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The Sunshine Boys

The Sunshine Boys

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The Sunshine Boys is a play by Neil Simon
Neil Simon
Neil Simon is an American playwright and screenwriter. He has written numerous Broadway plays, including Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and The Odd Couple. He won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Lost In Yonkers. He has written the screenplays for several of his plays that...

 that was produced on Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 in 1972 and later adapted for film and television.


The play focuses on aging Al Lewis and Willy Clark, a one-time vaudevillian
Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill...

 team known as "Lewis and Clark" who, over the course of forty-odd years, not only grew to hate each other but never spoke to each other off-stage throughout the final year of their act. The stubborn Clark, who was not ready for retirement, resented the wiser Lewis for breaking up the act when he opted to leave show business
Show business
Show business, sometimes shortened to show biz, is a vernacular term for all aspects of entertainment. The word applies to all aspects of the entertainment industry from the business side to the creative element ....

. It is now 1972 and CBS is inviting the team to reunite for a special on the history of comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

, with the pair representing the vaudeville era at its best. Clark is convinced by his nephew Ben to revive one of the old routines one last time. Much of the humor is derived from efforts to get the two cantankerous actors into the same room for a rehearsal, their differences of opinion once they reunite, and their shenanigans on the actual broadcast.

Neil Simon was inspired by two venerable vaudeville teams. The longevity of "Lewis and Clark" was inspired by Smith and Dale who, unlike their theatrical counterparts, were inseparable lifelong friends. The undercurrent of backstage hostility between "Lewis and Clark" was inspired by the team of Gallagher and Shean
Gallagher and Shean
Gallagher & Shean was a highly successful double act on vaudeville and Broadway in the 1910s and 1920s, consisting of Edward Gallagher and Al Shean .-Career:...

, who were successful professionally but argumentative personally. Alternate sources say this is based on Weber and Fields
Weber and Fields
Weber and Fields refers to the vaudeville team of:* Joe Weberand:* Lew Fields....


Theatre productions

After two previews, the original Broadway production, produced by Emanuel Azenberg and directed by Alan Arkin
Alan Arkin
Alan Wolf Arkin is an American actor, director, musician and singer. He is known for starring in such films as Wait Until Dark, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Catch-22, The In-Laws, Edward Scissorhands, Glengarry Glen Ross, Marley & Me, and...

, opened on December 18, 1972 at the Broadhurst Theatre
Broadhurst Theatre
The Broadhurst Theatre is a legitimate Broadway theatre located at 235 West 44th Street in midtown Manhattan.It was designed by architect Herbert J. Krapp, a well-known theatre designer who had been working directly with the Shubert brothers; the Broadhurst opened 27 September 1917...

. It transferred to the Shubert
Shubert Theatre (Broadway)
The Shubert Theatre is a Broadway theatre located at 225 West 44th Street in midtown-Manhattan, New York, United States.Designed by architect Henry Beaumont Herts, it was named after Sam S. Shubert, the second oldest of the three brothers of the theatrical producing family...

 and then the Lunt-Fontanne
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre is a legitimate Broadway theatre located at 205 West 46th Street in midtown-Manhattan.Designed by the architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings, it was built by producer Charles Dillingham and opened as the Globe Theatre, in honor of London's Shakespearean playhouse, on...

 before completing its 538-performance run. The original cast included Sam Levene
Sam Levene
Sam Levene was an American Broadway and film actor. He made his Broadway debut in 1927 with five lines in a play titled Wall Street, and over a span of nearly 50 years, appeared on Broadway in 37 Shows, of which 33 were the original Broadway Productions, many now considered legendary...

 as Lewis, Jack Albertson
Jack Albertson
Jack Albertson was an American character actor dating to vaudeville. A comedian, dancer, singer, and musician, Albertson is perhaps best known for his roles as Manny Rosen in The Poseidon Adventure , Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Amos Slade in the 1981 animated film The Fox...

 as Clark, and Lewis J. Stadlen
Lewis J. Stadlen
Lewis J. Stadlen is an American stage and screen character actor.-Career:Born in Brooklyn, New York to voice actor Allen Swift, Stadlen studied acting with Sanford Meisner and Stella Adler...

 as Ben. Replacements later in the run included Lou Jacobi
Lou Jacobi
Louis Harold "Lou" Jacobi was a Canadian character actor.-Life and career:Jacobi was born Louis Harold Jacobovitch in Toronto, Ontario to Joseph and Fay Jacobivitch...

 as Lewis and Jack Gilford
Jack Gilford
Jack Gilford was an American actor on Broadway, films and television.-Early life:Gilford was born Jacob Aaron Gellman on the lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, and grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn...

 as Clark. Tony Award
Tony Award
The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known as a Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in New York City. The awards are given for Broadway...

 nominations went to Simon (Best Play), Albertson (Best Actor in a Play) and Arkin (Best Direction of a Play), and Albertson won the Drama Desk Award
Drama Desk Award
The Drama Desk Awards, which are given annually in a number of categories, are the only major New York theater honors for which productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway compete against each other in the same category...

 for Outstanding Performance.

Film adaptation

The 1975 film adaptation cast George Burns
George Burns
George Burns , born Nathan Birnbaum, was an American comedian, actor, and writer.He was one of the few entertainers whose career successfully spanned vaudeville, film, radio, television and movies, with and without his wife, Gracie Allen. His arched eyebrow and cigar smoke punctuation became...

 as Lewis and Walter Matthau
Walter Matthau
Walter Matthau was an American actor best known for his role as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple and his frequent collaborations with Odd Couple star Jack Lemmon, as well as his role as Coach Buttermaker in the 1976 comedy The Bad News Bears...

 as Clark.

Television adaptations

In 1995, Simon adapted his play yet again for a Hallmark Entertainment
RHI Entertainment
RHI Entertainment , formerly known as Hallmark Entertainment, is an American producer of television movies and miniseries, founded in 1979 by Robert Halmi Jr. and Robert Halmi Sr. as Robert Halmi Incorporated....

 production that finally aired on December 28, 1997. His teleplay updated the setting and made the two comedians the product of the early days of television, the medium in which the playwright got his start. Unlike the film adaptation, although they are portrayed as cankerous, their animosity was not as severe as Mattheu's and Burns' characters' bad relationship. Directed by John Erman
John Erman
John Erman is an American television and film director, actor and producer.Born in Chicago, Illinois, Erman spent the early years of his career, after a few small roles in films such as The Cosmic Man , directing episodes of such primetime series as Peyton Place, The Fugitive, The Outer Limits,...

, it starred Woody Allen
Woody Allen
Woody Allen is an American screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, jazz musician, author, and playwright. Allen's films draw heavily on literature, sexuality, philosophy, psychology, Jewish identity, and the history of cinema...

 as Lewis and Peter Falk
Peter Falk
Peter Michael Falk was an American actor, best known for his role as Lieutenant Columbo in the television series Columbo...

 as Clark, with Michael McKean
Michael McKean
Michael John McKean is an American actor, comedian, writer, composer and musician, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Squiggy's friend, Leonard 'Lenny' Kosnowski, on the sitcom Laverne and Shirley; and for his work in the Christopher Guest ensemble films, particularly as David St...

, Liev Schreiber
Liev Schreiber
Isaac Liev Schreiber , commonly known as Liev Schreiber, is an American actor, producer, director, and screenwriter. He became known during the late 1990s and early 2000s, having initially appeared in several independent films, and later mainstream Hollywood films, including the Scream trilogy of...

, Edie Falco
Edie Falco
Edith "Edie" Falco is an American television, film and stage actress, known for her roles in Oz as Diane Wittlesey, as Carmela Soprano on the HBO series The Sopranos, and as the titular character on the Showtime series Nurse Jackie...

, Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker is an American film, television, and theater actress and producer.She is best known for her leading role as Carrie Bradshaw on the HBO television series Sex and the City , for which she won four Golden Globe Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and two Emmy Awards...

, and Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg is an American comedian, actress, singer-songwriter, political activist, author and talk show host.Goldberg made her film debut in The Color Purple playing Celie, a mistreated black woman in the Deep South. She received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won...

 in supporting roles.

There have been three German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

television versions of The Sunshine Boys, all entitled Sonny Boys. The 1982 adaptation starred Carl-Heinz Schroth and Johannes Heesters, the 1995 version featured Harald Juhnke and Wolfgang Spier, and Werner Schneyder and Dieter Hildebrandt appeared in the 2001 edition.

External links