A fictionalized account of the rise and fall of a silent film comic, Billy Bright. The movie begins with his funeral, as he speaks from beyond the grave in a bitter tone about his fate, and takes us through his fame, as he ruins it with womanizing and drink, and his fall, as a lonely, bitter old man unable to reconcile his lifes disappointments. The movie is based loosely on the life of Buster Keaton.
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This is one film that I wish was on DVD. As a fan of silent comedy,this film has long been one of my favorites. More of a biography ofBuster Keaton then the film The Buster Keaton Story. While the actualfilm has flaws, the best parts for me are the recreations of silentcomedies. They're hilarious!! It makes me wish that Reiner and Van Dykehad chosen instead to make a full length, silent comedy. It would havebeen a classic today! As it is, the film was probably made at the wrongtime for it to have made an impact. It probably seemed very out of datein the year of Easy Rider and Woodstock. However, anyone who's a fan ofKeaton and Chaplin or silent movies should really make an effort tofind this film, it's obviously made with a love of the subject matter.
I watched "The Comic" on TV when I was teen. Sure, it was not the verybestmovie I ever watched. But somehow it was unforgettable.Until today, I still can recall a scene when drunk Billy Bright (Dick VanDyke) smashing neighbor's house thinking that it was his. Sad, funny, andbitterness mixed.After "The Comic", for me, Dick Van Dyke had never been funnierthen.
This movie is hard to track down, but worth watching if you like DickVan Dyke (who doesn't?), Stan Laurel, or silent film comedy in general.While the movie itself isn't the best thing Dick Van Dyke has everdone, he's very good in it. Being a big fan of silent films himself,you can tell this film meant something to him. Hopefully it well bemore available to the public in future. There's some great originalgags created by Dick and Mickey Rooney is fun to see as well. Don'texpect this movie to change your life (unless you want to be aslapstick comedian that is), but it's entertaining to watch. Dick VanDyke is always a joy.
"The Comic" is one movie I could always watch again as I think it wasthe best thing Dick Van Dyke ever did. I always thought that HarryLangdon was the chief prototype for the Billy Bright character becauseof his pork pie hat that he wore. I didn't know much about his personallife but that when he decided to write, direct and produce his ownfilms, he learned too late that he should have left that to people whoknew their business. Thanks to the other bloggers on this site, Ilearned about Buster Keaton. Never quite understood his character, justthat dead pan face of his. Mickey Rooney of course was modeled afterBen Turpin. He makes the prophetic comment that when people stoppedlaughing at his crooked eyes, they started killing each other. Therewas a cute scene where Billy and "Popeye" are walking up HollywoodBoulevard and Billy is guessing whose footprints he's stepping on. Whenhe reaches Chaplin, he looks down and says "He never became a citizen."A comment which was made for criticism but tinged with a bit of envy. Aclassic, underrated movie, in the same class as "Face in the Crowd."
No doubt it's a sad movie. From the intro sequence, it sets its tastefine; a flashback story, about a once-famous, then-forgotten, moviestar, told by his funny voice-over from the world of death. It's great.The thing is when the movie gave up this taste; it's where itcollapsed.The second act showcases the lead's prime. He's a successful comedianin the age of silent movies, who has problems as a husband. So far sogood, especially when it enjoys us, and itself, with showing some ofhis silent comic shorts (mostly remakes of real ones) as a nice tributeto that movies' comedy and stars.However at that act something assured that the taste wasn't right, orwell balanced. For clear instance there are 2 situations. The first isabout how the lead, mistakenly due to his drunkenness, bursts into thewrong home by his car. And the second is about kidnapping, mistakenlyas well, the wrong son. These moments are performed with heavy amountof sorrow, through loud painful music score, as if they're cruelmelodrama, not frank comedy. In fact the movie couldn't decide whichtaste to choose, so it put the 2 together.We didn't get to see the problems which these stars used to face intheir line of work. Capturing evidences for pioneering is an enoughhonoring I believe. I couldn't understand well why that lead was alousy husband; was he a womanizer drunkÂas we see in the second act ?,or was he busy working all the timeÂas he says in the third act ?! Themovie Â again Â couldn't decide, so Â again Â put the 2 together ! Then, the disastrous third act. Yes, it's the unhappy end, but look howthe things were made. Suddenly the voice-over vanished, the comedydied, the son (played meaninglessly by Van Dyke also) is gay (??!), thelead urinates in the bathroom (????), and his greatest movie ever,Forget-Me-Not, which is shown as our movie's climax, turns out to be anidiot one; where nothing is distinct about it, being way weaker thanthe ones that were shown earlier (I don't know why they didn't come upwith more valuable material ?!), and while you're not expecting themovie ends !The best of it; is the dead lead's dream of dying while being on thetop, done as another short from the silent cinema. That creativity wasmissed for the rest of the movie. At one moment I imagined how it wouldhave been better if situations, such as the meeting with the agent inthe restaurant, were portrayed the same way (close to the spirit of ascene like spotting Van Dyke and Michele Lee in the bed). At least itcould have been more memorable and funny.Dick Van Dyke, who adores the silent cinema and its icons (Stan Laurelin specific), wanted to make a movie about their art, and unfairendings after the cinema had spoken. But sorrowfully, the script ofAaron Ruben and director Carl Reiner was poor, confused, and so uneven;with a third act that seemed made for another movie. So with thecapacities and sincerity of Van Dyke, trying to make a sufficient elegyfor a terminated age's artists, then it's a first rate disappointment.Pretty sad indeed !
Who better to play a silent movie comic than Dick Van Dyke? In the60's, his Bert in "Mary Poppins" and his Professor Potts in "ChittyChitty Bang Bang" were homages (with sound, song, and dance) to thegreat silent stars of their day. Even on his legendary TV show, heemulated the great men (Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd,Harry Langdon, etc.) who were the creative geniuses behind silent moviecomedy. What sadly is missing is a decent script. All of the formulaplot developments of real life entertainment bios are present. Itstarts off fine, with Van Dyke showing up in his vaudeville clownoutfit for his film debut, and then being told he needs to change hislook. Along comes leading lady Michelle Lee (obviously based on GloriaSwanson in her early days as a bathing beauty, or possibly MabelNormand) whom Van Dyke ends up marrying. Their marriage is a disaster,thanks to Van Dyke's drinking, carousing and egotism. It's no surprisewhen she leaves him and asks Van Dyke to allow her second husband toadopt their son.There are definitely some moments of greatness. The whole funeralset-up is a wise choice, and the scene where Van Dyke doesn't evenrecognize his own son is heartbreakingly poignant. However, the silentfootage doesn't look like silent movies; It looks like the rare blackand white films Hollywood was occasionally making during this time, andas a result, its homage to the silent era suffers because of it. MickeyRooney is wasted as "Cockeye", Van Dyke's pal obviously patterned onBen Turbin. When Van Dyke's Billy makes a brief comeback (thanks to ahilarious commercial spoof featuring "The Jefferson's" Isabel Sanford),there is so much potential to provide a life lesson for thedown-and-out clown, but that doesn't happen. The film simply lumps toan unsatisfying conclusion that includes him about to marry an obviousgold digger with a nagging mama ("The Music Man's" Pert Kelton) and thebrief presence of Van Dyke as Billy Jr., an effeminate clothingdesigner, "Madame Lucinda". Kelton's brief participation is ironicconsidering her character's daughter is based upon characters sheplayed at RKO in the 1930's. However, the gay reference with Billy Jr.is somewhat offensive and absolutely unnecessary.Michelle Lee does all she can with her winning smile and brightpersonality to add some sunshine, but her character is reallyunderdeveloped. More of her would have been nice, especially some sortof conclusion to the long-divorced couple's relationship in their olderyears. Those looking for a look at Hollywood life in the early dayswon't get much, and even as a "Sunset Boulevard" rip-off, it comes upshort. Van Dyke fans won't be disappointed by his acting though. He isbrilliant. It's just too bad he didn't have a better movie to bebrilliant in.
I must admit to being a Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney fan and alsoCarl Reiner fan before this comment. Nevertheless you're not going tofind more people in Hollywood who are more genuine and professionalthan these three. Find this movie and watch it. It's as current todaythan the day it was shot. Rooney plays a sidekick who I find is trueblue to his friend, "The Comic". He plays an old agent that sticks withhis client through retirement. Its one of his finest works, and VanDyke plays his role as an old washed up theatrical comic very well. Itshumorous as well as melancholy. The first time I saw it on TV was in1971 when I was 11 and it plays the same as if I were to watch ittoday.
After seeing The Comic again after many years, I realize that Dick VanDyke's character Billy Bright is actually an amalgam of at least threesilent comedians: Harry Langdon (who the character resembles), CharlieChaplin (for the womanizing) and Buster Keaton (for the drinkingproblem).One tries to sympathize with Billy Bright over the years, but his ego ishisdownfall in Hollywood. Like Buster Keaton, Billy Bright is again thrustintothe temporary limelight in his later years.This is probably Dick Van Dyke's best role ever--he was a big fan ofsilentcomedy films and was a good friend of Stan Laurel in the1960s.Also look for some great cameo appearances by Mantan Moreland and JeromeCowan.
This film was obviously made to use the comic talents of Dick Van Dykeand they did. He was always pulling faces and doing pratfalls on stageand TV and has always had a strikingly strong resemblance to a youngStan Laurel. It had been said in early magazines that Van Dyke felt hewas born in the wrong era. With this film he gets to fulfill his dream.Even the dialog scenes play and read like a silent movie and the comedytiming is priceless, especially in scenes with Mickey Rooney who didthe eye tricks with no computer help. Michelle Lee is there, for herlooks mostly, plus a lot of great cameo comedy bits by the likes ofPert Kelton, Jeannine Riley and even Carl Reiner himself. This filmwill not be remembered as any great classic, but it does remain aclassic in capturing Van Dyke's talent and the memories of Hollywooddays gone by.
A fascinating (yet flawed) film which displays obvious affection forandknowledge of the work and lives of the great silent comedians. VanDyke,who actually knew Stan Laurel personally, is wonderful.However,director/writer Carl Reiner for some reason decided to take theworstpersonal problems from the lives of Chaplin (womanizing),Keaton(drinking), Langdon (ego), etc. - and bestow them all on VanDyke'scharacter, Billy Bright. Why this was necessary and the approachdecidedupon for this picture is still a mystery.
I haven't seen this film since the mid-late 1970's on the late show. Iconsider this to be a classic comedy/tragedy from an artisticstandpoint. The blending together of several famous silent film heroesinto one all-encompassing character is to my mind brilliant. It createsa great impact on the viewer. If you think about how the evolution ofsound recording effected the less-than-famous silent film stars, onecan easily see how sadness and frustration could lead to excessiveself-destructive behavior by the bypassed actors. Riener weaves thistogether brilliantly while giving us, at the same time, a showcase forDick Van Dyke's vintage slapstick humour. While the storyline is notentirely based on any one comic actor, the performance serves as acomprehensive display of silent film and vaudevillian performancetechnique, a nearly lost art form. The scenes are woven together insuch an effective way, that even as a teenager, I wanted to cry for VanDyke's character when he loses his family as well as his purpose. Thefinal "silent film" in the film entitled "Forget Me Not" seems toforetell or co-incide with the actor's personal life losses and is warmand sad. And the austerity and loneliness in the final days of thecharacter's life are so gut-wrenching that I remember the emotionsthese scenes evoked as if I saw the film today. It could make anyoneafraid to age. While this film received little attention due to the erait was released and because the actor was considered "older generation"by younger viewers in tune with the counter-culture, it is a classic inthe same artistic and comedic vein as Jerry Lewis's films of the sametime frame which also contained a combination of comedy and serious/sadissues and emotions that were dealt with in his films.
Brilliantly realized tragicomedy in a Citizen Kane framework, obviously based on Buster Keaton. A tour de force for Dick VanDyke, whose film work was inconsistent at best. But he nails BillyBright from word one, and Carl Reiner's concise script gives himroom to run. Reiner's no slouch, either; check the restaurantmeeting for some biting wit on the Let's Do Lunch mentality. Aboxoffice flop in '69-'70, tossed away on the lower half of doublebills, or sent directly to subrun houses, this is a semi-classic thatshould be seen by all who love, or study, films.
I remember my mom pointing out an old man sitting on a park bench inSanta Monica in the early 60's and telling me, "that's half of Laurel &Hardy sitting over there." Being 6 or so, I didn't appreciate the brushwith destiny, but I heard Dick Van Dyke did. Mr. Laurel was actuallylisted in the Santa Monica phone book. Anyhow, this imperfect movie isan homage of sorts to Stan, with nods to Keaton and Langdon (I omit thelitigious Harold Lloyd since he was still alive at the time), madeduring Mr. Van Dyke's late & post-TV series movie heyday. There was a6-year period there where he had his run of Hollywood. To his credit,he started out with a bang (Bye-Bye Birdie then Mary Poppins) anddefied being pigeon-holed, choosing projects he felt strongly about.Unfortunately Van Dyke's tastes didn't jive with the public's at thetime. The problem is, excluding those early hits, none of his laterfilms are really all that good (see Fitzwilly or Cold Turkey) and arebarely remembered today. At least The Comic is his most personal. Likemany "period" films made in the 1960's (women's hair styles in DoctorZhivago or practically everything about Harlow and The Carpetbaggers)it feels false. D.V-D. tries to morph personality elements of thosereal silent stars into one unsatisfying tragic composite character.James Coco did a better job as a thinly veiled Langdon a few yearslater in the also-flawed The Big Party. The best that can be said aboutThe Comic is that it makes W.C. Fields and Me seem strangely watchableby comparison. Mr. Van Dyke, your medium is television and you reignedthere and you had few equals.
I recall when this film was first shown in 1969, that excerpts of the"silent" film segments were shown on THE TONIGHT SHOW to give thepublic an explanation of what the spoofing was. The film is a spoof of"Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde", but the spoof is also a salute to an earlyStan Laurel satire (without Oliver Hardy) called "Dr. Pickle and Mr.Pride". Dick Van Dyke was a fan of Stan Laurel (and even a friend ofhis at the end of the latter's life) and he and Reiner was salutingLaurel and other silent clowns who in their heyday were great stars butwho ended on a somewhat reduced level.Of the great silent film comics, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd werethe luckiest: both were very wealthy men at the conclusion of theirlives, and had lived long enough to be recognized by their film peers.Less lucky than them were Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel, and Oliver Hardy.Keaton had fallen on hard times due to studio hostility, alcoholism,and his wife Natalie Talmadge's messy divorce (in which she kept histwo sons). However, in the 1950s he made a tremendous comeback, and was(if not as wealthy as Chaplin or Lloyd) recognized as a film genius.Stan and Ollie were in demand as entertainers until ill health beganplaguing them in the 1950s (Laurel looks very bad in their last filmATOLL K, and Hardy suffered a heart attack before his death in 1957).But neither was impoverished - Laurel having been smart enough to havebought annuities in his heyday. As for the others, Harry Langdon wasemployed up to his death in 1940 as a gag writer (he even appeared inZENOBIA opposite Hardy). Raymond Griffith's damaged voice prevented himfrom continuing as a comic actor in sound films. After a stunning"silent" performance as the dying French soldier in the trench with LewAyres in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, he became a film executive.One can also note W.C.Fields sound film career which is better recalledthan his silent film career - and Fields died well off in 1946.But what of Snub Pollard, Chester Conklin, Hank Mann, and FordSterling? There were large numbers of popular comedians in the silentperiod who did not remain public favorites after sound came in. Evenone great comic, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, was not a favorite - althougha murder charge can do that. Still Arbuckle was trying to make acomeback at the time of his death in 1933.THE COMIC was an attempt to show what happened to these film originalsdue to their personal/private problems and the changes in the filmindustry (especially due to the coming of sound). Billy Bright (VanDyke) is one of the great silent comics, but he has marital problemswith his wife Mary Gibson (Michele Lee): His extra-marital affairs, andher attraction to film director Frank Powers (Cornell Wilde). Even thebirth of a son does not help. On top of that, his films (whileartistically great) begin losing money at the box office. He ends afailure in a business that requires money as a symbol of success. Inthe end he is living in a single room apartment watching his old films,living on his memories.The films copy elements of the great comic films. His masterpiece,FORGET-ME-NOT, is about an innocent man sent to prison, and is somewhatreminiscent of Laurel & Hardy's comedies THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS andPARDON US. But Mary appears in it as the heroine (like Harold Lloyd,whose wife was his original co-star), and her role is of a blind girl(reminiscent of Virginia Cherrill in Chaplin's CITY LIGHTS, and theheroine in Harry Langdon's THE STRONG MAN). Part of the fun of the filmis trying to second-guess the films that are the basis of Van Dyke andReiner's spoofs.With Mickey Rooney as "Cockeye" (a fond remembrance of silent clown BenTurpin), THE COMIC is a good film, and Van Dyke's strongest dramaticpart.
Short and Sweet, to the point will be my Comment....This was My LateDad's and My Favorite Movie...One of the Last things I said to him,where he could still recognize me, at his bedside was..."Ya Got GoodColor", It made him smile...his last smile...That's a powerful ability,for any movie...thank you...Dr Buck....OK, so I guess I need to addmore working to my comment section, or so they (the computer powers tobe), tell me..10 lines, hmmmmm, well, guess I might ad that not only isthis Van Dyke's finest film moment (love his dual roll as father andson), but also Mickey Rooney's ...as Cock-Eye....if you're a fan ofhim, check out the little known movie...The Atomic Kid...Everytime Ieat a peanut butter sandwich, I smile (see the movie to understand thatcomment...T.Y. Again (OK, now is that enough words?)
With "The Dick Van Dyke Show" off the air, Carl Reiner probably wantedto show that both he and Dick Van Dyke still could do comedy, so theymade "The Comic". This movie casts Van Dyke as a 1920s comedian -apparently loosely based on Buster Keaton - who hits it big only tohave his obsession with fame slowly destroy him (it always does seem tohappen like that, doesn't it?) as talkies take over.In a way, there are actually two movies here. The shortmovies-within-the-movie are pure slapstick comedy, but the movie itselfis more serious, at times grim (yes, the man known as Rob Petrie CANactually do a serious role). It's sort of like Richard Attenborough's"Chaplin" in that sense.All in all, this isn't a great movie or anything, but it is worthseeing. Part reminiscence (it portrays him as an old man looking backon his life), part nostalgia, and part humor, it gives us all somethingto think about. Even if you don't watch any other parts, you just gottasee the short films that they make. Also starring Michele Lee, MickeyRooney, Cornel Wilde, Nina Wayne, and Ed Peck, Steve Allen, and CarlReiner in smaller roles.
I have just seen this movie for the first time in over 25 years. Istill remember the last time I saw it. It was not a great movie by anymeans but I am a big film fan and this movie was memorable for me. Thelast scene of Van Dyke's character getting up in early morning hoursjust to watch one of his old films with his ex-wife always stuck withme. It is a really sad scene. Van Dyke is great in this, he would havemade a great silent comedian. While the character is obviously based anawful lot on Buster Keaton, Van Dyke to me actually resembles StanLaurel at times. The brief clips of the silent films his character doesmake you want to see the entire films. I also enjoyed Mickey Rooney'sperformance, too. I highly recommend this to anyone who is a silentmovie fan or a Dick Van Dyke fan.
I had a chance to see this film several times before but i always passed itup. I'm glad i finally watched it. I don't know that much about the silentfilm comedians but i have seen a few of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton'sfilms. This movie stars Dick Van Dyke as a silent film comedian and MickeyRooney plays his sidekick. Michele Lee plays his co-star and wife. Thingsare going good for several years in which he has hit after hit. But thingsgo wrong after his wife finds out he's cheating on her and they getdivorced. He ends up drinking a lot and when the talking pictures comearound, he finds he's out of a job. 40 years go by and it shows him as anold man who is working in commercials. It's a really great film and it wasdirected by Carl Reiner.
What has been said in the other reviews seems correct. I just feel thismotion picture is quite realistic as to how many of the greats andnot-as-greats from early films wound up. How sad that the men and womenwho made film-goers laugh were later far from that laughter andsupport.The best part of "The Comic" to me is at the ending when Van Dyke as"Billy Bright" gets up early one morning and, alone and by himself,watches one of his silent movies on television. How many actors &actresses from older films or even TV shows have done the same? We'llprobably never know.
If you're a big fan of Buster Keaton (as I most surely am), a grain ofsaltneeds to be taken with this flawed Carl Reiner comedy. The main characteris most definitely based on Keaton, yet the idea of tall, lanky Dick VanDyke playing short, well-built Keaton is obviously absurd. There are someinspired moments, but much of the comedy seems more like Benny Hill thanBuster, & one wishes Reiner might have actually attempted to recreate someof Buster's stunts than perhaps try to distance himself from the characterby tailoring the film to Dick Van Dyke's brand of physicalhumor.This film, though, does have a certain pathos, & now that I think aboutit,the character here has a womanizing problem that may be a comment onChaplin, but you feel neither the grandeur nor the enduring greatness ofKeaton in Billy Bright, Dick Van Dyke's character, & if the character'sultimate fate moves you, it may be that you have a soft spot for thosesilent film stars & the Hollywood that didn't know what to do with them(or,in Keaton's case, wouldn't let them redefine themselves for the new era) &so cast them aside.The part of the movie I thought was brilliant was Mickey Rooney's faithfulsidekick character, Cockeye, who I wish was real - I'd certainly like toseesome of his old two-reelers.(For a great biography on Keaton, see the three-hour, three-tape set"BustonKeaton: A Hard Act To Follow." I always recommend this to friends whowantsome information about Keaton but don't like silent films, or whatever. Iwarn you, though: it does show some of Keaton's best stunts, but if you'relike me, it'll just encourage you to see the entire films.)