Film: The Sunshine Boys

"As an act, nobody could touch him. As a human being, nobody WANTED to touch him!"
Willy Clark, regarding Al Lewis.

A 1972 play by Neil Simon, The Sunshine Boys is best remembered for its 1975 film version directed by Herbert Ross and starring Walter Matthau and George Burns, the latter in a career-reviving, Academy Award winning performance.

Willy Clark (Matthau) and Al Lewis (Burns) were once a famous Vaudeville comedy Double Act, the "Sunshine Boys". The two parted ways eleven years earlier on unfriendly terms. Willy's nephew, Ben (Richard Benjamin), is a talent agent who's been trying to find his uncle work. One day, a major network announces an upcoming television special on the history of comedy. They want the Sunshine Boys to appear, so it's up to Ben to persuade the two to get back together.

Remade as a 1996 Made-for-TV Movie starring Woody Allen as Al, Peter Falk as Willy, and Sarah Jessica Parker as Willy's niece Nancy.


This work features examples of:

  • Forgetful Jones: Willy and Al both display this at times for comedic effect.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Willy and Al. Willy is especially cantankerous to everyone around him, including Ben.
  • Jewish Complaining: Willy and Al partake in much of it.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Discussed by Willy:
    "Fifty-seven years in this business, you learn a few things. You know what words are funny and which words are not funny. Alka-Seltzer is funny. You say 'Alka-Seltzer', you get a laugh... Words with 'k' in them are funny. Casey Stengel, that's a funny name. Robert Taylor is not funny. Cupcake is funny. Tomato is not funny. Cookie is funny. Cucumber is funny. Car keys. Cleveland... Cleveland is funny. Maryland is not funny. Then, there's chicken. Chicken is funny. Pickle is funny."
  • Oh God, with the Verbing!: Al keeps pointing his finger at Willie's chest. This leads to a moment during the rehearsals:
    "The finger? Again with the finger?!"
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Both Al and Willy use plenty of Yiddish in their dialogue.