|In A Thousand Clowns, Saks played neurotic kids'|
show star Chuckles the Chipmonk, a role he
repeated for the film starring Jason Robards.
|Saks's first film as director was|
Simon's Barefoot in the Park, which
brought attention to Robert Redford
and Jane Fonda.
It was no surprise, then, that he became known as a premiere interpreter of the work of Neil Simon. He directed eight of Doc's plays on Broadway, and translated three more to film.
|Neil Simon's plays translate to film with varying degrees of success, but no one complains about The Odd Couple, in which Saks directed Lemmon and Matthau to greatness.|
|Neil Simon won the Tony, |
and the Pulitzer, for
Lost In Yonkers, in which Saks
directed unknowns Kevin
Spacey and Mercedes Ruehl.
|When I saw I Love My Wife, Lenny Baker, above,|
had already won the Tony for his performance, but I
was bowled over by the unknown playing his best
friend's wife. It was Joanna Gleason
in her Broadway debut.
He won the first of his three Tony Awards for his direction of I Love My Wife, a musical concerning the wife-swapping phenomenon of the early 1970s. No wonder the show is rather obscure today. I wrote about seeing the show here, and one of the comic numbers of the piece showed up here a while ago on the Dance Party, in a duet between Bea Arthur and Rock Hudson.
Saks won his other two Tonys for Simon plays, though he was nominated several more times.
|Saks was sacked on the road with this|
musical, and replaced by Michael
Kidd. The show became a major flop
and ended the Saks/Simon partnership.
His final show on Broadway, Barrymore, earned star Frank Langella the Tony in 1997. By then he had fallen out with Neil Simon, after he had been fired from the musical version of The Goodbye Girl. Perhaps they should have listened to Gene, as his success rate with stage musicals was impressive. He not only won the Tony for I Love My Wife, but years earlier, his direction guided one of the most enduring hits of the 1960s and beyond, Mame.
There are a few grainy clips of Angela Lansbury as Mame out there, but a while ago, Lansbury appeared in this Dance Party, in which she displayed all the characteristics of her signature role.
|Angela Lansbury was already an established star when|
Saks placed her in the role of Mame, but the marriage
of character and star was so spectacular that she rose to
the top of Broadway stardom, where she has remained
to this day.
|Imagine going home to your wife, Bea Arthur, and|
telling her you decided she will NOT be playing the
leading role in the play you are directing. "God'll Get
You For That, Gene". In fact, He kinda did, with this
week's Dance Party.
|You may think this week's Dance Party is|
torture, but at least I didn't present a
number from this TV movie, also helmed
by Gene Saks.
|Here's Angela Lansbury in the opening number of Mame, "It's Today." This number is this week's Dance Party, starring Lucille Ball; I'm afraid it should have been renamed "It's Too Late."|