A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to... NYC
The Roman comic dramatist Titus Maccius Plautus scored his first movie hit on this day in 1966 with the release in New York City of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Plautus had died over 2000 years previously (in 184 B.C., to be precise), but three of his plays had been adapted by Broadway whizkid Stephen Sondheim, along with writers Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, into a ribald musical farce, which was a Tony-winning hit when first staged in 1962. Richard Lester, who was coming off two Beatles movies, Help! and A Hard Day's Night, sandwiched between the Palme D'Or-winning The Knack... And How To Get It, was an unconventional choice to direct the movie; he was certainly skilled at directing music, but traditional musicals were hardly his thing. Though some of the cast (notably Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford) and also crew were veterans of the Broadway show returning to familiar territory, the movie version diverted from the stage musical's formula, principally by cutting seven of Sondheim's 14 songs. With a cast that included Mostel, Phil Silvers and Buster Keaton (in his last role), Lester's take on the musical offered much in terms of comedy and fun, and the tagline indeed promised “Something for Everyone!” Not quite everyone, though, as despite the modest commercial success it achieved, Sondheim and his fellow creators of the Broadway show made it clear they were not fans of the big screen version.