September 18, 2019

MY FAVORITE YEAR...My Favorite O'Toole
Starring Peter O’Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna, Bill Macy, Laine Kazan, Lou Jacobi, Cameron Mitchell, George Wyner, Selma Diamond. Directed by Richard Benjamin. (92 min)

Review by Mr. Paws😸

It probably wasn’t much of a stretch for Peter O’Toole to play a hard-drinking, womanizing movie star. After all, he reportedly spent half of his career completely hammered. So while Alan Swann may indeed be based on Errol Flynn, it’s highly likely O’Toole drew a bit from personal experience. Maybe that’s why his performance in My Favorite Year is one of his best...and funniest.

A sleeper hit in 1982, My Favorite Year is the kind of old-fashioned farce that wasn’t really being made anymore. Mark Linn-Baker narrates as Benjy Stone, a naive young writer for the fictional variety show, Comedy Cavalcade. It’s 1954, when TV was performed live, which has everybody concerned over upcoming guest star Alan Swann’s reliability. Since Stone idolizes Swann – as well as being the low man on the totem pole – he’s charged with keeping the man sober and out of trouble until showtime.

"He's clean."
Naturally, that doesn’t happen, otherwise no movie. My Favorite Year is a fast & funny mixture of broad farce and clever humor with a wonderful eye for period detail. Though he certainly rises to the farcical aspects of the film, O’Toole is obviously well-aware that even the most hopeless drunks have moments of clarity. Sure, Swann’s frequent stupors are amusing – sometimes hilarious – but it’s far from a one-note performance. How he reacts to Benjy’s oddball family, as well as his nervousness when attempting to visit his own daughter, suggests a little remorse over his reputation and behavior.

But O’Toole isn’t the whole show. He’s backed by a crack supporting cast of character actors who more-than-rise to the occasion, particularly Joseph Bologna as brash TV host “King” Kaiser and Bill Macy as perpetually shouting head-writer Sy Benson. Between this film and Perfect Strangers, Mark Linn-Baker forged a nice little career as a beleaguered straight-man. Just as O’Toole is naturally adept at playing a drunk, Linn-Baker seems to know his own character quite well.

The film occasionally threatens to turn serious, but those moments are fleeting. My Favorite Year sets a congenial tone right away and seldom wavers, culminating in a madcap climax with shades of classic Mel Brooks (perhaps no accident, since he’s an uncredited executive producer). An affectionate look at a bygone era (with a star who probably lived some of it), this is a hard movie not to like.


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