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Monday, February 23, 2009

A THOUSAND CLOWNS (1965)


Painfully conformist comedy about a nonconformist guy whose personal windmill is a 9-to-5 job. Will he keep up his free-spirited independent ways or buckle down so he can keep raising his all but abandoned nephew? Maybe with the help of that nice kooky lady from the child welfare bureau? Oh, the suspense! Oh, the over-used theme song! (‘Yes, Sir. That’s My Baby.’) Oh, the forced fun of it all! Though fondly remembered, this wasn’t much of a play or a film, but what is special now comes from seeing a big hit B’way dramedy from the mid-‘60s made right in NYC, with most of the original cast intact, even its stage director Fred Coe who has a pleasingly odd manner of shooting and was smart enough to let lenser Arthur Ornitz play nouvelle vague games with the camera.* Jason Robards, Gene Saks, William Daniels & Barry Gordon (as the kid, he sounds as if Jackie Mason, not Robards is raising him) repeat their stage roles, joined by Martin Balsam & the great Barbara Harris, taking over from Larry Haines & Sandy Dennis. respectively.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: Surely, this film's Ralph Rosenblum is the only editor ever to have published a non-technical text. His WHEN THE SHOOTING STOPS . . . THE CUTTING BEGINS has lots of out-of-school tales on this film, plus early work from the likes of Woody Allen, Sidney Lumet & Mel Brooks. *Rosenblum splits credit on the considerable post-production shooting & editing, which jazzed up what had originally been a rather conventional stage-to-screen adaptation, with playwright/scripter Herb Gardner & 2nd unit lenser Joe Coffey.

NOTE: Not currently on DVD, but it pops up on PBS stations.

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