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The Comedy Man 1964
Description: A middle-aged stock actor goes to London to test the large time. After much frustration, he lands a job doing TV commercials, gaining wealth and recognition. He eventually gives it all up to return to scene work and hold his pride.
Released: 03 Sep 1965 Director: Alvin Rakoff Writers: Douglas Hayes (novel), Peter Yeldham Actors: Kenneth More, Cecil Parker, Dennis Price, Billie Whitelaw Genres: Drama
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The Comedy Man Reviews:

Actors gotta lead a tough life: not only does the trade deny them the luxury of a steady income, but the challenge of constantly changing roles can throw their own identity out of shape. Or so one English actor (Kenneth More) discovers as he sinks to success in this caustic but witty comedy drama, in which the extroverted façade of the dedicated thespian stands revealed for what it really is: a protective shield vs the burden of inconsistent work, the humiliation of unlimited auditions, and the hunger for famous acclaim. More's luck starts to turn after professional desperation and a need for fast money lead him to agree a job in the lucrative but disreputable globe of tv advertising. Nothing, he later learns, corrupts like fame and fortune, especially when neither is earned (it's easier to be morally pure when you're a starving artist). The movie was made in 1963, but is so rarely revived that it qualifies as a lost treasure of sorts.


For about ten years hypocrisy ran through the veins of British Showbiz. Among the greatest - known whose careers foundered were Macdonald Hobley,the first thinking woman's crumpet TV personality,Max Wall,one of our best - ever comedians and Kenneth More,an actor who had,more than any other,come to symbolise all that was decent and fair in the British psyche.All these boys were ostracised for committing adultery,an happening so commonplace by the end of the sixties that it was hardly worthy of comment,let alone disapproval. Fortunately for Mr More he had a very powerful fanatic base who remained loyal and non - judgemental,and he was able to tough it out to the extent that in 1964 he starred in "The Comedy Man" along with Miss Angela Douglas,his partner - in - adultery;a slap in the face for his detractors and a welcome back into the fold for an actor who even today is remembered with nice fondness by many of us old enough to qualify for the government's "Winter Warming" allowance. It was made at a time when the movie industry considered itself at fight with Tv - the upstart entertainment medium that needed no more effort from its audience than pushing a switch.Much as "the theatre" had thought films to be inferior 40 years earlier,so the films actually looked down on TV and lost no occasion to belittle it. This attitude might have been all right for the theatrical aristocracy but was everytime going to cause issues for the jobbing actor like Chick Byrd (Mr K.More)recently sacked from a Rep for sexual misconduct. He has "Principles" - professional ones at least - and holds out vs TV's filthy lucre until he is down on his uppers and accepts a part in a commercial that unaccountably becomes very popular,making him a "success de cash" that causes him a certain amount of schadenfreunde. He lives in a seedy flat with a former colleague recently returned from Hollywood and no better for it(Mr E.Purdom in a role surely "hommaged" from Robert Maine in Robert Morley's "Goodness,how sad"). Mr Cecil Parker is nothing short of marvellous(as usual) as an old - school "Actor" and Dennis Price as Byrd's agent may well have taken George Sanders' in "All about Eve" as a role model. In the end Mr More reclaims his soul for the theatre and TV's villain is reduced to slinking away,face behind it's cloak,cursing. Only a boy with the breezy innocence and primary nice nature of More's screen photo should have made it convincing. Now,with TV and the films in every other's pocket it's difficult to trust that once their rivalry was so deadly. "The Comedy Man" is a spot - on portrait of it's time,the films tightening their belts,television's nice gravy train slowly starting to transport off,the "talent",mere grist to the mills of both.


"The Comedy Man" is a drama (with some comedy) about a struggling actor called Chick Byrd in swinging London. This is one of the most accurate depictions of the grotty underside of showbiz. The movie is very realistic, sometimes depressingly so. Byrd dreams of stardom, but he lives in a cheap bedsit and collects dole cheques. He can't receive a "real" job because he's everytime making the rounds of casting calls. Byrd is played by Kenneth More, a dramatic actor with comedy experience, who gives an perfect performance here. Billie Whitelaw is perfect too. I won't divulge the movie's ending, except to tell that it's unexpected yet very plausible. Watch for a very huge boy in a very tiny role: the large union steward wearing a Red Indian fight bonnet is played by Freddie Mills. He was Britain's heavyweight winner who tried to parlay his boxing fame into an acting career, but his huge size typecast him in Richard Kiel-type roles. I suggest this film.



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