For many queer millennials, The Birdcage, director Mike Nichols’s freewheeling remake of the French play and film La Cage aux Folles, provided the first glimpse of a gay family via longtime partners Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert Goldman (Nathan Lane). Amid the drought of positive depictions of homosexuality in ’90s cinema, here was a loving gay couple that had been together for 20 years, and had raised a son together—a modern family before Modern Family, when marriage equality was still a distant dream.
Not that Armand and Albert don’t dream. In one of the film’s most touching scenes, Armand surprises Albert with a palimony agreement, to protect either of them should something happen to the other, and tells him, “There’s only one place in the world I call home, and it’s because you’re there.”
Scroll through the gallery to relive 20 moments that make The Birdcage a laugh riot to this day.
GIFs/Text | Les Fabian Brathwaite
Robin Williams (may he rest) and Nathan Lane are a comedic match made in heaven, which is why it's hard to imagine anyone else in the roles of nightclub owner Armand Goldman and his temperamental star and lover Albert. However, Steve Martin was originally cast as Armand with Williams as Albert, but scheduling conflicts forced Martin to drop out. Williams, who had recently triumphed in Mrs. Doubtfire, opted for the less flashy role of Armand, leading to Lane's breakthrough film role.
Schnecken: a type of sweet bun that was a traditional Saturday morning treat in German homes at the beginning of the 20th century and that was commonly found in Jewish immigrant communities in the United States (Philadelphia and Baltimore) or German immigrant communities in Southern Brazil (where they're spelled xineques). The name schnecken means snails in German and refers to the shape of the pastry. [Wikipedia]
Meanwhile, "schnecken" is technically plural, so Albert should've said, "When the schnecken beckon." But who's quibbling—besides IMDb.
It's next to impossible to steal scenes from Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, but Hank Azaria did—one wig, mince, and pratfall at a time—as Armand and Albert's loyal houseboy Agador. Azaria worried about offending the gays with his portrayal, but a gay friend reassured him that the voice he had chosen—which he later realized was that of his grandmother—was more realistic. And certainly more hilarious.
Armand trying to teach the hopelessly effete Albert to "play it straight" is hands down the funniest scene in the movie, if not in any movie—ever. Nichols had to be covered in a sound blanket while filming the scene because he was laughing too hard.