Reviews — January 17
The great Peter O’Toole died in December, and it is impossible to hear his name without thinking of “Lawrence of Arabia,” the 1962 epic that made him a star. It was the role of a lifetime, and one demanding a larger-than-life performance. Having learned his art in the theater, which requires a more expressive style of acting, O’Toole went on to specialize in outsized characters — which is why Alan Swann in “My Favorite Year” was perfect for him.
Released in 1982, this little madcap comedy was Richard Benjamin’s first directorial effort, which stars O’Toole as a washed-up Saturday matinee movie idol whose love of women and drink interferes with his gig on a TV comedy show (which, he learns far too late, is broadcast live). Mark Linn-Baker plays a young writer assigned to keep an eye on him – and, more crucially, to keep him sober.
It spoils nothing to cite here the film’s most famous line – “I’m not an actor! I’m a movie star!” Having O’Toole (at one time a legendary drinker himself) play Swann and get to bellow a line like that is a casting agent’s dream, and his over-the-top performance earned an Oscar nod. It’s corny at times, but one never doubts the genuine tenderness underlining the hilarity. Wonderful ending, too. Well worth dusting off and revisiting if you’re looking for a comedy.
“My Favorite Year” (1982) Directed by Richard Benjamin. Starring Peter O’Toole, Mark Linn-Baker (you’ll recognize him), Jessica Harper and Joseph Bologna. Reportedly inspired by Errol Flynn’s appearance on Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” but I doubt things got this wild. 92 minutes. Rated PG for mild language, sexual innuendo.