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Somewhere Cinematic: Hollywood Movies On Hollywood
Posted December 02, 2010 to photo album "Somewhere Cinematic: Hollywood Movies On Hollywood"
Sofia Coppola’s award-winning Somewhere is the latest in a line of films that examines movies and movie stars. Nick Dawson casts an eye over some of the best.
Slide 8: My Favorite Year (1982)
Hollywood endured a difficult period in the 1950s when its previously captive audience began to dwindle due to the growing popularity of television. The crowd-pleasing My Favorite Year captures this period very nicely in the tale of a young comedy writer, Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker), who is charged with looking after swashbuckling screen icon Alan Swann (Peter O’Toole), in the week leading up to his appearance on the TV show Stone works for. The challenge for Stone is that Swann is a raging alcoholic, a larger-than-life figure who is almost impossible to control, especially for his young, unworldly handler. For fans of classic Hollywood, it wasn’t difficult to spot that O’Toole’s Swann was a figure inspired by such greats as John Barrymore and Errol Flynn, dashing heroes on the big screen and booze-soaked hellraisers away from it. Indeed, the characters of Swann and Stone in My Favorite Year are loosely based on Mel Brooks (a producer on the film), who worked on Sid Caesar’s TV variety program Your Show of Shows, and Errol Flynn, who once had a guest spot on that program. (Brooks, however, was not a handler for Flynn – who was well-behaved in this instance – and the plot is otherwise purely fictional.) The casting of O’Toole was also daringly spot-on: as a known heavy drinker himself, he brought a real authenticity (and poignancy) to the role, and earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance. My Favorite Year is ultimately a very fond picture of a Hollywood hero: “I'm afraid. I'm afraid,” Swann tells Stone just before the curtain goes up on the live show. “Those are movies, damn you! Look at me! I'm flesh and blood, life-size, no larger! I'm not that silly God-damned hero! I never was!” Stone replies, “To me you were! Whoever you were in those movies, those silly goddamn heroes meant a lot to me! What does it matter if it was an illusion? It worked!”