A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum


1h 39m 1966
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Brief Synopsis

Madcap musical set in ancient Rome, where a clever slave connives to win his freedom.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
New York opening: 16 Oct 1966
Production Company
Quadrangle Films
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States
Location
Spain
Screenplay Information
Based on the play A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbart (New York, 8 May 1962).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

In ancient Rome, Pseudolus, a lying, cheating, dishonorable slave, endlessly connives to obtain his freedom, despite the fact that his master, Senex, is tolerant of his sloppy and insubordinate conduct. When Pseudolus learns that young Hero, son of Senex, loves one of the slave girls from a house of ill repute operated by Lycus, he agrees, in exchange for his freedom, to help the somewhat stupid Hero win the maiden's love. But this girl, Philia, has already been sold to a roguish soldier, Miles Gloriosus. Pseudolus blackmails a timorous fellow slave, Hysterium, into assisting him by donning a wig and gown and impersonating the corpse of Philia, who Pseudolus claims has died of the plague. Philia, who is alive, is mistaken by Senex for his new servant, while she believes him to be her purchaser. Pseudolus, however, prevents the two from ever getting together, and when Philia's real suitor arrives, she despairs and decides to sacrifice herself at the temple. Confusion leads to pandemonium and eventually mayhem culminating in a wild chariot chase. When it is all over, Erronius, an old man who has spent years searching for his two children stolen by pirates, discovers that they are none other than Philia and Gloriosus. Hero wins Philia, and Pseudolus gains both his freedom and a buxom courtesan. Songs : "Comedy Tonight" (Pseudolus & Company), "Free" (Pseudolus), "Lovely" (Hero & Philia; reprise: Pseudolus & Hysterium), "Everybody Ought To Have a Maid" (Pseudolus, Lycus, Hysterium & Senex), and "Bring Me My Bride" (Miles Gloriosus).

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
New York opening: 16 Oct 1966
Production Company
Quadrangle Films
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States
Location
Spain
Screenplay Information
Based on the play A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbart (New York, 8 May 1962).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Award Wins

Best Score

1966

Articles

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum


Madrid, Spain stands in for Italian locations in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), directed by Richard Lester (A Hard Day's Night (1964), The Three Musketeers, 1974). Gleefully zany wordplay peppers the action, with Stephen Sondheim's libretto rhyming "eunuchs" with "tunics", and Zero Mostel, starring as scheming slave Pseudolos, examining a bottle of wine; "was One a good year?" Crammed with stellar comedic talent of its era, the film stars Zero Mostel, Jack Gilford, Phil Silvers and Buster Keaton (in one of his last performances). Larry Gelbart (Tootsie, 1982) and Bert Shevelove wrote the Broadway hit on which the film was based, adapting it from a trilogy of comedies by 3rd century BC Roman playwright Plautus.

Set in "a less fashionable suburb of Rome" and swirling with swinging sixties treatments of soothsayers, public baths, and ancient Roman go-go girls, the glory - or chaos - that was Rome is handled with Richard Lester's signature frenetic directorial style. The film's elaborate sets were strewn with actual fruits and vegetables, which were often left to rot in the Castillian sun at the end of the shooting day. The flies that plagued the production became a motif in the film and are a memorable feature of the animated end credits designed by Richard Williams (he was later recognized for his 1971 television special A Christmas Carol). Lester was selected by star Zero Mostel to direct the motion picture although other names originally under consideration for director included Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Mike Nichols. Cinematographer Nicholas Roeg would later graduate to director and reap acclaim for such films as Walkabout (1971), Don't Look Now (1973), and The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976).

But the most significant aspect of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is the musical score by Stephen Sondheim which was adapted for the screen by Ken Thorne. The latter would snatch the only Oscar for the film - Best Adapted Music Score - in the 1966 Academy Award race against such competitors as Harry Sukman (The Singing Nun), Elmer Bernstein (Return of the Seven), and Al Ham (Stop the World-I Want to Get Off). Thorne, who had previously worked with The Beatles on their score for Help! (1965), would go on to compose music for such films as Head (1968), the Monkees' film debut, The Magic Christian (1969), and Superman II (1980).

Director: Richard Lester
Producer: Melvin Frank
Screenplay: Melvin Frank, Michael Pertwee (based on the play by Burt Shevelove & Larry Gelbart)
Cinematography: Nicholas Roeg
Editor: John Victor-Smith
Production Design: Tony Walton
Music: Ken Thorne, Stephen Sondheim
Cast: Zero Mostel (Pseudolus), Phil Silvers (Lycus), Michael Crawford (Hero), Jack Gilford (Hysterium), Buster Keaton (Erronius), Michael Hordern (Senex), Annette Andre (Philia).
C-97m. Letterboxed.

by Jessica Handler
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Madrid, Spain stands in for Italian locations in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), directed by Richard Lester (A Hard Day's Night (1964), The Three Musketeers, 1974). Gleefully zany wordplay peppers the action, with Stephen Sondheim's libretto rhyming "eunuchs" with "tunics", and Zero Mostel, starring as scheming slave Pseudolos, examining a bottle of wine; "was One a good year?" Crammed with stellar comedic talent of its era, the film stars Zero Mostel, Jack Gilford, Phil Silvers and Buster Keaton (in one of his last performances). Larry Gelbart (Tootsie, 1982) and Bert Shevelove wrote the Broadway hit on which the film was based, adapting it from a trilogy of comedies by 3rd century BC Roman playwright Plautus. Set in "a less fashionable suburb of Rome" and swirling with swinging sixties treatments of soothsayers, public baths, and ancient Roman go-go girls, the glory - or chaos - that was Rome is handled with Richard Lester's signature frenetic directorial style. The film's elaborate sets were strewn with actual fruits and vegetables, which were often left to rot in the Castillian sun at the end of the shooting day. The flies that plagued the production became a motif in the film and are a memorable feature of the animated end credits designed by Richard Williams (he was later recognized for his 1971 television special A Christmas Carol). Lester was selected by star Zero Mostel to direct the motion picture although other names originally under consideration for director included Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Mike Nichols. Cinematographer Nicholas Roeg would later graduate to director and reap acclaim for such films as Walkabout (1971), Don't Look Now (1973), and The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976). But the most significant aspect of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is the musical score by Stephen Sondheim which was adapted for the screen by Ken Thorne. The latter would snatch the only Oscar for the film - Best Adapted Music Score - in the 1966 Academy Award race against such competitors as Harry Sukman (The Singing Nun), Elmer Bernstein (Return of the Seven), and Al Ham (Stop the World-I Want to Get Off). Thorne, who had previously worked with The Beatles on their score for Help! (1965), would go on to compose music for such films as Head (1968), the Monkees' film debut, The Magic Christian (1969), and Superman II (1980). Director: Richard Lester Producer: Melvin Frank Screenplay: Melvin Frank, Michael Pertwee (based on the play by Burt Shevelove & Larry Gelbart) Cinematography: Nicholas Roeg Editor: John Victor-Smith Production Design: Tony Walton Music: Ken Thorne, Stephen Sondheim Cast: Zero Mostel (Pseudolus), Phil Silvers (Lycus), Michael Crawford (Hero), Jack Gilford (Hysterium), Buster Keaton (Erronius), Michael Hordern (Senex), Annette Andre (Philia). C-97m. Letterboxed. by Jessica Handler

Quotes

People do not go around freeing slaves every day.
- Hero
Be the first. Start a fashion.
- Pseudolus
If I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times; do not fan the girls when they're wet! But you'll never learn, you'll be a eunuch all your life.
- Lycus
Gone to see a nose-grinder, indeed. He's cavorting with those courtesans.
- Domina's Mother
But Mother, what can I do?
- Domina
Return to Rome immediately, before he can do what no doubt he's already done. Go!
- Domina's Mother
A common flesh-peddler in the house next to ours, disgusting!
- Domina
Disgraceful, all that revolting flesh. Just next door...
- Senex
That breeder woman, has she been thrown a mate yet?
- Domina
Alas, she refuses just any slave. She demands to choose.
- Hysterium
Choose? She'll breed and like it, like everyone. Well, almost everyone.
- Senex

Trivia

During filming, actor Phil Silvers locked himself in his trailer and refused to come out. Director Richard Lester asked Jon Pertwee to step into the role of Lycus, as he already knew the part after performing it on stage. Once Silvers heard he had been replaced, he came out of his trailer, bursting with new enthusiasm for the project. Pertwee was given the (much) smaller role of Crassus as compensation.

Michael Crawford (Hero) did most of his stunts himself.

Buster Keaton's final film.

Notes

Produced in Spain.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall October 16, 1966

Released in United States Fall October 16, 1966