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My Favorite Year
Directed by Richard Benjamin
Produced by Michael Gruskoff
Written by Norman Steinberg
Dennis Palumbo
Distributed by MGM
Release date(s) October 1, 1982
Running time 92 min
Language English

My Favorite Year is a 1982 comedy film directed by Richard Benjamin which tells the story of a young comedy writer. It stars Peter O'Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna, Lou Jacobi, Bill Macy, Lainie Kazan, Selma Diamond, Cameron Mitchell and Gloria Stuart. 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.



Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker), the narrator, tells of the summer he met his idol. In the early days of television, Benjy works as a junior comedy writer for a variety show starring Stan "King" Kaiser (Joseph Bologna). As a special upcoming guest, they get the famous (though washed-up) movie star Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole). However, when he shows up, they realize that he is a roaring drunk. Kaiser is ready to dump him, until Benjy intervenes and promises to keep him sober during the week leading up to the show.

As Benjy watches out for Swann (or at least tries to keep up with him), they learn a lot about each other, including the fact that they both have family they try to hide from the rest of the world. In Benjy's case, it's his Jewish mother (Lainie Kazan), who is married to a Filipino former bantamweight boxer, Rookie Carroca (Ramon Sison), and Benjy's embarrassing relatives, such as uncouth Uncle Morty (Lou Jacobi). For Swann, it is his young daughter Tess, who has been raised entirely by her mother, one of his many ex-wives. He stays away, but admires her from afar and continues to keep tabs on her secretly.

Meanwhile, Kaiser is threatened by corrupt union boss Karl Rojeck (Cameron Mitchell), who doesn't appreciate being parodied on the show. "Accidents" start happening during rehearsals when Kaiser refuses to stop performing the "Boss Hijack" sketches.

In a subplot, Benjy tries, clumsily and over-enthusiastically, to win the affections of co-worker K. C. Downing (Jessica Harper). Swann advises him on the right approach.

On show night, Swann suffers a panic attack when he realizes that millions will be watching him live. (He is accustomed to getting many takes to get his lines right, crying—with a line which brought the house down when O'Toole appeared and showed a clip on The Tonight Show—"I'm not an actor, I'm a movie star!"). Swann gets drunk, but is confronted by Benjy, who angrily tells him that he always thought of Swann as the swashbuckling hero he saw on the big screen. As Benjy puts it, "Nobody's that good an actor!"

At this point, Rojeck's men show up and begin beating up Kaiser during the live broadcast of the show (with the audience thinking that it is part of the comedy sketch). Swann grabs a rope and swings into action (dressed as a Musketeer for a later skit), saving Kaiser in front of an appreciative if still clueless audience.

Benjy narrates the epilogue, relating that Swann, his confidence bolstered, finally gets up the nerve to visit his daughter the next day. But first Swann stands in front of a still applauding audience, taking a bow.

Relationship to real life

Mel Brooks, executive producer of the film, was a writer for the Sid Caesar variety program Your Show of Shows, early in his career. Movie swashbuckler Errol Flynn was a guest on one episode, and this real-life occurrence inspired Dennis Palumbo's largely fictional screenplay. Swann was obviously based on Flynn, while Benjy Stone is loosely based on both Brooks and Woody Allen, who also wrote for Caesar.

According to Brooks, the character of Rookie Carroca also was based on a real person, a Filipino sailor in the U. S. Navy who was his neighbor in Brooklyn. Much like Alan Brady on The Dick Van Dyke Show, King Kaiser represented 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 Sally Rogers character on The Dick Van Dyke Show), appears as a costume mistress.

Other writers from Your Show of Shows had already made their own use of their experiences. The comic play Laughter on the 23rd Floor by Neil Simon included thinly disguised versions of Sid Caesar and his staff, as did The Dick Van Dyke Show, which was created by Brooks' friend and colleague Carl Reiner (who would later star in Van Dyke's show as Alan Brady).

Brooks acknowledges that most of the movie's plot was fabricated. He says that Flynn's appearance on Your Show of Shows was uneventful, that none of the writers got much of a chance to talk to Flynn, let alone become his friend or take him home to dinner.

The film was the first directing effort for actor Richard Benjamin.


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