If playwriting success were gauged solely on money in the bank, Neil Simon would likely be tops in his field; having brought laughter to so many, he probably deserves that status. In his script for THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS, he mines gold from a field that had been virtually tapped out. Lemmon
is an Ohio businessman on his way to New York with his wife, Dennis, to talk about taking a job in the Big Apple. Anticipating dining in one Manhattan's fine restaurants, they refuse an in-flight meal. Their intention is to sup, check into a good hotel, have the appointment the following morning,
and return to Dayton. But things don't work out the way they were planned. The plane cannot land in New York because of fog, so it's shunted to Boston. In Beantown, Lemmon and Dennis learn that their luggage is missing; then they have to take a crowded, foodless train to New York. Arriving in a
driving rainstorm, they learn that the city has been crippled by a number of strikes, including walkouts by the transit workers and the garbage collectors. They walk a distance to the Waldorf only to learn that the hotel has cancelled their reservation. Jarvis, an apparently sweet man, says he can
find them a room; instead, he steals all of their money. With no cash, they decide to try the police, who tell them they can be put up at a local armory for the night. On their way there, the police car is hijacked by crooks, and Lemmon and Dennis are tossed out in Central Park, where they spend
the night. The next morning, Lemmon is taken to be a rapist by two joggers, who beat him up. Then he is chased by a police officer on a horse who thinks Lemmon is a child molester. In an attempt to get to his interview, Lemmon hitches a ride in the car of a Cuban official, Carlos Montalban, but
the auto is sidetracked by angry anti-Castro demonstrators. When he finally gets to his appointment, Lemmon looks seedy and totally unpresentable, but the company offers him the job anyway. Lemmon decides that New York is no place for him and Dennis, and he turns the job down, preferring to stay
in quiet, tranquil Ohio.
While it's implausible that all of these mishaps would befall a couple in 24 hours, none of these occurrences is beyond the realm of belief, and Simon has cleverly strung them together in one of his best screenplays. Director Hiller happily keeps Dennis' quirky mannerisms to a minimum and lets
Lemmon do his thing (and a wonderful thing it is), with all secondary roles well cast. The picture did well at the box office and enhanced Lemmon's reputation as one of Hollywood's finest comedic actors. Many of Simon's plays have not transferred well to the screen (with the notable exceptions of
THE ODD COUPLE and BAREFOOT IN THE PARK), perhaps because he writes differently for the stage. But when Simon has written directly for the screen, he has done much better, as he did with this film, THE GOODBYE GIRL, and THE HEARTBREAK KID.
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- Review: If playwriting success were gauged solely on money in the bank, Neil Simon would likely be tops in his field; having brought laughter to so many, he probably deserves that status. In his script for THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS, he mines gold from a field that had be… (more)