Tuesday, July 03, 2007

July 4th viewing tip: Neil Simon mini-marathon

If heavy rains dampen your plans for parading or picnicking on Independence Day, and you’re in the mood for an indulgent wallow in ‘60s and ‘70s nostalgia, you might be mildly amused by the line-up of comedies based on Neil Simon plays that Turner Classic Movies has to offer. Barefoot in the Park (11:30 am EDT) may be especially entertaining for anyone who doesn’t remember, or who never knew, just how sleek and sexy Jane Fonda and Robert Redford were back in the day (circa 1967, when this movie was released) before they became activists as well as actors. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not criticizing either star for his or her politics. Rather, I’m indulging myself a bit by gazing back through rose-colored glasses. Hell, I can remember exactly where I first saw Barefoot -- the old Fox Theatre on Elysian Fields in my hometown of New Orleans -- and how hot Jane Fonda looked (even before she undraped for Barbarella) to a hormonally inflamed adolescent.

The July 4th mini-marathon on TCM also includes 1963’s Come Blow Your Horn (7:30 am EDT), with Frank Sinatra as a ring-a-ding-ding chick magnet; 1975’s The Sunshine Boys (9:30 am EDT), with Walter Matthau and George Burns as long-feuding ex-vaudevillians; and 1968’s The Odd Couple (3:30 pm EDT), arguably the finest and funniest of the many pairings of Matthau and Jack Lemmon. I haven’t seen any of these movies in decades – though I frequently reviewed the plays on which they’re based while covering dinner theaters, community playhouses and summer stock in the '70s and '80s. And I'm more than a little curious to see how they hold up so long after Simon ruled the Great White Way (and, to a lesser degree, movie theaters and drive-ins everywhere) as the undisputed King of the One-Liners.

Also on the program: 1977's The Goodbye Girl (1:30 pm EDT), an original Simon script later adapted into a Broadway musical, with Richard Dreyfuss giving an Oscar-winning performance that, for better or worse, forever defined his prickly on-screen persona. (Yes, even more so than Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.) I hope he -- and, for that matter, Neil Simon -- will have a very happy holiday. And, dear reader, I hope you do the same.

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