Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

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Wm. Charles Morrow

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Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostFri Oct 14, 2011 7:33 am

This film has been mentioned in passing in NitrateVille discussions but deserves a thread of its own. I caught it twice on TV in the ‘70s and found it intriguing, but came away with mixed feelings on both occasions. Saw it again last week for the first time in decades, and now have a sharpened sense that while this was a decent, well-intentioned attempt at homage to silent era Hollywood it could have been so much more. I have great respect for Van Dyke and the movie’s director/screenwriter Carl Reiner. I enjoy their recreations of vintage slapstick that make up a fair amount of the running time, but what always stops me short and, I believe, damages the movie badly, is the personality of their fictional protagonist Billy Bright.

Billy Bright, for those who haven’t seen The Comic, is a pastiche of Keaton, Langdon, and Laurel, with aspects of other comedians mixed in. When I first saw the film as a teenager I figured Bright was mostly Keaton, because there are a number of clues pointing in that direction: he’s a vaudeville veteran, he has a drinking problem, and marries his second wife while in an alcoholic haze. When he runs into career trouble in Hollywood he makes films in Europe. He attempts to kidnap his own son from his estranged wife. And, late in life, he makes a comeback of sorts doing TV commercials. All of which suggests Buster Keaton, more or less. However, Billy Bright is depicted throughout as a clueless comedy hack, an insensitive oaf with an inflated sense of his own importance who, as he ages, wallows in self-pity and clings to the past. All of which is the opposite of Buster Keaton, and certainly makes it difficult to feel sorry for the guy. Was Reiner indicting Hollywood for neglecting its veterans, or indicting Hollywood old-timers for being jerks?

Watching The Comic last week it occurred to me that the film came out about a year after Frank Capra’s autobiography was published. Billy Bright reminds me of Capra’s ugly portrait of Harry Langdon. Since the late ’60s film scholarship has corrected a lot of the self-serving misinformation Capra put out in his book, but meanwhile in its day it was a bestseller. The Langdon section is especially dramatic and vivid, and I now wonder if Carl Reiner read Capra’s bio and was influenced by it. But even Capra has more sympathy for “his” Langdon than Reiner shows for Billy Bright.

One element was unclear to me when I first saw the film, though I figured it out the second time, which was shortly after I read Richard Schickel’s book on Harold Lloyd. Late in the movie Billy Bright has a health crisis. While he’s recuperating in the hospital he’s visited by his son Billy Jr., whom he hasn’t seen in many years. Billy Jr. is a clothing designer, quite swishy, and obviously gay. Plainly, Billy Sr. is not happy to see him. I find this scene disturbing. The reference is obvious though misleading: Harold Lloyd Jr. was gay, but by all accounts his father was supportive, and although they had their difficulties they weren’t estranged. Both men were still living in 1969, and I wonder if they saw this movie and how they felt about it.

When The Comic was first released Variety called it “a furious editorial about a business that treats its veterans like over-exposed celluloid.” If only! That’s the movie I wish it had been. Van Dyke’s recreations of silent comedy gags make a much stronger case for Billy Bright and his real-life counterparts than the backstage material, which suggests -- whatever Reiner’s intentions -- that Hollywood is perfectly justified in ignoring its old-timers. Billy Bright, as depicted here, is a pompous but ultimately pathetic loser who’s just begging to be smacked down.
-- Charlie Morrow
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostFri Oct 14, 2011 7:49 am

I also thought THE COMIC was a great movie, and probably was a pastiche of various comics and movie stars, as you suggested.

I agree that the fictional Billy Bright is a very talented but thoroughly unlikeable person. But then again, there were plenty of similarly talented real-life Hollywood stars with oversized egos (Langdon), oversized sex drives (Chaplin) and an oversized fondness for alcohol (Keaton). There were also plenty of stars whose talent shone brightly for several years, and were then unceremoniously dumped by their studios in the constant quest for fresh faces and new talent. Some comedians were also ill-used by their studios, who had no clue how to use them to their best advantage (think Keaton at MGM or Laurel & Hardy at Fox). Some comedians could not adapt well to sound (Lloyd) or simply fell from public favor (Charlie Chase, Snub Pollard, Max Davidson).

Rather than trying to pin the Bright character on one particular source, I came away from the movie with the moral that comedy can be a very serious and tough business, and that people in charge of making other people laugh can often lead very unhappy personal lives. SETH
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Jack Theakston

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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostFri Oct 14, 2011 9:53 am

Some comedians could not adapt well to sound (Lloyd)


Lloyd's sound films were huge successes. The problem wasn't adapting to sound, it was that Lloyd was getting too old to play the same character. And it was a decision he made, not one that was forced upon him.

I've got a love/hate relationship with THE COMIC—there are moments of really sharp writing in the film, the music and cinematography (by Wallace Kelley, Jerry Lewis' DP) are excellent, but its bloatedness and meanspiritedness detract from the film immensely.
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostFri Oct 14, 2011 1:10 pm

I've seen it over the years and found it by turn disturbing, dark, sentimental and occasionally very funny. Billy Bright in his final years was a sight. The ending though (I'll let newcomers discover it) to me is the high point of the film.
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostFri Oct 14, 2011 3:58 pm

Jack Theakston wrote:
Some comedians could not adapt well to sound (Lloyd)


Lloyd's sound films were huge successes. The problem wasn't adapting to sound, it was that Lloyd was getting too old to play the same character. And it was a decision he made, not one that was forced upon him.

I've got a love/hate relationship with THE COMIC—there are moments of really sharp writing in the film, the music and cinematography (by Wallace Kelley, Jerry Lewis' DP) are excellent, but its bloatedness and meanspiritedness detract from the film immensely.



Lloyd's sound films after WELCOME DANGER were not huge successes, in fact, FEET FIRST was very disappointing in terms of box office, (I think because audiences flocked to see WELCOME DANGER and were turned off by it, hurting the revenue for his next film). MOVIE CRAZY did better, but still turned only a modest profit, THE CATS PAW and THE MILKY WAY also performed quite tepidly, then PROFESSOR BEWARE actually lost money. By that time, Lloyd couldn't afford to keep producing pictures without losing serious money.

I disagree that Lloyd didn't have trouble adapting to sound. First, it became immediately obvious with WELCOME DANGER that some the go-getter aspects of his character came off negatively with dialogue added, then it became obvious that his building climbing routine was painful when made too realistic by adding sound in FEET FIRST (which was a very weak picture anyway. By the time he made MOVIE CRAZY, he had changed his character to a sort of nebbish that more fitted his odd, high voice (Lloyd did have one of the weakest voices of any of the silent comedians) and he was getting too old to play that sort of a character, and I think audiences had lost interest in him. A pity, because I think both THE CATS PAW and PROFESSOR BEWARE are his two best talkies,as the fish-out of water missionary in the former and the middle-aged eccentric archeologist he plays in his final self-produced film works very well for him as a performer.


I do agree with you about THE COMIC Jack, I have always had the same love-hate relationship with it. It has the most brilliant silent-comedy recreations ever done, but the nasty streak that runs throughout it ultimately hurts it. I got more and more annoyed by the film the more I learned about silent comedy history, it feels like Reiner took any fact about the various comics lives he could find and twisted it into something cynical and mean-spirited. Yeah, Keaton married a 21 year old when he was 45, but instead of the ugly "marriage in an oxygen tent" scene in the Reiner film, it was the best thing he ever did, and he and Eleanor were happily married for decades. Yeah, Keaton was doing commercials, but they were some of his best later work and helped keep him a national figure. BIlly Bright is indeed a completely unsympathetic character without any real creative genius, and totally self-destructive, which in reality, does not really jibe with any of the real silent comedians lives.

That said, there are a number of lines from the film that have become standard quotes in my vocabulary. I still say "You got good color!" when I visit film friends in the hospital, and the opening funeral scene is a classic (Mantan Moreland's great line, "Billy Bright, I thought he WAS dead!"). You have a scene in front of John Hampton's Silent Movie Theater, and it has one of Mickey Rooney's best performances. It is just too bad that Carl Reiner, not known for being one of your major cynics, decided to take that tact with this one film.


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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostFri Oct 14, 2011 6:51 pm

That is the surprising aspect of the film - Reiner's cynicism - which you can't really find in any of his other written work (discounting the hilarious barbs of Buddy Sorrell and the other half of his partnership with the 2,000 YR Old Man). And he had made another show business tale just the year previous, ENTER LAUGHING (67), which I recalled being more on the sweet side than anything sordid or mean spirited.

Maybe it helped for him to be emotionally involved in a subject if it was autobiographical.
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostFri Oct 14, 2011 8:02 pm

gjohnson wrote:That is the surprising aspect of the film - Reiner's cynicism - which you can't really find in any of his other written work (discounting the hilarious barbs of Buddy Sorrell and the other half of his partnership with the 2,000 YR Old Man). And he had made another show business tale just the year previous, ENTER LAUGHING (67), which I recalled being more on the sweet side than anything sordid or mean spirited.

Maybe it helped for him to be emotionally involved in a subject if it was autobiographical.


I agree, the tone feels all wrong. It's as if Reiner was trying to channel Billy Wilder, but it's not appropriate for this material. I was also reminded of earlier movies such as Keeper of the Flame (1942) and The Great Man (1956), where a prominent, beloved figure dies and it's revealed that he was actually a mean S.O.B. But if Billy Bright was an S.O.B., or a self-pitying clod, why should we care what happens to him?

Those silent comedy recreations, which are by far the best thing about The Comic, seem to be at war with the behind-the-screen material. The Billy Bright we see off-camera doesn't seem capable of producing them.
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSat Oct 15, 2011 8:19 pm

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:
gjohnson wrote:That is the surprising aspect of the film - Reiner's cynicism - which you can't really find in any of his other written work (discounting the hilarious barbs of Buddy Sorrell and the other half of his partnership with the 2,000 YR Old Man). And he had made another show business tale just the year previous, ENTER LAUGHING (67), which I recalled being more on the sweet side than anything sordid or mean spirited.

Maybe it helped for him to be emotionally involved in a subject if it was autobiographical.


I agree, the tone feels all wrong. It's as if Reiner was trying to channel Billy Wilder, but it's not appropriate for this material. I was also reminded of earlier movies such as Keeper of the Flame (1942) and The Great Man (1956), where a prominent, beloved figure dies and it's revealed that he was actually a mean S.O.B. But if Billy Bright was an S.O.B., or a self-pitying clod, why should we care what happens to him?

Those silent comedy recreations, which are by far the best thing about The Comic, seem to be at war with the behind-the-screen material. The Billy Bright we see off-camera doesn't seem capable of producing them.




This is the problem when somebody who is not a cynic tries for it, it goes too far of the nasty end, Wilder at his best could temper the cynicism with humor or lightness, Reiner is almost afraid to make Billy Bright a human being, and he has one of the nicest comics around playing Billy Bright also trying hard not to show it either. It's like they were both trying hard to show they were tough guys too.

How much better film would it have been if Billy Bright was a good guy and a comic genius who made great pictures, lost his independence, was screwed by his studio, lost his stardom when talkies came in, battled a drinking problem,destroyed his marriage, then remarried,came back from all of it doing television and died a happy man. Than again, THE BUSTER KEATON STORY would have been a better picture if it had really told that story too.


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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSat Oct 15, 2011 9:25 pm

Richard M Roberts wrote:This is the problem when somebody who is not a cynic tries for it, it goes too far of the nasty end, Wilder at his best could temper the cynicism with humor or lightness, Reiner is almost afraid to make Billy Bright a human being, and he has one of the nicest comics around playing Billy Bright also trying hard not to show it either. It's like they were both trying hard to show they were tough guys too.


Of course it's well known that Wilder wanted to have Sunset Boulevard narrated by the corpse of Joe Gillis, sitting up and telling the story from his slab at the morgue. When preview audiences laughed, the idea was dropped and the now-familiar framework was written and filmed. (The story is still narrated by a dead man, only we never see him reanimate, as it were.) Just recently I heard that Wilder tried it again in his first draft of Ace in the Hole a year later, with the Kirk Douglas reporter character telling the story post-mortem, although apparently this time the idea never got past the screenplay stage.

But Reiner used the idea in The Comic: Billy Bright narrates from his coffin, and that's where much of the film's unpleasantness comes from. The thing is, it makes sense for Joe Gillis or the reporter from Ace in the Hole to narrate their stories in a snide, cynical voice, because that's who they were in life. They're both writers, they both feel screwed over for various reasons, and the wised-up tone comes naturally to them. But in The Comic, our narrator is a guy who was pretty dim all along (ironically named "Bright") who still comes off as clueless even beyond the grave. A lot of the film's sour humor comes from the juxtaposition of his narration -- arrogant, or self-important, or self-pitying -- with the reality of what we see. The narration device gets laughs at times, but always at the expense of the narrator. And Dick Van Dyke's niceness as a performer just seems to make matters worse: it feels wrong to laugh at him, not with him.
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSat Oct 15, 2011 9:39 pm

Of course it's well known that Wilder wanted to have Sunset Boulevard narrated by the corpse of Joe Gillis, sitting up and telling the story from his slab at the morgue. When preview audiences laughed, the idea was dropped and the now-familiar framework was written and filmed. (The story is still narrated by a dead man, only we never see him reanimate, as it were.) Just recently I heard that Wilder tried it again in his first draft of Ace in the Hole a year later, with the Kirk Douglas reporter character telling the story post-mortem, although apparently this time the idea never got past the screenplay stage.

But Reiner used the idea in The Comic: Billy Bright narrates from his coffin, and that's where much of the film's unpleasantness comes from. The thing is, it makes sense for Joe Gillis or the reporter from Ace in the Hole to narrate their stories in a snide, cynical voice, because that's who they were in life. They're both writers, they both feel screwed over for various reasons, and the wised-up tone comes naturally to them. But in The Comic, our narrator is a guy who was pretty dim all along (ironically named "Bright") who still comes off as clueless even beyond the grave. A lot of the film's sour humor comes from the juxtaposition of his narration -- arrogant, or self-important, or self-pitying -- with the reality of what we see. The narration device gets laughs at times, but always at the expense of the narrator. And Dick Van Dyke's niceness as a performer just seems to make matters worse: it feels wrong to laugh at him, not with him.



I don't know, I like a lot of the funeral and the narration, and it's really no different than what we get in SUNSET BOULEVARD, it's not like Billy Bright opens the coffin lid and looks to the camera and talks to us, but you're right that it doesn't show that Bright had wised up about anything and is still self-delusional about what happened to him, and that doesn't jibe with the Billy Bright we see at the end of the film.


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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSun Oct 16, 2011 8:12 am

I just wish it were available on DVD with captioning.

For that matter, I wish the same for The Dick Van Dyke Show. They've done at least two different releases of the entire series and never once added captioning. Does Van Dyke have something personally against captioning?

I hate to be a one-note band, but these are gems that I desperately want to watch with full access to the dialogue. Have wanted to for 50 years.


Jim
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSun Oct 16, 2011 1:34 pm

Don't you think it's a bit disingenuous to want any type film made about the silent period be very black and white? That our heroes can do wrong things but must always be forgiven? Life isn't like this, why should we always expect the movies to be? I just saw Reiner on an HBO special with Cavett and Brooks recently, and he could relate how the "2,000 Year Old Man" came about in 1950. As for Van Dyke, TMZ ambushed him on the street, and I am happy to report he is wonderfully coherent and in apparent good health at 85. How about somebody writing or e-mailing one or both of these creative gentlemen, and asking why [i]The Comic[/i] was made the way it was? I bet they could give you a helluva answer, and we could do away with all this conjecture. It won't be me because I'm not wringing my hands over it like some of my NV brethern. However, I will read it with interest. BTW, if you want to watch a film where an actor starts out as a cad but vindicates himself in the end try [i]Hearts of the West[/i], as Andy Griffith demonstrates how well he can act when he wants. Ol' Pecos Billy is quite a character.
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSun Oct 16, 2011 4:29 pm

Native Baltimoron wrote:Don't you think it's a bit disingenuous to want any type film made about the silent period be very black and white? That our heroes can do wrong things but must always be forgiven? Life isn't like this, why should we always expect the movies to be? I just saw Reiner on an HBO special with Cavett and Brooks recently, and he could relate how the "2,000 Year Old Man" came about in 1950. As for Van Dyke, TMZ ambushed him on the street, and I am happy to report he is wonderfully coherent and in apparent good health at 85. How about somebody writing or e-mailing one or both of these creative gentlemen, and asking why The Comic was made the way it was? I bet they could give you a helluva answer, and we could do away with all this conjecture. It won't be me because I'm not wringing my hands over it like some of my NV brethern. However, I will read it with interest. BTW, if you want to watch a film where an actor starts out as a cad but vindicates himself in the end try Hearts of the West, as Andy Griffith demonstrates how well he can act when he wants. Ol' Pecos Billy is quite a character.



No, the problem is that THE COMIC had so much potential to really tell a story about a silent comedian, and give a feel for what it was like in those days, and despite having so much going for it, it fails. We were just discussing why it leaves a lousy taste in our mouths when we love so much of it. The real problem is the characters are TOO MUCH black and white, when the shades of grey that would have broadened the depth of the story while making it more realistic and closer to the truth are exactly whats missing from the mix.

That said, Mike Schlesinger has wanted to release the film on DVD for years with a commentary track from just those two men. And since they are appearing at the Egyptian in Los Angeles soon to introduce and talk about several episodes of the DVD show, why not have them back to do the same for THE COMIC?

BTW, HEARTS OF THE WEST is a wonderful film, and what you mention about it is one of the reasons.


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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSun Oct 16, 2011 6:01 pm

Richard-
I think your idea is an excellent one, however, it's execution will require someone with connections that exceed mine, i.e., Mr. Schlesinger. I, for one will volunteer, to write Mr. Schlesinger, and request that he interview Messers. Reiner and Van Dyke specifically regarding the making of [i]The Comic[/i]. I think that reaches my limitations as being able to help bring to fruition an answer as to why the film was made the way it was. Maybe we could all write to Mr. Schlesinger; not to deluge the man with e-mails but simply to let him know there would be a potential audience out there for an interview of this type, along with a DVD of the film. BTW, Jeff Bridges was the perfect naive foil for Andy Griffith in [i]Hearts of the West[/i].
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSun Oct 16, 2011 7:05 pm

Native Baltimoron wrote:Richard-
I think your idea is an excellent one, however, it's execution will require someone with connections that exceed mine, i.e., Mr. Schlesinger. I, for one will volunteer, to write Mr. Schlesinger, and request that he interview Messers. Reiner and Van Dyke specifically regarding the making of The Comic. I think that reaches my limitations as being able to help bring to fruition an answer as to why the film was made the way it was. Maybe we could all write to Mr. Schlesinger; not to deluge the man with e-mails but simply to let him know there would be a potential audience out there for an interview of this type, along with a DVD of the film. BTW, Jeff Bridges was the perfect naive foil for Andy Griffith in Hearts of the West.



There's no reason to deluge Mike with any emails, he'll do it if he can get it done, and he's on this newsgroup anyway. I have actually heard both Reiner and Van Dyke comment on the film in other interviews, but apart from their admitted fondnesses for the film, and disappointment at it's boxoffice failure, they have never spoken in depth about it publicly as far as I have ever heard.

The film has never had a DVD release, it had a very short VHS and Lasercisc release by Columbia years ago. I have held onto my unfortunately now rather red 16mm print for years. In fact, I think a lot of folk saw it the first time when it recently ran on TCM.

Now, if you want to start a separate discussion of HEARTS OF THE WEST, I'll meet you there. It's always been a unsung favorite of mine.


RICHARD M ROBERTS (who saw both THE COMIC and HEARTS OF THE WEST in their first runs, and sadly remembers sitting in pretty empty theaters on both occasions. )
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSun Oct 16, 2011 7:35 pm

Do 16mm prints eventually turn red? It's almost as if film in any form was not meant to survive for any length of time....

(By the way, I, for one, will volunteer to write Mr. Schlesinger and request that he NOT interview Messers. Reiner and Van Dyke specifically regarding the making of The Comic - just to offset any deluge of e-mails he may receive regarding Mr. MoronOfBaltimore's request....)
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSun Oct 16, 2011 8:29 pm

I'd love to see Hearts of the West again. Yeah, that's a movie that's pretty much vanished. Need a double bill of that and Slither (which is not a horror movie).
“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSun Oct 16, 2011 10:32 pm

SLITHER (73) is hilarious for being an action flick. Caan's low key underplaying is used to good advantage.

I seem to recall that HEARTS OF THE WEST (75) had quite a few airings this past decade on TCM. And by the way, both flicks were directed by the same fella, Howard Zieff. I don't know much about him for he had a rather spotty film career...

Slither (1973)
Hearts of the West (1975)
House Calls (1978)
The Main Event (1979)
Private Benjamin (1980)
Unfaithfully Yours (1984)
The Dream Team (1989)
My Girl (1991)
My Girl 2 (1994)
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSun Oct 16, 2011 11:17 pm

gjohnson wrote:SLITHER (73) is hilarious for being an action flick. Caan's low key underplaying is used to good advantage.

I seem to recall that HEARTS OF THE WEST (75) had quite a few airings this past decade on TCM. And by the way, both flicks were directed by the same fella, Howard Zieff. I don't know much about him for he had a rather spotty film career...

Slither (1973)
Hearts of the West (1975)
House Calls (1978)
The Main Event (1979)
Private Benjamin (1980)
Unfaithfully Yours (1984)
The Dream Team (1989)
My Girl (1991)
My Girl 2 (1994)



With that filmography, he deserved a spotty film career. It's all downhill after HOUSE CALLS.

RICHARD M ROBERTS (and just how many movies from the 70's can one be nostalgic about?)
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSun Oct 16, 2011 11:20 pm

Do 16mm prints eventually turn red? It's almost as if film in any form was not meant to survive for any length of time....


Eastmancolor ones do. The irony is that the 16mm prints of THE COMIC seem to have been Eastman, but the prints of the promo short about the making of it are Technicolor, so it is still pristine while the actual film is beet red.


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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSun Oct 16, 2011 11:32 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:I'd love to see Hearts of the West again. Yeah, that's a movie that's pretty much vanished. Need a double bill of that and Slither (which is not a horror movie).

Both films are now available on DVD from the Warner Archive. HEARTS has been newly remastered.
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostSun Oct 16, 2011 11:51 pm

Eastmancolor ones do. The irony is that the 16mm prints of THE COMIC seem to have been Eastman, but the prints of the promo short about the making of it are Technicolor, so it is still pristine while the actual film is beet red.


There was a small run of Technicolor 16mm prints of THE COMIC—I know of one collector who has one. I think these may have been done in the UK. The 35mm prints I've seen are faded Eastman, with the exception of the black and white scenes, which are real B&W stock cut-ins.

Of course, the original elements of the film can yield a nice DVD or BD transfer, such as the quality of the laserdisc.
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostMon Oct 17, 2011 12:04 am

Jack Theakston wrote:
Eastmancolor ones do. The irony is that the 16mm prints of THE COMIC seem to have been Eastman, but the prints of the promo short about the making of it are Technicolor, so it is still pristine while the actual film is beet red.


There was a small run of Technicolor 16mm prints of THE COMIC—I know of one collector who has one. I think these may have been done in the UK. The 35mm prints I've seen are faded Eastman, with the exception of the black and white scenes, which are real B&W stock cut-ins.

Of course, the original elements of the film can yield a nice DVD or BD transfer, such as the quality of the laserdisc.


There was nothing but a small run of ANY prints of THE COMIC, it was not a popular movie. As I recall, it played a week here on it's first run in Phoenix at the Fox Chris-Town, then I was able to see it again later on a double-bill at the Hayden West with Columbia's reissue of Chaplin's MODERN TIMES, and we managed to get a beat-up 35mm print booked to run at the Sombrero Playhouse (a local art house) in the late 70's. It hit TV syndication pretty quickly. I've only come across one print for sale in all the years I've been collecting, and I grabbed it. The Sony laserdisc looked great, but those Sony Laserdiscs were also notorious for getting laser rot, and had speckling issues even when new, and I think they didn't sell many on THE COMIC then either. So it's never had much luck in it's availability.

And I remember Pert Kelton being blipped when she says" Balls!" in the tv prints.


RICHARD M ROBERTS
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Jim Roots

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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostMon Oct 17, 2011 6:25 am

How old is Reiner now?

Jim
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostMon Oct 17, 2011 7:14 am

Jim Roots wrote:How old is Reiner now?

Jim


89 years old. He'll be 90 in March.
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostMon Oct 17, 2011 1:40 pm

Hey Mike,

Set your DVR; Hearts of the West will be on TCM Friday, Nov. 4th at noon eastern. I love this one, too. Saw it not too long ago on TCM and it really holds up.
--Dan
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Jim Roots

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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostTue Oct 18, 2011 6:20 am

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:How old is Reiner now?

Jim


89 years old. He'll be 90 in March.


WOW! Better get his memories on tape while he's still got them!

Jim
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Harlett O'Dowd

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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostTue Oct 18, 2011 9:56 am

Richard M Roberts wrote:
This is the problem when somebody who is not a cynic tries for it, it goes too far of the nasty end, Wilder at his best could temper the cynicism with humor or lightness, Reiner is almost afraid to make Billy Bright a human being, and he has one of the nicest comics around playing Billy Bright also trying hard not to show it either. It's like they were both trying hard to show they were tough guys too.


I only recently caught up with this film and my immediate reaction was that, after a decade of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Marry Poppins, Bye Bye Birde and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, DVD wanted to do something darker - much the same way Julie Andrews needed 10 years or so (and some flop Blake Edwards movies) to kill off Mary Poppins/Maria Von Trapp.

The 60s were also the time of Stop the World - I Want to get Off - which had Anthony Newley (on stage) channelling Chaplin while giving an unpleasant xenophobic/misogynistic performance - and he still expected you to love him.

I wonder if DVD, with his friendship with Stan Laurel, wanted to try something in a similar vein with The Comic.

Still an awful mistake and missed opportunity on Reiner & DVD's part.

It also makes you wonder how much of an impact The Comic had in the writing the even more fictitious book for the flop musical Mack and Mabel.
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostTue Oct 18, 2011 11:24 am

With that filmography, he deserved a spotty film career. It's all downhill after HOUSE CALLS.


Zieff was actually a highly successful director of TV commercials but, as with many such directors, better at getting the job done effectively for the people who hired him than at having his own strong directorial point of view. (Michael Cimino is, of course, the disastrous exception from that era; Tony Kaye is another one.) When scripts were better in the 70s, he made some good movies. When all that was out there was formula stuff, he... finished them on time and on budget. I believe his last films were produced by John Hughes who almost certainly would have known Zieff when Hughes was working at Leo Burnett in the early 1970s; other old Burnetters I met while working there certainly did.
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Re: Dick Van Dyke in The Comic (1969)

PostWed Oct 19, 2011 1:49 pm

If they ever put this out again, I'd like to see the Billy Bright shorts (including the ones shown postage-stamp sized) added as an extra. They might be more entertaining than the feature.
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