The first on-screen teaming of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau*, this film won the latter the Best Supporting Oscar. That’s a great reward, as production on the film stopped after Matthau had a heart attack. He lost thirty pounds in the hospital, so if you see any scenes in this movie where he has on a heavy jacket, they were shot after the health crisis.
Lemmon plays cameraman Harry Hinkle and he’s knocked out during a play when Cleveland Browns player Luther “Boom Boom” Jackson (Ron Rich) runs him over. Harry’s fine, but his brother-in-law William H. “Whiplash Willie” Gingrich (Walter Matthau) comes up with a plan to get some insurance money. The only reason Harry plays along? The chance to get his ex-wife Sandy (Judi West) to love him again.
After this film, Lemmon and Matthau would team up for The Odd Couple, Kotch, The Front Page, Buddy Buddy, Grumpy Old Men, The Grass Harp, Grumpier Old Men, Out to Sea and The Odd Couple II. They bonded early in the production process and connected over their love of football. They would remain close for the rest of their lives.
This was directed by Billy Wilder and it sparkles.
You can buy the new blu ray release of this movie from Kino Lorber. It comes complete with the Trailers from Hell episode about the film; commentary from Joseph McBride, author of Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge and even a clip of Jack Lemmon asking for extras to show up to the crowd scenes that were filmed in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium.
*Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason were also suggested for the role, but Lemmon insisted that Matthau be in the movie.