Frankly, it’s about time! The life of brilliant actor and comedian Paul Lynde — best known as Uncle Arthur on Bewitched and the main draw of game show The Hollywood Squares — is going to be the subject of a biopic. Titled Man in the Box, it will be exploring his life and, in particular, the fact that he was a gay man working in Hollywood in the 1960s and 1970s, a point that everybody more or less ignored. Actor Billy Eichner (Parks and Recreation, Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street, voice of Timon in the “live-action” version of The Lion King) will be bringing Paul to life for the film.
Deadline, which broke the story, notes that while he never really “outed himself,” his sexuality was also something that he never put much effort into hiding — which was in direct contrast to famous gay actors of that period. At the same time, he was enormously frustrated by the knowledge that his name was never put on the same casting “lists” that straight actors were. That’s something Billy feels hasn’t changed all that much over the years, and a subject he hopes the film will address.
Paul’s sexuality was a major reason for the insecurities that consumed him much of his life, and played no small role in his need to drink while fueling his reputation as a nasty drunk. However, It also helped to define the kind of humor that he became known for. According to Room 222 star Karen Valentine, who worked with him on both The Hollywood Squares and the TV movie Gidget Grows Up, Hollywood didn’t really know what to do with him.
“To cast him as a traditional father didn’t work,” Cathy Rudolph, his close friend and author of Paul Lynde: A Biography — His Life, His Love(s) and His Laughter, opines, an example of that being the short-lived The Paul Lynde Show. “On a series, I don’t think they ever tapped into the magic of what he could do or the funniness he brought to the table. It was like trying to fit him in a box where he didn’t fit.”
Making the title Man in the Box even more fitting.
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