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Film / The Sunshine Boys

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"As an actor, no one could touch him. As a human being, no one WANTED to touch him!"
Willy Clark, regarding Al Lewis.

Originally 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, "Lewis and Clark, 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:

  • The Cameo: Steve Allen and Phyllis Diller are among the stars appearing in the same TV special as Lewis and Clark.
  • Forgetful Jones: Willy and Al both display this at times for comedic effect.
  • Glory Days: Willy has a hard time accepting that he's not a star anymore. Part of the reason for his feud with Al is that the latter broke up the act, thereby taking said stardom away.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Willy and Al. Willy is especially cantankerous to everyone around him, including Ben.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Discussed by Willy with Ben.
  • Jewish Complaining / Jews Love to Argue: Willy and Al partake in much of it.
  • Large Ham: Willy, to the constant irritation of Al, who hates the fact he's distorting the bit with it.
  • Oh God, with the Verbing!: Al keeps pointing his finger at Willy's chest. This leads to a moment during the rehearsals:
    "The finger? Again with the finger?!"
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  • Sad Clown: The heated arguments between Clark and Lewis maybe humorous, but also sad and hardest to watch at the same time as you think about it: these two elder actors were a successful comedy act and initially the best of friends, but then parted on negative terms and both became the grouchy shadows of their former selves, especially Willy, who was the most cantankerous and stubborn, yet refuses to give up acting when it is already evident his career is all but dead due to his being difficult to work with, his delusions of non-existent acting success, and his own unlikable arrogance. It's quite heart-wrenching to realize that after all these years, the rancor remains.
  • Spiteful Spit: One of Willy's big complaints about Al is that the latter has a tendency to spit onstage when he pronounces words beginning with "t" (something Willy is convinced Al does on purpose).
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Both Al and Willy use plenty of Yiddish in their dialogue.


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