My Favorite Year

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My Favorite Year
My favorite year.jpg
Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
Directed byRichard Benjamin
Screenplay byNorman Steinberg
Dennis Palumbo
Story byDennis Palumbo
Produced byMichael Gruskoff
Starring
CinematographyGerald Hirschfeld
Edited byRichard Chew
Music byRalph Burns
Production
companies
Distributed byMGM/UA Entertainment Co.
Release date
  • October 8, 1982 (1982-10-08)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$7.9 million[1]
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 from a story written by Palumbo. The film tells the story of a young comedy writer[2] and 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.

Plot[edit]

Benjy Stone, the narrator, recalls the week (in his "favorite year" of 1954) when he met his idol, swashbuckling actor Alan Swann (inspired by Errol Flynn, whose title roles such as that in Captain Blood would be evoked by Swann's imagined 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. Swann, well past his prime, is booked as a guest star and arrives at the studio drunk. Kaiser nearly removes Swann from the show until Benjy intervenes, promising to keep Swann sober during the week preceding his scheduled appearance.

With help from Swann's chauffeur Alfie, Benjy continuously monitors Swann. They learn much about each other, finding out that they each have family whom they want to remain out of the spotlight. Benjy's Jewish mother is married to Filipino former bantamweight boxer Rookie Carroca, and Benjy has embarrassing, uncouth relatives, including Uncle Morty. Swann's young daughter Tess 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 gangster Karl Rojeck, a corrupt union boss who objects to 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.

Benjy clumsily and overenthusiastically courts K.C. Downing, producer Leo Silver's pretty assistant. Swann mentors Benjy, and Benjy is unable to prevent the drunken star from crashing a party at the home of K.C.'s affluent parents as they find themselves in the wrong apartment.

The night of the show, Swann suffers a panic attack after Benjy informs him that the program is broadcast live, not filmed as Swann had expected. Swann becomes drunk and flees the studio. Benjy angrily confronts him, telling Swann that he always believed that he was the swashbuckling hero whom he had watched on the silver screen and that deep down, Swann possesses those qualities.

As the "Boss Hijack" sketch gets under way, Rojeck's men appear backstage and attack Kaiser. The fight spills onto the stage during the live broadcast, and the audience believes that it is part of the sketch. Swann and Benjy observe the melee from the balcony. Swann, dressed for a musketeer skit, grabs a rope and swings onto the stage and into action. He and Kaiser defeat the thugs together before the unwitting audience.

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

Cast[edit]

Future Phil Spector murder victim Lana Clarkson appears (uncredited) as the girl in the Old Gold cigarette box. Gloria Stuart, who would 15 years later would set the record as the oldest person to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Titanic at the age of 86, appears as Mrs. Horn.

Relationship to real life[edit]

Executive producer Mel Brooks was a writer for the Sid Caesar variety program Your Show of Shows early in his career. Brooks has claimed that movie swashbuckler Errol Flynn was a guest on one episode, and that the appearance inspired Dennis Palumbo's largely fictional screenplay. He also said that 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 Rookie Carroca was based on a Filipino sailor in the U.S. Navy who was his neighbor in Brooklyn. The name of the King Kaiser character is based on that of 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 Herb, a comedy writer who whispers rather than speaks, is based on Neil Simon, another of Caesar's staff writers, who, according to Carl Reiner, whispered ideas to colleagues rather than trying to shout to be heard above the din of the noisy writers' room.[citation needed]

Brooks acknowledges that most of the film's plot is 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]

Production[edit]

The film was based on an original script by Norman Steinberg.[3]

My Favorite Year was the first film directed by actor Richard Benjamin, who was an NBC page at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in 1956.[4]

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 film that he was producing at MGM. Mitchell accepted and was cast in My Favorite Year as Karl "Boss" Rojeck.[5]

Reception[edit]

My Favorite Year opened in theaters on October 1, 1982 to $2,400,696 (#3, behind An Officer and a Gentlemen's 11th weekend and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial's 18th).[6]

In a contemporary review for The New York Times, critic Janet Maslin called My Favorite Year "a funny and good-natured comedy" and wrote that director Richard Benjamin "works in a steady, affable style that is occasionally inspired, always snappy and never less than amusing."[7]

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

Musical[edit]

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

References[edit]

  1. ^ "AFI|Catalog".
  2. ^ "My Favorite Year". Variety. December 31, 1981. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  3. ^ Klemesrud, Judy. At the Movies: L.I. 'Red, Hot and Blue' The New York Times 14 August 1981: C6.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "Weekend Box Office October 8–10, 1982". Box Office Mojo.
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (1982-10-01). "Screen: 'Favorite Year' With Peter O'Toole". The New York Times. p. C10.

External links[edit]