My Favorite Year: Fabulous Friday Flicks

An Overlooked Comic Gem!

“My name is Benjy Stone and 1954 was my favorite year.
Not my best year, not the year I had the most success but my favorite year!”

This overlooked gem is wonderfully funny, tremendously nostalgic, fabulously well acted. This thoroughly delightful movie is a perfect example of how comedy can be made with warmth and a real feeling for a specific place and time. My Favorite Year brings to life, perfectly, the era of live television in 1954 New York. The dialogue is hilarious and memorable, and the period detail immediately evokes a wonderful moment when television comedy united the nation.

When Sid Caesar was the King of Comedy on television he had the greatest writing staff ever assembled. Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, Carl Reiner, and Selma Diamond were only some of the writers working for the master. The volatile genius of Sid Caesar and the craziness in the writing room have proven rich fodder for books, movies, and television shows. “The Dick Van Dyke Show” was based on Carl Reiner’s experience, so was Neil Simon’s play, “Laughter On The 23rd Floor.”

The clever plot centers around the creation of a live TV comedy show, based on the Sid Caesar show, in the week that a fading swashbuckling movie star with no television experience is slated to appear.At the center of this hilarious film is a spectacular performance by the great Peter O’Toole. He plays the charming, alcoholic, once great movie star, seemingly patterned after Errol Flynn.Although Mel Brooks served as executive producer and had  input into the script, it is not, for the most part, a Mel Brooks movie. In some ways, it always seems to me more like a Woody Allen film, in which small moments, witty dialogue, Jewish humor and offbeat situations keep you smiling. The humor is warm, the relationships touching, and every supporting performance is stellar.O’Toole is pitch perfect; alternately hilarious, maddening, and deeply touching. It is a deft performance that showcases not only Peter O’Toole’s superb acting skills but incredible comic timing. The film is blessed with offbeat but effective casting (click here for other examples of unique casting in films) that liven every corner of My Favorite Year.

Although Mel Brooks served as executive producer and had  input into the script, it is not, for the most part, a Mel Brooks movie. In some ways, it always seems to me more like a Woody Allen film, in which small moments, witty dialogue, Jewish humor and offbeat situations keep you smiling. The humor is warm, the relationships touching, and every supporting performance is stellar.

One of the greatest difficulties of making a period film is making it appealing and accessible to those who did not live during that era. In this respect, “My Favorite Year” is a shimmering success. You need not have lived in 1954 to enjoy the richly textured production. 1954 is be beautifully recreated through costume, sets, props and dialogue. One particularly lovely scene was set on 45th Street, in the heart of the Broadway theater district. By using window dressings and period cars in the foreground and a brilliantly painted matte on the corner, the production makes it look as if you were really seeing Manhattan in 1954. Today, this would be easily accomplished with CGI (computer generated imagery) but My Favorite Year presents is a warmer, 

The movie was a tremendous critical success but not a smash at the box office. Looking at the trailer for the film, I have to conclude My Favorite Year was one of the worst publicized great movies ever! The trailer is simply dreadful. Don’t let that deter you.nor do you need to know anything about live television to be immediately swept into its wonderfully wacky world.

“My Favorite Year” is one of those films you can watch over and over and over again, until you have memorized every line, and still want to watch again and again!

In the comments section below, I have a wonderful and fun challenge for you. If you have seen My Favorite Year, I know you love it! Leave your favorite line of dialogue as a comment.

 

14 thoughts on “My Favorite Year: Fabulous Friday Flicks

  1. Comedy comes from being relatable. We can all relate to Benji Stone’s desires to me close to greatness, hold on to his childhood idols, and get the girl. This all occurring within the frantic setting of the high speed world of live television comedy creates great parallels later modeled in Soapdish. Must see!!!

    • Two men on a balcony, as Alan Swann jumps (with a rope to crash their party), misses their balcony and dangles a couple of balconies below:
      “Alan Swann is beneath us…”
      “Of course he’s beneath us, he’s an actor!”

      Benji’s mom to Alan Swann: “Welcome to our humble chapeau.

      Alan Swann: I’m not an actor — I’m a movie star!

      • Nan, you chose some beauties! The balcony scene is hilarious! I love when the drunken Alan Swann says we will just “shimmy down.” Benji’s response is priceless: “Shimmying? Shimmying? I’m not shimmying down anything! It’s too DANGEROUS!”

  2. Benjy Stone: Mr. Swann, I think I’m going to be unwell.
    Swann: Stone, ladies are unwell. Gentlemen vomit.
    Benjy Stone: Mm-hm.
    Swann: [to his limo driver] Alfredo, you needn’t wait. We shan’t need the car any more. We’re going to throw up in the park and then walk home.

    • Arnie,

      Hilarious choices! Swann’s ability to appear to be a polished gentleman even in the oddest of circumstances is part of the great charm of the movie. He can even make throwing up sound funny!

      Remember him inadvertently walking into the ladies room and accidentally exposing himself to Selma Diamond:

      Lil: ( Referring to the fact that he is in the ladies room) This is for ladies only!
      Swann: ( referring to the fact that he is exposed) And so is this, ma’am, but every now and again I need to run a little water through it.

    • R. A. –

      Great line! I also love Benjy’s mother reacting to his obvious discomfort about Alan Swann to dinner at her apartment in Brooklyn:

      Belle: “Benjamin, what are you ashamed of?”
      Benji: “Everything!”

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