My Favorite Year is a 1982 American comedy film written by Dennis Palumbo and Norman Steinberg, and directed by Richard Benjamin, which was his first effort into directing. Also Mel Brooks remains as an uncredited producer for this movie.
“My Favorite Year” is a splendid, well-researched comedy on the “Golden Age” of television, which manages both to entertain and make us feel nostalgic about a bygone era. The acting is excellent, particularly Peter O’Toole as the washed-up star of yesteryear at the centre of the story. The other cast include 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.
Some comedies elicit huge laughs, while others are simply smile-inducing. My Favorite Year definitely falls within the “smile” category. However, it is more noteworthy than most “smile comedies,” due to Peter O’Toole’s memorable turn as the cognac-guzzling, past-his-prime movie star, Alan Swann.
The story talks about the year 1954, swashbuckler Swann is scheduled as a weekly guest star on King Kaiser’s Comedy Cavalcade, a live variety show modeled after Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows. Showing up tardy and woozily wasted on his first day, Swann is nearly fired. However, Benjy Stone (Linn-Baker), a junior comedy writer on the show who idolizes the actor, talks his bosses into letting Swann keep the gig. Of course, there’s a catch–Stone is given the responsibility of chaperoning the drunky dramatist for the remainder of his engagement. Over the course of the week, the pair learns valuable life lessons from each other, punctuated with minor misadventures, lightweight comedy, and several drained bottles of cognac.
The un-credited producer of this movie is Mel Brooks. The performances are the real reason to watch My Favorite Year. Mark Linn-Baker does fine work in the lead, but this is really O’Toole’s show. The character of Alan Swann was obviously modeled after Errol Flynn, a celeb known for his swashbuckling charm and liquor-fueled misbehavior. Few actors could have pulled off both the cavalier charisma and drunken slapstick required of the role, but O’Toole’s performance is a triumph. It is reason enough to make My Favorite Year required viewing for soused cinema enthusiasts.
“My Favorite Year” succeeds in showing us what the world of television during the fifties looked like, with live broadcasting, audiences, collective screenwriting, and television studio politics, depicting it as the “golden age” of the medium. Television during that time was however not placed in the context of the times; there is no social study of America in the fifties in “My Favorite Year”. Those who want to get the larger picture of the importance of television in the fifties and how it influenced and was influenced by society will likely be disappointed, but “Quiz Show” (1994), with its grim view of media corruption and its larger debate about the importance of television regarding prejudice during that decade, is totally rewarding in this respect.
“My Favorite Year” is an entirely successful comedy, and even though the script may not be entirely convincing, especially with the gangster and romance subplots, but it does feature hilarious lines and irresistible situations. Performances are splendid, especially O’Toole’s, Linn-Baker’s, and Bologna’s. “My Favorite Year” is a splendid light-hearted comedy which never resorts to low-brow humour (apart from drunkenness, of course) to maintain interest, both unpretentious and thought-provoking. One of the few films one can watch again and again without getting bored, but which could have been longer. A laugh riot indeed.
- Directed by Richard Benjamin
- Produced by Michael Gruskoff, Art Levinson & Mel Brooks (Uncredited)
- Written by Dennis Palumbo (Story and screenplay) & Norman Steinberg
- Cast: Peter O’Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Jessica Harper & Joseph Bologna
- Music by Ralph Burns & Cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld
- Editing by Richard Chew
- Studio: Brooks films Ltd.
- Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
- Release dates: October 1, 1982 & Running time 92 minutes
- Country: United States