A Thousand Clowns
|A Thousand Clowns|
original film poster
|Directed by||Fred Coe|
|Produced by||Fred Coe|
|Written by||Herb Gardner|
|Music by||Gerry Mulligan
|Editing by||Ralph Rosenblum|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release date(s)||13 December 1965|
|Running time||118 minutes|
|Box office||$2.4 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)|
A Thousand Clowns is a 1962 American play by Herb Gardner, which tells the story of a young boy who lives with his eccentric uncle Murray, who is forced to conform to society in order to keep custody of the boy. A 1965 movie version was adapted from the play by Gardner and directed by Fred Coe.
Film Cast 
- Jason Robards: Murray Burns
- Barbara Harris: Dr. Sandra Markowitz (Sandy Dennis won a Tony for the 1963 stage version)
- Martin Balsam: Arnold Burns
- Barry Gordon: Nick Burns
- William Daniels: Albert Amundson
- Gene Saks: Leo "Chuckles the Chipmunk" Herman
- Philip Bruns: Man in the Restaurant
- John McMartin: Man in Office
Film plot summary 
Unemployed television writer Murray Burns (Jason Robards), lives in a cluttered New York City studio apartment with his 12-year-old nephew, Nick (Barry Gordon). Murray has been unemployed for five months after walking out on his previous job, writing jokes for a children's television show called "Chuckles the Chipmunk". Nick, the illegitimate son of Murray's sister, was left with Murray seven years earlier.
When Nick writes a school essay assignment on the benefits of unemployment insurance, his school requests New York State to send social workers to investigate his living conditions. Confronted by investigators for the Child Welfare Board, Sandra Markowitz (Barbara Harris) and her superior and boyfriend Albert Amundson (William Daniels), Murray is threatened with removal of the child from his custody unless he can prove he is a capable guardian of Nick.
Murray charms and seduces Sandra. He convinces her to join with him in his delusional charade, of seeking work as a kind of trick; as an inside joke, played upon the conventional, conformist, and inhumane state, that is modern life. Sandra facilitates her attraction to Murray by rationalizing that it is helping him to seek employment. They begin a relationship. Although Murray tries to avoid returning to work (in the classic “rebel” view of the 1960s, conventional full-time employment for money wages is disdained as a “cop-out” and a complete surrender to the overwhelming force of conventional society), he finds himself in a dilemma: if he wishes to keep his nephew, he must swallow his dignity and go back to work. Again, in the 1960s, regular work could be regarded as an assault upon human dignity in that it denied an allegedly basic human impulse, to aimlessly wander and explore one’s inner self, while parasitically feeding off of ungrateful, materially bloated, local, national and global institutions.
On the other hand, Murray feels he can't let go of Nick until he thinks the boy has shown some backbone; he "wants a little guts to show." In a confrontation with his brother and agent Arnold (Martin Balsam), Murray expounds his nonconformist worldview: that a person must fight at all costs to retain a sense of aliveness. Arnold, by contrast, replies that he himself, in conforming to the dictates of society, has become "the best possible Arnold Burns".
Murray realizes that he must get a job, and after walking out on several interviews, he agrees to meet his former employer, the detested "Chuckles" host, Leo Herman (Gene Saks), at the apartment. When Nick doesn't laugh at Leo's pathetic display of comedy, Leo insults Nick, who then quietly but firmly dresses Leo down. Although Nick becomes upset with Murray for tolerating Leo's insults, Murray sees the boy has finally grown a backbone; the guts have shown. At that point Murray, realizing that Nick has come of age, resigns himself to going back to his old job, and the next morning he joins the crowds of people heading off to work.
Awards and nominations 
|38th Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Martin Balsam||Won|
|Best Music||Don Walker||Nominated|
|Best Picture||Fred Coe||Nominated|
|Best Writer||Herb Gardner||Nominated|
|American Cinema Editors||Best Edited Film||Ralph Rosenblum||Nominated|
|Golden Globes||Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy||Nominated|
|Best Actor - Musical/Comedy||Jason Robards||Nominated|
|Best Actress - Musical/Comedy||Barbara Harris||Nominated|
|Laurel Awards||Best Male Supporting Performance||Martin Balsam||Won|
|National Board of Review||Top Ten Films||Won|
|Writers Guild of America||Best Writer||Herb Gardner||Won|
Music ranges from rudimentary drum cadences to Dixieland arrangements of "The Stars and Stripes Forever". "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" is used in several places.
Noted actress Judy Holliday wrote the lyrics for the theme song "A Thousand Clowns". This was her last film credit as the film was released after her death on June 7, 1965.