My Favorite Year (1982) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for language and some sexual humor
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Mark-Linn Baker, Peter O'Toole, Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna, Bill Macy, Lainie Kazan, Anne De Salvo, Basil Hoffman, Lou Jacobi, Adolph Green, Tony DiBenedetto, George Wyner, Selma Diamond
Director: Richard Benjamin
Screenplay: Dennis Palumbo
Review published January 23, 2005
My Favorite Year marks the directorial debut of actor Richard Benjamin (The Money Pit, Marci X), and by all accounts, he nailed it right out of the gate. It's a loving tribute to the celebrity of yesteryear, which not only spoofs some of the screwball comedy you'd find on television in the 1950s, but it is also constructed in the same vein itself. Playful and done with great affection, the tone and pace are just right for a fun time at the movies, with an exceptionally brilliant performance by Peter O'Toole (The Stunt Man, Caligula). He would receive an Oscar nomination.
The film is narrated by Benjy Stone (Mark-Linn Baker, "Perfect Strangers"), a young, fresh-faced talent who in 1954 wrote for one of the most popular comedy shows on television, hosted by the wildly popular King Kaiser (Joseph Bologna, Blame It on Rio). It's a live variety show, which always is looking for special guests to fill up time with, and for the next one, Kaiser has his heart set on former swashbuckling heartthrob Alan Swann to make an appearance. Trouble is, Alan has spent much of his post-stardom years in a drunken stupor, and is certainly in no condition to put himself out on live national television. Kaiser makes in Benjy's assignment to see that Swann is sober and alert for his appearance, but keeping tabs on the crafty rogue proves more of a chore than one man can handle.
While Benjamin does a fine job in the directorial department, it is really O'Toole's flamboyant performance that makes the movie truly enjoyable. Excellent dialogue and sharp characterizations abound, and while this film isn't likely to blow anyone away with artistic or social significance, as a dessert film, it hits the spot just right.
It's long been reported that My Favorite Year is based on anecdotal material supplied by uncredited producer Mel Brooks about Errol Flynn's appearance on Sid Caesar's "The Show of Shows", and one can easily see all of the correlations to think this must be true. It feels very much like a Mel Brooks movie, a la The Producers, back in the days when Brooks was actually making movies that weren't out and out spoofs.
For those who love the Golden Age of television, this should really hit home, although it can still be enjoyed by those too young to catch all of the allusions. It's a pleasant little nostalgia comedy that never tries to be bigger than it is. Charming.
©2005 Vince Leo