Comic

The Comic

Director: Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, Michele Lee, Mickey Rooney

Cast: Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, Michele Lee, Mickey Rooney

     
 
Carl Reiner directed and co-wrote this comedy-drama which tells the tale of a silent screen comedian whose talent doesn't quite outstrip his knack for self-sabotage. Billy Bright (Dick Van Dyke) narrates the story from his coffin, as he looks back on his life and career during his shabby funeral. In the early 1920s, vaudeville comic Bright goes to California to break

Overview

Carl Reiner directed and co-wrote this comedy-drama which tells the tale of a silent screen comedian whose talent doesn't quite outstrip his knack for self-sabotage. Billy Bright (Dick Van Dyke) narrates the story from his coffin, as he looks back on his life and career during his shabby funeral. In the early 1920s, vaudeville comic Bright goes to California to break into the movies, making a splash as he steals the show in his first short subject; he also steals Mary Gibson (Michele Lee), the leading lady, away from his director, Frank Powers (Cornel Wilde). Billy soon becomes one of the top funnymen in Hollywood after a series of successful two-reelers, and launches his own production company the same day he weds Gibson. But as Bright's star rises, his worst qualities come to the surface; he becomes an arrogant alcoholic who can't stay faithful to his wife, and while his first feature film, Forget Me Not, is a major success, his career quickly goes into a tailspin, and with the arrival of the talkies Bright is a has-been. In the 1960s, with a revival of interest in silent films, Bright is able to make a few bucks appearing in television commercials, but it doesn't take much success for his bad habits to take hold again. Reiner and Van Dyke drew inspiration from the onscreen work and off-screen lives of several silent-era funnymen for the character of Billy Bright, most notably Stan Laurel, Harry Langdon and Buster Keaton; the film also features a fine supporting performance from Mickey Rooney as Billy's faithful friend and sidekick, Cockeye.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Dan Friedman
Branching out from his television success with Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner crafted the story of Billy Bright, a brilliant silent-film comedian whose talent was overshadowed only by his ego and his thirst for alcohol. Billy's remembrances of his glorious past from his bottom-of-the-rung existence is the central plot of The Comic. Combining elements of Chaplin, Buster Keaton, the underrated Harry Langdon, and Stan Laurel, Billy is given life by the aforementioned Van Dyke in a very personal performance. Given his own troubles with alcohol, Van Dyke is perhaps the most natural choice for the role. He and Reiner re-create the silent-film era with remarkable accuracy and authenticity, and surrounding the story of Billy's life are many faux clips from his film career. It's a somewhat clichéd tale of a man who made a living being funny not being able to enjoy himself in the way that his audience could. Michele Lee plays the love interest and Mickey Rooney is along for the ride as an old sidekick, but the film really belongs to Dick Van Dyke. His ability to morph his body into a rubber band, plus his slight facial resemblance to Stan Laurel allow for a complete suspension of disbelief. However, despite it's title and the slapstick sequences, this film is very much not a comedy. It can be almost painful watching Billy sink into depths that can't possibly get much worse until they do. This descent is ultimately exemplified in a notorious (for 1969) scene in which Billy struggles to get himself out of his chair while morbidly watching some of his old films on television, and goes to use the bathroom, complete with sound effects. It's the capping statement on the character, but fortunately the film holds up better.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/01/2013
UPC:
0043396429765
Original Release:
1969
Source:
Sony Pictures Home
Sales rank:
16,344

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Dick Van Dyke Billy Bright
Michele Lee Mary Gibson
Mickey Rooney Cockeye
Cornel Wilde Frank Powers
Nina Wayne Sybil
Pert Kelton Mama
Steve Allen Himself
Barbara Heller Ginger
Ed Peck Edwin G. Englehardt
Jeannine Riley Lorraine
Gavin MacLeod 1st Director
Jay Novello Miguel
Craig Huebing Doctor
Paulene Myers Phoebe
Fritz Feld Armand
Jerome Cowan Lawrence
Isabel Sanford Woman
Jeff Donnell Nurse
Carl Reiner Al Schilling

Technical Credits
Carl Reiner Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Butler-Glouner, Inc. Special Effects
Jack Elliott Score Composer
Adrienne Fazan Editor
Les Fresholtz Sound/Sound Designer
Morrie Hoffman Set Decoration/Design
W. Wallace Kelley Cinematographer
Ben Lane Makeup
Arthur Piantadosi Sound/Sound Designer
Aaron Ruben Producer,Screenwriter
Walter M. Simonds Production Designer
Guy C. Verhille Costumes/Costume Designer
Jesse Wayne Stunts

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