My Favorite Year is a 1982 in film comedy film which tells the story of a young comedy writer. It stars Peter O'Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna, Bill Macy, Lainie Kazan, Selma Diamond, Cameron Mitchell and Gloria Stuart.
O'Toole was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
The film was later turned into an unsuccessful Broadway musical.
Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker), the narrator, tells of the summer he met his idol. In the early days of television, Benjy works as a junior comedy writer for a variety show starring Stan 'King' Kaiser (Joseph Bologna). As a special upcoming guest, they get the famous (though washed up) movie star Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole). However, when he shows up, they realize that he is a roaring drunk. Kaiser is ready to dump him — until Benjy intervenes and promises to keep him sober during the week leading up to the show.
As Benjy watches out for Alan (or at least tries to keep up with him), they learn a lot about each other — including the fact that they both have family they try to hide from the rest of the world. In Benjy's case, it's his Jewish mother (Lainie Kazan), who is married to a Filipino former bantamweight boxer, Rookie Carroca (Ramon Sison), and Benjy's embarrassing relatives, such as uncouth Uncle Morty (Lou Jacobi). For Alan, it is his young daughter Tess, who has been raised entirely by her mother, one of his many ex-wives. He stays away, but continues to secretly keep tabs on her.
Meanwhile, Kaiser is threatened by corrupt union boss Karl Rojeck (Cameron Mitchell), who doesn't appreciate being parodied on the show. "Accidents" start happening during rehearsals when Kaiser refuses to stop performing the 'Boss Hijack' sketches.
In a subplot, Benjy tries, clumsily and overenthusiastically, to win the affections of co-worker K.C. Downing (Jessica Harper). Swann advises him on the right approach to take with her.
On show night, Alan suffers a panic attack when he realizes that millions of people will be watching him live (he's used to working with a small crew and getting many takes to get his lines right). Alan gets drunk, but is confronted by Benjy, who angrily tells him that despite his faults, Benjy always thought of him as the swashbuckling hero he saw on the big screen. As Benjy puts it when convincing Swann that he has the necessary courage inside him somewhere, "Nobody's that good an actor!"
At that point, Rojeck's men show up and start beating Kaiser up during the live broadcast of the show (with the audience thinking that it is part of the comedy sketch). Swann grabs a rope and swings into action (dressed as a Musketeer for a later skit), saving Kaiser in front of an appreciative, if still clueless audience.
Benjy narrates the end of the film, describing that Swann, his confidence bolstered, finally gets up the nerve to visit his daughter the next day. Alan stands in front of the still applauding audience, taking a bow.
Relationship to Television Show
Mel Brooks, executive producer of the film, was a writer for the Sid Caesar variety program Your Show of Shows, early in his career. Movie swashbuckler Errol Flynn was a guest on one episode, and this real-life occurrence inspired a largely fictional screenplay. Swann was obviously based on Flynn, while Benjy Stone is loosely based on both Brooks and Woody Allen, who also wrote for Caesar.
Other writers from Your Show of Shows had already made their own use of their experiences. The comic play Laughter on the 23rd Floor by Neil Simon included thinly disguised versions of Sid Cesar and his staff, as did The Dick Van Dyke Show, which was created by Brooks' friend and colleague Carl Reiner.
King Kaiser, like Alan Brady on "The Dick van Dyke Show" represented Sid Caesar ("Kaiser" is the German equivalent of the Roman title Caesar).
Selma Diamond, another former writer for "Your Show of Shows" (she inspired the Sally Rogers character, played by Rose Marie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"), appears in the movie.
Mel Brooks acknowledges that most of the movie's plot was fabricated. He says that Errol Flynn's appearance on "Your Show of Shows" was uneventful, that none of the writers got much of a chance to talk to Flynn, let alone become his friend or take him home to dinner.
The most realistic parts of the film relate to King Kaiser's neuroses and tantrums. By all accounts, Sid Caesar was a maniacally unpredictable boss. He regularly berated, humiliated and fired members of his staff, only to forget all about it moments later.
Lincoln Center Theater produced a stage musical version of My Favorite Year in 1992. The score for the musical was written by Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics); the libretto was adapted from the film screenplay by Joseph Dougherty.
Lainie Kazan reprised her role from the film on stage as Belle Steinberg-Carroca, Benjy's mother. Other cast members included Tim Curry as Alan Swann, Evan Pappas as Benjy, Lannyl Stephens as K.C., Tom Mardirosian as King Kaiser, Josh Mostel as Sy, and Andrea Martin as Alice.
The plot followed that of the film fairly closely, the most major change being that the character of Boss Rojeck and the accompanying gangster sketch subplot were dropped. A musketeer sketch for Swann replaces it. Additional plot threads were also added concerning King Kaiser and the show's writers, Alice and Sy.
The musical opened on December 10, 1992 and closed January 10, 1993, after 32 performances. Despite this short run, the show has since become a somewhat popular choice among community and high-school performing groups.
A recording of the score featuring the original cast was released on the RCA Victor label.
The songs include: