My Favorite Year (1982)
Something brought this to mind recently and I put it on our Netflix queue. We watched it over the weekend. I swear I saw it at the theater way back there. I remembered parts of it, especially the big finish. But my wife didn’t remember it at all. Funny, I didn’t make a habit of going to the movies by myself in 1982.
This is one of my favorite movies but I had forgotten about it. The story is about the early days of television. The lead character is a comedy writer for a live comedy show like Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows. On this particular week the guest is a movie star on the lines of Erol Flinn. He shows up drunk. He stays drunk. He chases women but not very hard because they chase him as much as the other way around. In short he is unreliable. He may or may not show up at show time and he may be drunk if he does. They want to drop him but the young writer idolizes him and is willing to babysit him to keep him on the show. Hilarity ensues.
I rarely watch the commentaries on these DVDs but I enjoyed this so much I watched this one. The commentary was by Richard Benjamin, the director. It was the first picture he directed. Imagine getting Peter O’Toole for your first picture. One of the executive producers was Mel Brooks, uncredited as a matter of fact. The movie has the kinetic insanity of a Mel Brooks movie but it has more than that. It has heart. Richard Benjamin said it was homage to New York City and I can see that, to the New York of the fifties. More than that I think it’s homage to the early days of live TV. Those people were not trying to preach or propagandize. Their humor was not mean. They just wanted to entertain. There was only one criterion for something making it on the show. It had to be funny.
Some movies get on my top whatever list because of plot or character or actors. But some get there because of the mood they create, because of atmosphere. This movie has all the above. But the best thing about it is atmosphere. It has innocence.