My Favorite Year

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My Favorite Year
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 byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
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]

Through narration, Benjy Stone recalls the week (in his "favorite year" of 1954) when he met his idol: film actor Alan Swann, known for appearing in swashbuckler films during the 1930s and 1940s.

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 mother is married to Filipino former bantamweight boxer Rookie Carroca, and Benjy has many other relatives who embarrass him. 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 enthusiastically courts K.C. Downing, a pretty assistant to producer Leo Silver. 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 gets 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, visited his daughter the next day, enjoying a heartfelt reunion.

Cast[edit]

The girl in the Old Gold cigarette box was played (uncredited) by Lana Clarkson, who was murdered years later by Phil Spector. Gloria Stuart appears in a non-speaking role 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. Swashbuckler Errol Flynn was a guest on one episode, and his appearance inspired Dennis Palumbo's mostly fictional screenplay. The character of 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 of Herb, one of Kaiser's writers 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, socialized with him 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] On their movie review television program movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both gave praise to My Favorite Year. Siskel called it "A wonderful little film full of big laughs and great nostalgia for TV's golden age" while Ebert, in agreement added, " It was directed by Richard Benjamin, and it was directed well. It was a very, very funny movie. The physical comedy in this movie is just as good as the verbal comedy. It's good from beginning to end."[8] Michael Sragow of Rolling Stone had praise for the movie's director Richard Benjamin, and its cast, saying, "Director Richard Benjamin gets the most out of the script and the actors in almost every instance; it’s refreshing to see a small-scale movie that’s full to the brim with funny people."[9]

The film holds a 97% "fresh" rating with review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 29 reviews with the consensus: "My Favorite Year is a joyful ode to the early days of television, carried with a deft touch and Peter O'Toole's uproariously funny performance." The film received a rating of 62 on Metacritic.

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 and Alice Miller by Andrea Martin. All three were nominated for Tony Awards for their performances, with Martin winning her category.[10]

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.
  8. ^ "Buried Treasures, 1986 – Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews". siskelebert.org. Retrieved 2023-06-26.
  9. ^ Rolling Stone Magazine 382 November 11 1982. 1982-11-11.
  10. ^ David Gordon, "Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty Recall Memories of My Favorite Year", December 5, 2014.

External links[edit]