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The Sunshine Boys

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The Sunshine Boys (1975) starring Walter Matthau, George Burns
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The Sunshine Boys (1975) starring Walter Matthau, George Burns

Synopsis of The Sunshine Boys

George Burns won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as one of two feuding vaudevillian actors who are reunited for a television comeback in The Sunshine Boys.


I’m in a minority, but I don’t care for The Sunshine Boys. I watched it with my wife, and we didn’t laugh out loud even once. Walter Matthau’s character isn’t only gruff and mean, he’s vicious. He really turned me off the entire film. I frankly felt very sorry for his nephew/agent.


  • Walter Matthau (Cactus Flower) … Willy Clark. The angry, gruff, ex-vaudevillian. He’s older, and starting to have cognitive issues. He blames everybody else for the problems in his life.
  • George Burns (Going in Style) … Al Lewis. The softer spoken partner. He’s been more successful in life, which Willy resents. He wants to do the special to provide for his grandchildren financially.
  • Richard Benjamin (Westworld) … Ben Clark. Willy’s nephew. Unfortunately, he’s also Willy’s agent. Willy misses an audition, blames everyone else, and is effectively a cactus dipped in turpentine. Despite that, Ben actually has affection for his uncle. Their interactions are some of the highlights of the movie.
  • Lee Meredith (The Producers) … Nurse in Sketch (Miss McIntosh). Full-figured girl in the vaudeville sketch at the end of the movie. That’s it. A waste of a good actress.
  • Carol Arthur … Mrs. Doris Green. Al’s daughter, who loves him. And wants him to go to a nursing home.
  • Rosetta LeNoire … Odessa, Willy’s nurse.
  • F. Murray Abraham (Thir13en Ghosts) … Mechanic. A funny bit at the beginning of the movie involves Willy going to the wrong address for an audition. Despite the fact that it’s clearly an auto shop, and the mechanic informs him repeatedly that he’s in the wrong place …. Willy insists this must be the place.

Editorial review of The Sunshine Boys courtesy of

Based on Neil Simon’s popular Broadway play, this 1975 film directed by Herbert Ross (The Turning Point, Footloose) pairs the legendary comic talents of Walter Matthau and George Burns as two old-time vaudevillians who could never stand the sight of each other. The two curmudgeons are roped into appearing on a television reunion special, and they find themselves rehashing the same arguments they had 50 years earlier.

Burns came out of retirement for this role and won an Oscar for his work as the laconic half of the duo, while Matthau shines as the ham-handed antagonistic egomaniac. One of Neil Simon’s snappiest creations has been energetically brought to life in this enjoyable comedy, and it’s a rare opportunity to see two legends in finest form. –Robert Lane

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