My Favorite Year (1982): Richard Benjamin’s Directing Debut, Oscar Nominated Comedy, Starring Peter O’Toole in Oscar Nominated Performance

Richard Benjamin made his directorial debut with the charming period comedy, My Favorite Year, starring Peter O’Toole in eccentric role that fits him like a silk glove, for which he received yet another Oscar nomination.

The protagonist is Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker), a young, fresh writer on the popular 1950s TV comedy “The King Kaiser Show.”

One week, Kaiser (Joseph Bologna), the show’s temperamental star invites the legendary Hollywood matinee idol Alan Swann (O’Toole), a swashbuckling Errol Flynn type, right down to his womanizing, booze, and wicked humor. Since no one trusts Swann, Stone is assigned to keep the actor out of trouble during rehearsals and deliver him sober to the performance.

Gradually, the two—yet another variation of the Odd Couple—become friends.  Playing musical chairs, Stone and Swann alternate responsibilities: Swann takes the young writer to the Stork Club and on an early-morning jaunt through Central Park with a “borrowed” police horse, while Stone takes Swann to his home in Brooklyn, where the star is admired by Benji’s mom (Lainie Kazan). While there, he is asked embarrassing questions about his love life by Uncle Morty (Lou Jacobi).

All seems to go well until Swann, panicking at the discovery that King Kaiser’s show will be telecast live, walks out just before airtime. Shamed by Benjy into honoring his commitment, Swann makes a spectacular, timber-smashing entrance, saving the show. In the process, he also rescues Kaiser from being rubbed out by a gangster (Cameron Mitchell) whom the comedian has offended.

The film’s supporting cast includes Jessica Harper, Gloria Stuart and Selma Diamond, the real-life comedy writer for Sid Caesar.

“My Favorite Year” was made into a Broadway musical in the 1990s, but it failed.  Lainie Kazan repeated her screen role on the stage.

Oscar Awards: 1

Actor: Peter O’Toole

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The best Actor Oscar went to Ben Kingsley for the biopic “Gandhi,” which swept most of the awards.

The other contenders in this category were: Dustin Hoffman for “Tootsie,” Jack Lemmon for “Missing,” and Paul Newman for “The Verdict.”

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