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Set in 1954 New York, director Richard Benjamin's first effort, My Favorite Year (1982), is the story of an alcoholic former star of Hollywood's Golden Age and his inability to adapt to the live television programs of the fifties. Peter O'Toole stars as the Errol Flynn-John Barrymore-esque Alan Swann who has traded in fencing and swashbuckling films for booze and women. Mark Linn-Baker is Benjy Stone, the junior writer on the TV comedy/variety series, The King Kaiser Show and an incurable fan of Swann. Stone is commissioned to baby-sit Swann (O'Toole) after the latter has a disastrous encounter with the show's star, King Kaiser, as a result of a drinking binge. As the film progresses toward Swann's live appearance on television, Stone begins to share his charge's escalating panic over the upcoming event.
My Favorite Year was inspired by Mel Brooks' real-life experience with Errol Flynn when he appeared on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows. Mel Brooks (the producer of My Favorite Year) was a junior writer at the time and was assigned the role of chaperon for the former swashbuckler, who was hitting the bottle hard. Indeed, Richard Benjamin described Brooks's involvement in My Favorite Year as being more than just financial. It was the former comedy writer's experiences with Flynn that helped Benjamin find the right tone for the film - a mixture of awe and comic exasperation toward a once famous star who was trying to hide his insecurities through heavy drinking.
Not surprisingly, Peter O'Toole, once a heavy drinker himself, received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his flamboyant portrayal of Swann. With the exception of his performance in The Stunt Man (1980) two years earlier, My Favorite Year was O'Toole's most critically acclaimed performance since The Ruling Class in 1972 and he still hasn't topped it.
Director: Richard Benjamin
Producer: Mel Brooks, Michael Gruskoff
Screenplay: Norman Steinberg, Dennis Palumbo
Cinematography: Gerald Hirschfeld
Editor: Richard Chew
Art Direction: Herb Mulligan, Larry Rapaport, Donald J. Remacle
Music: Ralph Burns
Cast: Peter O'Toole (Alan Swann), Mark Linn-Baker (Benjy Stone), Jessica Harper (K.C. Downing), Joseph Bologna (King Kaiser), Bill Macy (Sy Benson), Lainie Kazan (Belle Carroca).
C-93m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Kerryn Sherrod