Today, we look at the charming film, My Favorite Year, and how it was built around a “What If?” involving swashbuckler star, Errol Flynn.
This is “My Name It is Nothin’,” a look at when movies and TV shows feature celebrities, characters and/or famous people without featuring the actual celebrity/famous people. You know, changing the names so that you can tell the story without legal issues.
Generally, in these features, the stories are almost always completely fictional. You know, J.D. Salinger didn’t actually go on a road trip to a ghost baseball field, Johnnie Cochran didn’t actually help Kramer sue for being burned by hot coffee and Howard Hughes was never actually replaced by a double hired by an international criminal organization (well, at least I’m PRETTY sure that didn’t happen).
However, there are a number of other times when the stories clearly ARE meant to be true, and the names are simply changed to avoid any possible legal issues, like Marion Davies in Citizen Kane or Bob Dylan in Factory Girl. That’s what makes My Favorite Year such an interesting film, in that it set up like a fictionalized story based on some real incidents, but it appears that the whole thing was just a big ol’ “What If…?”
Obviously, the main concept for the film, which is that one of the writers for a popular TV sketch comedy series based on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows (with the writer being based on a mixture of Mel Brooks and Woody Allen. Allen never actually wrote for the show, but DID write regularly for Caesar later on in the late 1950s/early 1960s for TV specials early in Allen’s career) has to keep a former swashbuckling movie star based on Errol Flynn busy for a week and keeping him from getting too drunk before he appeared as a guest star on the show, and they all get into misadventures, culminating in a big brawl on live television when some gangsters want to send a message to the Caesar character, is totally fictional. Clearly, it’s way too over-the-top to be real.
However, there’s always been the implication that the relationship between Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker) and Alan Swann (Peter O’Toole) had SOME basis in reality, but it is unclear if Flynn ever even made a guest appearance on Your Show of Shows at all (if he did, it was a nondescript appearance. Brooks believes he DID, but it passed without incident), let alone having ANY connection with one of the writers on the series, not even having dinner with any of them. It was really just a purely fictional “What If…?” conceit by writer Dennis Palumbo, which turned into a finished screenplay by Norman Steinberg.
It’s still a very endearing film, though! I like to take the header image and say that Perfect Strangers was based on this film.
If anyone else has a suggestion for a future My Name It Ain’t Nothin’, drop me a line at email@example.com!