Monday, April 21, 2014

My Favorite Year (1982) Peter O'Toole, Mark Linn-Baker

I first heard about this movie reading a review over at The Ferguson Theatre. From the title alone I would have passed this over but after reading Derrick's review I had to watch this.

I'd seen Mark Linn-Baker as Cousin Larry in Perfect Strangers back in the day and his role here is kinda similar.  Larry is the straight man to the wacky Balki in Perfect Strangers and in this movie he's Benjy Stone, the straight man to O'Toole's Alan Swann. 

Benjy is the junior writer on The King Kaiser Comedy Cavalcade Show and he suggest getting Alan Swann, a washed up movie star who closely resembles Errol Flynn in many ways.   Benjy is trying to start a relationship with K.C., the producer's assistant.  Derrick points out that Benjy treats the relationship like a comedy skit - to me that makes perfect sense Benjy is living and breathing skits as he tries to prove himself as a comedy writer. 

In many ways the arrival of Swann into Benjy's life is pivotal.  At the start of the movie Benjy tells us that Swann is his personal hero.  When King Kaiser tries to ditch a very drunk Swann, it is Benjy who stands up for his idol.  Kaiser tells Benjy that he has balls (after checking first) and I wonder if that was the first time Benjy had fought for anything on the show. 

But it's Alan Swann we want to see.  Our first looks at Swann are from his glory days, a cardboard cut out and a greatest hits package from his movies.  He's dashing and heroic.  When we see him for the first time in the now he's drunk and in bed with a gorgeous young woman, and promptly tries to cough up his lungs.

He arrives at the studio and reacts to the footage on the screen which was hilarious. There's a close up the villain from the Robin Hood-esque  film.  Swann says "There's Reggie, I thought he was dead."'

Reggie is stabbed in the movie and falls down dead.  "There he goes." deadpans Swann.

Swann is a likable rogue.  He goes for dinner and ends up stealing away the most beautiful woman in the room.  (In a brilliant gag, the jilted boyfriend yells "Somebody stole my girl." which the band immediately starts playing.)  He points out that he gets away with murder in many parts of his life, which is understandable as he is charming and funny.  The scene in the ladies room is another case.

(If Selma Diamond who played Lil in that scene wasn't the inspiration for Roz in Monsters Inc I'd be very surprised)

I watched this with my wife and daughters and they were all laughing throughout the movie. But behind the humour there is a human story.  On filming night, Swann finds out that the show is aired live and he freaks out. The speech between Swann and Benji is so raw and human, just thinking of it makes my eyes misty.  A lot of what is said is foreshadowed earlier in the movie.  I won't spoil the speech and invite you to check out the movie.  (the speech is in the Quotes page of  the IMDB page.  )

The movie doesn't tell us what came of Benjy after this, but I'd like to think that he was better for his time with Swann.  Certainly thanks to Swann and his advice, Benjy is able to start a real relationship with K.C.

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