Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1975. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Neil Simon, based on his play. Cinematography by David M. Walsh. Produced by Ray Stark. Music by Irwin Fisch. Production Design by Albert Brenner. Costume Design by Patricia Norris. Film Editing by John F. Burnett. Academy Awards 1975. Golden Globe Awards 1975.
Neil Simon’s hilarious Broadway play is adapted to the big screen with its sparkle intact. Richard Benjamin is a frustrated talent agent whose uncle (Walter Matthau) gives him no end of headaches. He can’t book the old guy for any decent gigs, until he is given an offer from a cable network that could possibly make up for everything: they’re doing a special about comedians of yore and they want Matthau to team up with his vaudeville partner George Burns to revive the classic skit that made them famous. The trouble is, these two went their separate ways years ago under bad circumstances and refuse to meet. Getting them to the finish line is the main pleasure of this charmer, highlighted by a thrilling turn from Burns, here appearing in a feature film role for the first time since 1939 (and winning a well deserved Oscar for his efforts). Matthau doesn’t quite pull off playing old for those of us who, in the years since it was made, have seen what he actually looked like as an old man (he was only 55 here), but his delivery is still top of the line.