My Favorite Year (1982)
Movie title: My Favorite Year
Director(s): Richard Benjamin
Actor(s): Peter O'Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Teresa Ganzel, Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna , Bill Macy
Released in 1982, My Favorite Year is a playful and affectionate look at the Golden Age of television. Oozing with nostalgia, it’s allows the always charming Peter O’Toole (The Night of the Generals) to be unforgettably humorous. Written by Dennis Palumbo and Norman Steinberg and based on real people and events (exaggerated for the big screen), via voice-over television writer Benjy Stone takes us back to his favorite year, 1954…
Benjy (Mark Linn-Baker) a new, young writer for one of the most popular comedy series on television series on television, hosted by the even more popular King Kaiser (Joseph Bologna). A live variety show, they’re always looking for well-known celebrities to help fill out the sketches. On this particular week, a washed up, drunken–but still legendary movie star, Alan Swann (O’Toole), has been hired to make a guest appearance. Since Alan is rarely sober, Benjy, is assigned to babysit his childhood idol to ensure he makes it to rehearsals, does the live show and generally stays out of trouble. However, keeping tabs on the crafty English rouge is easier said than done.
The Comedy Cavalcade is almost certainly based on Your Show of Shows and Benjy Stone was modeled after Mel Brooks (who acted as an uncredited producer on this film). Brooks was a writer for that classic show and the movie is based on the time Errol Flynn made a guest appearance. A Flynn like swashbuckler, Alan Swann is a lovable lush. He causes trouble everywhere he goes; he’s never cruel, but always fun. Comedically, My Favorite Year feels very much like a Mel Brooks film, a la The Producers, before satire figured so prominently in his work.
Peter O”Toole’s sharp and flamboyant performance makes the film memorable. One of the funniest scenes occurs when Benjy takes Swann home to Brooklyn to have dinner with his Jewish mother and her former bantamweight boxer, Filipino, husband Rookie Carroco. Benjy’s Uncle Mort and Aunt Sadie (in her wedding gown) show up to add to the craziness. Lainie Kazan plays Benjy’s mom. She tries to act elegant, but fails miserably, “Welcome to my humble chapeau.” Uncle Morty makes things worse by asking Alan about a famous scandal, “That paternity scandal a few years ago – did you shtup her?” And Rookie reveals the secret ingredient in his meatloaf, “Parrot.”
It’s not surprising that O’Toole was nominated for an Oscar for his role and it also shouldn’t surprise that he lost (to Ben Kingsley for Ghandi). The Academy has never been a fan of rewarding comedic performances, particularly in the lead categories. Perhaps he would have had a better chance of winning had he been in the supporting category. The problem is, the main plot is about a young writer navigating a career and falling in love. Although Mark Linn-Baker does a capable job (he would achieve fame on Perfect Strangers) he dwarfs next to Peter O’Toole.
The movie suffers a bit during a subplot that involves King Kaiser and his feud with an over-the-top Union boss. The climatic fight in the studio, during a live taping, is ridiculous but it does allow Swann to show off. The subplot isn’t terrible, but O’Toole’s infectious energy and devilish charm is missed.
For those who love the Golden Age of television, or Mel Brooks earliest films, My Favorite Year comes highly recommended. While it can still be enjoyed by those that no nothing about 1950’s, Mel Brooks and live television, it’s an unapologetic, nostalgic comedy that never tries to be more than it is.
Featuring a new 2K remastering, Warner Archive’s Blu-ray looks fantastic. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the overall image has a very natural look–primarily due to the lighting choices and use of film grain–giving the proceedings a pleasing appearance. Movements are natural with no distortion. Blacks are pleasing and colors are solid. No crushing is present. Skin tones are natural and persistent throughout. Viewers should be pleased with this transfer.
The Stereo 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack provides an engaging experience, with a nice sense of balance and apparent accuracy. There are no distortions; pops, hisses, or crackles and dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary by Director Richard Benjamin: Benjamin praises his cast quite a bit, but also discusses how he was hired, how he got Peter O’Toole to to join the cast, etc.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:43)