The Out-of-Towners (1970 film)
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|Directed by||Arthur Hiller|
|Produced by||Paul Nathan|
|Written by||Neil Simon|
|Music by||Quincy Jones|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|May 28, 1970|
|Box office||$7,250,000 (rentals)|
The Out-of-Towners is a 1970 American comedy film written by Neil Simon, directed by Arthur Hiller, and starring Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis. It was released by Paramount Pictures on May 28, 1970.
Much of the film's humor is derived from the interaction between George, the manic husband desperately collecting the names of everyone he encounters with plans to sue every last one of them, and Gwen, the mousy wife who accepts each new indignity with quiet resignation.
A number of comic actors, including Anne Meara, Sandy Baron, Ann Prentiss, Paul Dooley, Ron Carey, Dolph Sweet, Anthony Holland, Graham Jarvis, Paul Dooley and Johnny Brown were cast in small supporting roles.
Originally, playwright Neil Simon planned his tale of a suburban Ohio couple's misadventures in New York City to be one of a quartet of vignettes in his Broadway play Plaza Suite. He quickly realized, however, the comic possibilities were numerous enough to warrant a full-length treatment, and the action was more suitable for the screen than the stage. During filming in the spring of 1969, Hiller took full advantage of Manhattan, including Grand Central Station, Central Park, and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, in his location shooting. Scenes were also filmed at Logan International Airport and South Station in Boston, and at MacArthur Airport in Islip, New York (standing in for the fictional Twin Oaks, Ohio air terminal).
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The plot revolves around Gwen and George Kellerman, whose company has invited him to interview for a possible job promotion in New York City. From the moment they depart their home town of Twin Oaks, Ohio, the couple suffers nearly every indignity out-of-towners possibly could experience: Heavy air traffic and dense fog forces their flight to circle around JFK Airport and the New York skyline repeatedly before finally being rerouted to Boston's Logan Airport, where they discover their luggage - in which George's ulcer medication and Gwen's extra cash are packed - was left behind.
Just missing the train at South Station, they chase it to the next stop by cab, board it (it is extremely overcrowded), and wait two hours for seats in the dining car, only to discover the only food left is peanut butter sandwiches, green olives, and crackers, with nothing to drink but tonic water and clam juice (“but they ain't cold”). Upon arrival at Grand Central Terminal in New York by 2:00am (02:00), they discover that the city’s subway and bus drivers, taxicab drivers, and sanitation workers are all on strike. Making their way to the Waldorf-Astoria on foot past tons of garbage in a torrential downpour, they discover their reservation - guaranteed for a 10:00pm arrival - has been given away, and the hotel, like every other one in the city, is booked to capacity due to the strikes.
What follows is a series of calamities that includes being robbed at gunpoint by a man with an umbrella named Murray; kidnapping by armed liquor store robbers after a high-speed chase while the Kellermans are riding in a police car en route to an armory; being mugged while sleeping in Central Park; George cracking a tooth on Cracker Jacks left by a dog under Trefoil Arch; broken high heels; accusations of child molestation; an exploding manhole cover; expulsion from a church; and an attack by protestors in front of the Cuban embassy. With each successive catastrophe, George angrily writes down each perpetrator's name and promises to sue them or their company when he returns home.
The only thing that goes right for George is that he somehow manages to arrive on time for his 9:00am (09:00) interview, with rumpled clothing. Despite receiving a very lucrative offer, the two realize an upwardly mobile move to the big city is not what they truly cherish after the urban problems they have gone through, and they make the decision to return to their small town in Ohio, only to be subjected to one more major catastrophe—their flight home is hijacked to Cuba. Gwen says "Oh my god!" (which she had said various other times during the movie) ending the film.
Real life comparisons
Many of the incidents depicted in the film mirrored real life events going on at the time, especially in New York. Some of the incidents depicted include:
- The transit strike endured by the Kellermans mirrored the real life 1966 New York City transit strike, which began on New Year's Day 1966, the first day of John V. Lindsay's term of office, the first of many labor disputes that would haunt the mayor's two terms.
- The sanitation strike depicted in the film mirrored the infamous 1968 strike that also hit the city.
- The dilapidated condition and poor overcrowded service of the New Haven Railroad train the Kellermans take from Boston to New York mirrored the decline of passenger rail service occurring throughout the entire country in the late 1960s.
- The muggings and robberies endured by the Kellermans reflected the rising crime rate in many major American cities at the time, especially in New York City. Additionally, New York City's Central Park was portrayed as a haven for crime, which it was becoming known for at the time.
- The manhole cover explosion was real. TV Guide Magazine investigated this event and found Jack Lemmon might have been killed when the manhole cover came down only inches (centimeters) from him. The director decided to keep the shot in the scene.
- Jack Lemmon as George Kellerman
- Sandy Dennis as Gwen Kellerman
- Sandy Baron as Lenny Moyers (TV Man)
- Anne Meara as Woman in Police Station
- Robert Nichols as Man in Airplane
- Ann Prentiss as 1st Stewardess
- Ron Carey as Barney Polacek (Cab Driver in Boston)
- John Fiedler as train conductor
- Philip Bruns as Officer Meyers
- Graham Jarvis as Murray (Mugger)
- Carlos Montalbán as Cuban Diplomat
- Pepe Hern as Hijacker
- Robert King as Agent in Boston
- Johnny Brown as Waiter on Train
- Dolph Sweet as Police Sergeant
- Jack Crowder as Police Officer
- Jon Korkes as Looter
- Robert Walden as Looter
- Richard Libertini as Baggage Man in Boston
- Paul Dooley as Hotel Clerk - Day
- Anthony Holland as Mr. Winkler (Waldorf Astoria Clerk - Night)
- Billy Dee Williams as Clifford Robinson (Lost and Found Agent in Boston)
- Bob Bennett as Man in Phone Booth in Boston
Roger Greenspun of The New York Times wrote that the film "fails so insistently that it seems a conscious exercise in dulled insights and mixed opportunities. Except for a few minor artifices ... it never improves upon the most predictable disasters or relents from that mechanical reiteration of characteristics (no character) upon which Neil Simon seems to have built his career." Arthur D. Murphy of Variety called the film "a total delight." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two stars out of four and wrote that Simon "has given his screenplay more play than screen. There's much too much dialog, and each gag has the same syntax." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times stated, "There are a number of laughs in 'The Out-of-Towners' but only the shut-ins on Baffin Bay will genuinely be able to regard it as escapist fare. It is too close to truth for comfort, or unmitigated hilarity." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post described the film as "no mean let-down," explaining that "Simon has missed the point by making his leading characters unattractive. Lemmon and Miss Dennis need to be an easygoing, tolerant and sensible couple. Instead, they're a nagging and childish couple, and although audiences may be laughing at their stupidity and the disasters that befall them, I doubt if anyone is laughing out of a basic, shared sense of recognition or human sympathy."
Both Lemmon and Dennis were nominated for Golden Globe awards in the comedy acting categories. Simon's screenplay won him the Writers Guild of America award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.
The title had previously been used for an unrelated romantic drama that aired on Studio One in 1957. It was made into a feature film in 1964, but at the last minute the title was changed to Dear Heart.
- "Big Rental Films of 1970", Variety, 6 January 1971 p 11.
- "The Out-of-Towners". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
- Greenspun, Roger (May 29, 1970). "The Screen". The New York Times. 14.
- Murphy, Arthur D. (March 25, 1970). "Film Reviews: The Out-Of-Towners". Variety. 18.
- Siskel, Gene (July 28, 1970). "Out-of-Towners". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 4.
- Champlin, Charles (June 21, 1970). "Comedies Walk Tightrope Over Credibility Gap". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 27.
- Arnold, Gary (June 27, 1970). "Poor Little Old New York". The Washington Post. C1, C6.