early and Oscar convinces Felix to lighten up and get out of the apartment for a while. While at a tavern, Oscar tells Felix about two English girls he recently met who live in their building – the Pigeon sisters, Cecily, a divorcee, and Gwendolyn, a widow. Oscar telephones the girls and arranges a double date for the following evening.[4]

As the date commences the next night, Oscar tries to get uptight Felix to loosen up by leaving him alone with the two attractive, and somewhat frisky, sisters, while he leaves the room to mix drinks. Instead, Felix winds up talking about his children and Frances, and breaks down weeping. When Oscar returns from the kitchen, the Pigeon sisters are sobbing as uncontrollably as Felix. When it's discovered that the meatloaf Felix has worked so hard to prepare has burned to ashes, the sisters offer to cook dinner and invite Felix and Oscar upstairs for what looks to be a wild evening. Instead, Felix, who realizes that he is still too attached to his wife, refuses to go, opting to "scrub the pots and wash his hair" instead. Oscar joins the sisters in their apartment, but winds up spending the night drinking tea and telling them all about Felix.

Furious about Felix's ruining the date, Oscar resorts to giving Felix the silent treatment and torturing him by messing up the apartment as much as possible. Felix retaliates by just being himself, driving Oscar insane with his endless cleaning and neurotic behavior. Eventually, the tension explodes into an argument that results in Oscar demanding that Felix move out. Felix complies, but leaves Oscar feeling extremely guilty for having abandoned his still-in-need friend.

Remorseful about throwing Felix out and not knowing where he has gone, Oscar assembles Speed, Roy and Vinnie to help search New York City for Felix with Murray in his NYPD police car. After searching for hours, they return to Oscar's apartment to play poker and soon discover that Felix has moved in with the Pigeon sisters when Gwendolyn arrives to collect Felix's things. Felix appears and he and Oscar apologize to each other, realizing that a bit of each has rubbed off on the other, with each being a better person for it. Felix promises that next week he will attend their usual Friday night poker game. After Felix's final exit, the once slovenly Oscar tells his friends to watch their messes as the poker game continues, ending the film.


Production and casting

The Odd Couple was originally produced for Broadway and the original cast starred Art Carney as Felix and Walter Matthau as Oscar. For the film version, Matthau reprised his role as Oscar, and Felix was portrayed by Jack Lemmon, who had never played the character before. At one point, Frank Sinatra (as Felix) and Jackie Gleason (as Oscar) were reportedly considered for the film version. Dick Van Dyke and Tony Randall were also among those considered for the role of Felix (Randall later portrayed Felix in the 1970 TV series). Similarly, Mickey Rooney and Jack Klugman (who replaced Matthau on Broadway as Oscar and would later play him in the 1970 TV series) were also considered to portray Oscar. Much of the original script from the play has been retained for the film, although the setting is expanded: instead of taking place entirely in Oscar's apartment, Simon also added some scenes that take place at various New York City locations (such as the scene at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York).

Oscar's poker playing cronies were Roy (David Sheiner), Vinnie (John Fiedler), Speed (Larry Haines) and Murray the Cop (Herbert Edelman). The film made its debut at Radio City Music Hall in 1968. It was a hit and earned Neil Simon a nomination for the Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay. The film was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy and Lemmon and Matthau were both nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

The scene at Shea Stadium, which also featured Heywood Hale Broun, was filmed right before a real game between the New York Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 27, 1967. Roberto Clemente was asked to hit into the triple play that Oscar misses, but he refused to do it and Bill Mazeroski took his place.[5]

One of the outdoor scenes in the film involved Felix shopping at Bohack, a Maspeth, Queens-based supermarket chain ubiquitous in the New York City area during the mid-20th century. The last Bohack supermarket closed in 1977.[6]

Theme music

The award-winning jazz instrumental theme was composed by Neal Hefti. The now iconic theme was used throughout the movie's sequel, starring Lemmon and Matthau and released 30 years later, and also adapted for the 1970 TV series and used over the opening credits. The song also has seldom-heard lyrics, written by Sammy Cahn.[7]

Release and reception

The Odd Couple garnered both critical acclaim and box-office success; it opened at New York's Radio City Music Hall on May 2, 1968 and ran there for a record-breaking 14 weeks with a record gross of $3.1 million.[8] It grossed over $44.5 million in the United States,[3] making it the third highest-grossing film of 1968.[9] The Odd Couple received universal acclaim from critics, earning a 97% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes based on 35 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.05/10.[10]

Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and praised the "universally good" performances, though he noted times when "the movie's Broadway origins are painfully evident, as when the players in the poker game are grouped around three sides of the table, but the 'downstage' side is always left bare."[11] Renata Adler of The New York Times called the film "a very funny, professional adaptation" of the play although "Mr. Lemmon sometimes overacts."[12] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety called it an "excellent film," adding, "Teaming of Lemmon and Matthau has provided each with an outstanding comedy partner."[13] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times declared, "My not very fearless forecast is that 'The Odd Couple' will cause more people to do more laughing than any film you are likely to see all year."[14]

Awards and honors

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[15] Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Neil Simon Nominated
Best Film Editing Frank Bracht Nominated
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards[16] Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Gene Saks Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[17] Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Jack Lemmon Nominated
Walter Matthau Nominated
Grammy Awards[18] Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special Neal Hefti Nominated
Laurel Awards Top Comedy Nominated
Top Male Comedy Performance Jack Lemmon Nominated
Walter Matthau Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards[19] Best Written American Comedy Neil Simon Won

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

TV series

The film spawned a television series spin-off in 1970, also entitled The Odd Couple which ran until 1975. As the series ended, a cartoon version called The Oddball Couple ran on ABC. Produced by Depatie-Freleng, it features a sloppy dog and a neat cat.


The sequel, The Odd Couple II, reunited Lemmon and Matthau 30 years later, one of the longest gaps between an original film and its sequel featuring the original lead actors.

See also


  1. ^ "'Odd Couple' Debuts in NY". BoxOffice. April 15, 1968. 15.
  2. ^ "THE ODD COUPLE (A)". British Board of Film Classification. 1968-02-07. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
  3. ^ a b c "The Odd Couple, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  4. ^ (Possibly a reference to the two young female characters in Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest, who share the same names).
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-03-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Bohack Archived 2007-04-02 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "The Odd Couple tv theme lyrics and voice over". Archived from the original on 2007-02-17. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  8. ^ "Broadway's 'New Sites' Week; 8th For 'Rosemary' Sock $81,000; 'Odd' in 14th (Farewell), $225,000". Variety. August 7, 1968. p. 9.
  9. ^ North American rentals were $18.5 million. See "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
  10. ^ "The Odd Couple, Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 17, 1968). "The Odd Couple". Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  12. ^ Adler, Renata (May 3, 1968). "Screen: Sweatshirt Meets an Apron". The New York Times. 42.
  13. ^ Murphy, Arthur D. (May 1, 1968). "Film Reviews: The Odd Couple". Variety. 6.
  14. ^ Champlin, Charles (June 16, 1968). "'The Odd Couple' Is a Laughing Matter". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 1.
  15. ^ "The 41st Academy Awards | 1969". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  16. ^ "21st DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  17. ^ "The Odd Couple – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  18. ^ "1968 Grammy Award Winners". Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  19. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  20. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  21. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-07-17.