My Favorite Year

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My Favorite Year
My favorite year.jpg
Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
Directed byRichard Benjamin
Produced byMichael Gruskoff
Screenplay byNorman Steinberg
Dennis Palumbo
Story byDennis Palumbo
Music byRalph Burns
CinematographyGerald Hirschfeld
Edited byRichard Chew
Distributed byMGM/UA Entertainment Co.
Release date
  • October 8, 1982 (1982-10-08)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$20,123,620

My Favorite Year is a 1982 American comedy film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, directed by Richard Benjamin and written by Norman Steinberg and Dennis Palumbo, which tells the story of a young comedy writer.[1] It stars Peter O'Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Jessica Harper, and Joseph Bologna. O'Toole was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. The film was adapted into an unsuccessful 1992 Broadway musical of the same name.


Benjy Stone, the narrator, recalls the summer (in his "favorite year" of 1954) he met his idol, swashbuckling actor Alan Swann (perhaps intended to evoke Errol Flynn, whose title roles like Captain Blood would be evoked by Swann's imagined (but screened) one in Captain from Tortuga). During television's early days, Benjy works as a junior comedy writer for a variety show called Comedy Cavalcade, starring Stan "King" Kaiser that is broadcast live from the NBC studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The still-famous Swann, whose career is largely washed up, is booked as a guest star. When he arrives at the studio roaring drunk, Kaiser nearly "dumps him" until Benjy intervenes, promising to keep Swann sober during the week preceding his scheduled appearance.

As Benjy, with help from Swann's driver, continuously monitors Alan. They learn much about each other, including that they each have family they want kept out of the spotlight. In Benjy's case, it his Jewish mother, who is married to Filipino former bantamweight boxer Rookie Carroca, and Benjy's embarrassing, uncouth relatives. For Swann, it is his young daughter, Tess, who has been raised entirely by her mother, one of his many ex-wives. He rarely visits, but secretly keeps tabs on her, unable to muster the courage to reconnect with her.

During the week of rehearsals, Kaiser is threatened by Karl Rojeck, a Jimmy Hoffa-like corrupt union boss who objects being parodied on the show. Disruptive events, ambiguous between real sabotage and random accidents, are noted after Kaiser belligerently insists on performing the "Boss Hijack" sketch.

In a subplot, Benjy clumsily and over-enthusiastically woos co-worker K.C. Downing. Swann mentors Benjy, which ultimately results Benjy unable to stop the drunken star from crashing a party at the home of K.C.'s affluent parents, ending with them in the wrong apartment.

The night of the show, Swann suffers a panic attack after Benjy informs him that the program is broadcast live, and is not taped as Swann expected. Swann gets drunk and rushes from the studio. Benjy angrily confronts him, saying how he always believed Swann was the swashbuckling hero he watched on the silver screen, and that deep down, Swann possesses those qualities.

As the "Boss Hijack" sketch gets underway, Rojeck's men show up backstage and attack Kaiser. The fight spills onto the stage during the live broadcast, and which the audience believes is part of the sketch. Swann and Benjy observe the melee from the balcony. Swann, dressed for the Musketeer skit, grabs a rope and swings onto the stage and into action. He and Kaiser defeat the thugs together, all while the clueless audience watches.

Benjy narrates the epilogue, relating that Swann, his confidence bolstered, visits his daughter the next day, enjoying a heartfelt reunion.


In addition, future Phil Spector murder victim Lana Clarkson appears, uncredited, as the girl in the Old Gold Cigarette Box, while Gloria Stuart, who 15 years later (in Titanic) would raise the record, at 86, for oldest person to receive an Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actress, appears as Mrs. Horn.

Relationship to real life[edit]

Mel Brooks, executive producer of the film, was a writer for the Sid Caesar variety program Your Show of Shows early in his career. Movie swashbuckler Errol Flynn was a guest on one episode, and this occurrence inspired Dennis Palumbo's largely fictional screenplay. Swann was based on Flynn, and Benjy Stone is based on both Brooks and Woody Allen, who also wrote for Caesar.[citation needed]

According to Brooks, the character of Rookie Carroca was based on a Filipino sailor in the U.S. Navy who was his neighbor in Brooklyn. Much like Alan Brady on The Dick Van Dyke Show, King Kaiser represented Sid Caesar ("Kaiser" is the German equivalent of the Roman title Caesar). Selma Diamond, another former Your Show of Shows writer (who inspired Rose Marie's character on The Dick Van Dyke Show), appears in the film as a wardrobe mistress.[citation needed]

The character of Herb, a comedy writer who whispers almost everything he has to say, is based on Neil Simon, another of Caesar's staff writers, who, according to co-worker Carl Reiner, whispered ideas to colleagues rather than try to shout to be heard above the din of the noisy writers' room.[citation needed]

Brooks acknowledges that most of the movie's plot was fictional. He said that Flynn's appearance on Your Show of Shows was uneventful and that none of the writers had much interaction with Flynn, became his friend, or took him home to dinner.[citation needed]


The film was based on an original script by Norman Steinberg.[2]

My Favorite Year was the first directing effort for actor Richard Benjamin who was an NBC page at 30 Rock in 1956.[3]

Cameron Mitchell recalled that he met Mel Brooks when both were having lunch at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Commissary. Brooks told him that Gorilla at Large (which starred Mitchell and Brooks' wife Anne Bancroft) was his favorite film and asked him if he wanted to play a Jimmy Hoffa-type character in a movie for him. Mitchell accepted and was cast in the film as "Boss" Rojeck.[4]


My Favorite Year opened in theaters on October 1, 1982 to $2,400,696 (#3, behind An Officer and a Gentlemen's eleventh weekend and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial's eighteenth).[5]

The film holds a 96% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 26 reviews.


Lainie Kazan was the only member of the cast who reprised her film role for 1992's Broadway musical version of My Favorite Year, in which the character Alan Swann was portrayed by Tim Curry. Both were nominated for Tony Awards for their performances.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "My Favorite Year". Variety. December 31, 1981. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  2. ^ Klemesrud, Judy. At the Movies: L.I. 'Red, Hot and Blue' The New York Times 14 August 1981: C6.
  3. ^ Rose, Lacey (April 17, 2017). "21 NBC Pages Turned Hollywood Players Tell All: Johnny Carson Sightings, Calls From the President, TV Cameos". The Hollywood Reporter.
  4. ^ Weaver, Tom (February 19, 2003). "Cameron Mitchell Interview". Double Feature Creature Attack: A Monster Merger of Two More Volumes of Classic Interviews. McFarland. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-7864-8215-3.
  5. ^ "Weekend Box Office October 8–10, 1982". Box Office Mojo.

External links[edit]