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TV CRITIC'S CORNER

Billy Eichner to star in Paul Lynde biopic

Billy Eichner (pictured in Los Angeles in February) will portray Paul Lynde in “Man in the Box.”
Billy Eichner (pictured in Los Angeles in February) will portray Paul Lynde in “Man in the Box.”Rachel Murray/Getty Images/file



This is perfect. Billy Eichner, he of “the street,” is going to play Paul Lynde in a biopic of the actor’s life. If you know of Eichner, who also starred with Julie Klausner in Hulu’s sitcom “Difficult People” and voiced Timon in “The Lion King,” you can probably understand just how right this casting is. The movie will be called “Man in the Box,” and it will be written by Edwin Cannistraci.

Lynde, who struggled with alcoholism, and died at age 55 in 1982, broke out in “Bye Bye Birdie” — the Broadway show and the 1963 movie — and found fame as Uncle Arthur the warlock on “Bewitched” and as himself slinging jokes on “The Hollywood Squares.” He was not openly gay, like other actors of the time, but he didn’t pretend to be straight, either, unlike others of the time. Just watch the videos of his best one-liners on YouTube, all delivered with his usual snickering; he steps well over the line into gay camp.

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Here’s an example. The question, posed by host Peter Marshall, was about “The Wizard of Oz.” “The Tin Man wanted a heart and the Lion wanted courage,” Marshall said. “What did the Straw Man want?” Lynde’s answer, to big laughs, was: “He wanted the Tin Man to notice him.” It’s hard to imagine most gay performers of the time going there in that way.



Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.