By: Vickie J. Rubinson
For most lovers of comedy, this film is a "must see."
A vaudeville duo agree to reunite for a TV special but it turns out they can't stand each other. "The Sunshine Boys" is based on the play by the same name. The cast included real-life experienced vaudevillian actor George Burns as Lewis, and Walter Matthau as Clark and Richard Benjamin and F. Murray Abraham in supporting roles.
Woody Allen originally was asked to direct but he was more interested in playing the role of Lewis and declined the offer. Initially Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were proposed for the leads, but the director Neil Simon was opposed to the idea, as he felt the roles required Jewish comedians.
The movie is both funny and poignant thanks to the inspired casting of Walter Matthau and George Burns (who kicked off something of a career comeback with this Oscar-winning role). Richard Benjamin is also good as Matthau's nephew who brings the two comics back together.
The film was based in fact on a pair of real vaudevillians who barely spoke to each other offstage.
George Burns was called out of near-retirement to replace Jack Benny (when Benny died) in this role and it created a new career for this marvelous old trooper.
If you want to see comedy performed with exquisite timing, watch two masters at work here.