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Film: My Favorite Year

I'm not an actor, I'm a MOVIE STAR!
Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole)

A 1982 comedy set in New York City in 1954, My Favorite Year is the story of Benjy Stone (played by Mark Linn-Baker), a comedy writer on the King Kaiser (Joseph Bologna) Variety Show, who is tasked with keeping his childhood hero, swashbuckling English actor Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole), sober enough to perform that week. In addition to this daunting task, a union boss objects to the show's parody of him, and has plans to stop the show. Hilarity Ensues.

The film is is a highly fictional account of when Errol Flynn guest starred on Your Show of Shows, and the characters are almost all based on Real Life people.

My Favorite Year contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Mainly in that the blade of a prop sword would be sharp enough to cut through anything.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: King Kaiser's producer, Leo Silver is not happy to get that response when reading the following from the newspaper: "In response to the question, 'What were you doing in Central Park, in Bethesda Fountain, at 1 in the morning, naked?', Swann replied, 'The back stroke.'"
  • All Part of the Show: The studio audience think King Kaiser getting beat up by Rojek's men and Alan swinging to the rescue are all part of the show.
  • Alcohol Hic: Swann.
  • The Alcoholic: Swann, played for both laughs and drama, depending on the scene.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Alan Swann is a stage name to replace the far less dashing Clarence Duffy.
  • Becoming the Mask: Swann laments that there is no longer any distinction between his screen persona and his real self.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Swann pulls off one of these in typical swashbuckling style during the finale.
  • Blessed with Suck: Swann and Benjy have the following exchange after Swann gives Benjy advice on how to woo a woman:
    Benjy: Is that what you do?
    Swann: No. I don't have that luxury. The women who are interested in me know exactly who I am and what they want, and nine times out of ten, they get it.
    Swann: You'd be surprised. You see, no matter what I do, I can never fulfill their expectations.
  • Broken Pedestal: Benjy grows disgusted with many aspects of Swann's behavior, especially his minimal contact with his daughter. Swann does redeem himself at the end, though.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: K.C. Dowling. Her attempt to repeat back the joke Benjy tells her is hilarious for all the wrong reasons.
  • The Casanova: Swann. His charm and swashbuckling ways are part of his reputation, for both good and bad.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Swann is this, quite often. When told the restroom he's blundered into is "for ladies only," he briefly loses the chivalrous part, unzips his trousers, and replies, "So is this, madam, but every now and again I have to run a little water through it."
  • Composite Character: Benjy is a combination of a young Mel Brooks (who executive produced the film) and a young Woody Allen, both of whom wrote for Your Show of Shows around this time.
    • Swann is a combination of Errol Flynn and O'Toole himself, whose Real Life alcoholism and off-screen antics mirrors a lot of what happens in this film.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Benjy thinks that Swann's reputation as a ladykiller is this. Swann feels it's more Blessed with Suck.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Kaiser's writers have one of these with his photo.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Benjy is one of these in his pursuit of K.C.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: As a result of his personality, Swann is either particularly prone to this, or feels he is expected to be and just runs with it.
  • The Fifties: As this takes place in 1954.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Swann plays these in all of his movies, and does his best to live up to the image in his public appearances.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Hey Jeanine! When are you gonna let me into your box?"
  • Groin Attack: "See, Sy? This kid's got balls!" (*grab*)
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Benjy is Cousin Larry and his girlfriend sang at the Paradise. Sy Benson also helped Navin Johnson become a millionaire with the Opti-Grab. Costume designer Lil became a night court bailiff. And Swann dances with Old Rose at the restaurant.
  • Hollywood Costuming: Subtly (and not-so-subtly) lampshaded. The portrayal of swashbucklers in classic film is spot on, and cranked Up to Eleven for the Variety Show finale. Also, King Kaiser's costume in the Union Boss sketch.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Immediately after lamenting that he gets away with too much, Swann decides to steal a police officer's horse.
  • Ignorant of the Call: Alan Swann continually insists that he's not the hero he plays in the movies, that he's just a man and a flawed man at that, and he gets really mad at people who insist otherwise... but he doesn't hesitate to rush in to save the day when the time comes.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Swann (are we seeing a pattern here?)
  • Incoming Ham: "PORTHOOOOSSSSS!!!!
  • Jerk Ass: Sy Benson, who constantly ridicules Benjy and his other co-workers but can't stand up to King.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: King Kaiser frequently goes into hysterics, running around the corridors yelling at people because he thinks he's in the wrong costume (when he's usually not) or has the wrong script. He tries to make up for it by buying his staff strange gifts, like whitewall tires. He also rejects Swann at first and threatens to fire Benjy when Benjy tries to appeal with a Not So Different speech, but later admits that Swann is pretty good.
  • Literal Metaphor: During the gatecrashing scene, the following exchange takes place between two bystanding stockbrokers:
    Stockbroker #1: [looking over the edge of the balcony] I think Alan Swann is beneath us!
    Stockbroker #2: Of course he's beneath us. He's an actor!
    Stockbroker #1: No! I think Alan Swann is beneath us right now!
  • The Mafia: Union boss Karl Rojek is portrayed as a a mob boss on the King Kaiser show in this style. Given his reaction, it's as heavily implied as it can be without flat-out saying so that he is one.
  • The Musical: There was a musical adaptation starring Tim Curry as Alan Swann.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Alan Swann and King Kaiser are Errol Flynn and Sid Caeser in all but name.
  • Noodle Incident: It's never explained just exactly what happened at the Stork Club.
    Alfie: You sure you want the Stork Club, Mr. Swann?
    Swann: It's been a year and a half. Surely they've repaired the wall of the bandstand by now.
  • Nostalgic Narrator: Benjy.
    "My name is Benjy Stone, and 1954 was my favorite year. Not my best year, not the year I had the most success, but my favorite year. Its the year that separated my life into before and after."
  • Performance Anxiety: Swann is upset to learn that The King Kaiser Comedy Cavalcade is broadcast live in front of an audience.
    Swann: Damn you! I'm not an actor, I'm a movie star!
  • Pretty in Mink: When Swann arrives at the Stork Club, there are a number of women wearing mink wraps.
  • Quick Nip: Swann conceals liquor everywhere.
  • Reality Subtext: Peter O'Toole's own drinking habits are (or were— he's supposedly given it up for health reasons) legendary in themselves.
  • Roman Clef: Benjy is Mel Brooks, Alan Swann is Errol Flynn, King Kaiser is Sid Ceaser, etc.
  • Rousing Speech: When Swann confesses to being afraid to meet his daughter face to face, Benjy gives him one of these.
  • Sexy Stewardess: Swann beds two of them.
  • Sorry I'm Late: Inverted. King asks "what took you so long?" after Swann swings down onto the stage to rescue him from Rojek's goons.
  • Studio Audience: The Variety Show is broadcast live in front of an audience, much to Swann's dismay.
    Swann: I haven't performed in front of an audience for twenty-eight years! I played a butler! I had one line!
    Swann: I FORGOT IT!
  • Tag-Along Actor: King Kaiser apparently prepares for his roles by imitating real people. In one scene he's sitting in on a discussion between Karl Rojek, his lawyer, and a studio exec, and Rojek is irritated by Kaiser's constantly imitating his mannerisms.
  • This Is Reality: Swann's plan to gatecrash a party in a skyscraper's penthouse by rappelling down from the roof leads to this exchange:
    Benjy: Let's not do this - it's too dangerous!
    Swann: Nonsense! It worked perfectly well in "A Slight Case of Divorce"!
    Benjy: That was a movie! This is real life!
    Swann: What is the difference?
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Want to see the movie in two and a half-minutes? Check out the trailer.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Supposedly based on a time Mel Brooks had to mind Errol Flynn on Your Show of Shows, with a great deal of creative embroidery.
  • The Voiceless: Herb does all of his "speaking" through Alice. Until he sees Swann swoop down from the balcony and begin fighting, which leads him to declare, "Oh, God, this makes me happy!"

MissingFilms of the 1980sThe New York Ripper

alternative title(s): My Favorite Year
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