Thursday, August 30, 2018

The OCD Couple

It's not your fault that every time you think "neat" you think of Felix Unger. It's not your fault that every time you think "neat freak," you think of Felix Unger. It might be your fault if every time you think of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder you think of Felix Unger. For everything up to that, you'll have to lay the blame at the feet of Neil Simon.
Neil passed away this past weekend, leaving behind a legacy of plays and characters and movies and television that will be difficult to match for those aspiring screenwriters out there. The International Movie Database has him listed for more than one hundred films. Some of them are credits for remakes and that whole Plaza/California/London Suite thing that was really just a series of skits all set in a hotel where Neil could hang out for a few months while filming took place. And if he did get a little lazy here and there, who could blame him? A career that started seventy years ago as a staff writer for The Arrow Show, where he wrote bits for the likes of Phil Silvers and Jack Gilford.
Neil toiled away in mostly live television for fifteen years before he got a play produced, and then he became a force. Titles such as Barefoot in the Park, After the Fox, Sweet Charity, and Last of the Red Hot Lovers came tumbling out of the machine that bore his name. Neil Simon's (fill in the blank) was a sure-fire ticket. Neil Simon's Grocery List. Neil Simon's Telephone Book (A-M) and the follow-up Neil Simon's Telephone Book (N-Z). He had that golden touch.
But if you were a child of the seventies, you were probably most well-acquainted with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall doing their Oscar and Felix bit on ABC for five seasons. Oscar was the slob. Felix was the neatnik. And so it went. Meanwhile, Richard Dreyfus was winning an Oscar, but not the Madison kind. Neil himself never won an Academy Award, though he was nominated four times for adapting his own plays into screenplays.
And now he's gone. The lights on the Great White Way will be dimmed and the linguine will be served aldente. Neil Simon stomped on the stage and stomped on the Terra. He will be missed. Aloha, Mister Simon.

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