A Thousand Clowns


(out of 5)

 is raising his whipsmart nephew () after the boy’s mother left him without explanation, but thanks to his sharing his unconventional view of life with the boy(working every day is for suckers!) has inspired the concern of the welfare board.  Tightass and a delightful  (in her film debut) show up to assess the situation and see if they can’t pull Robards into a middle-class attitude, but he responds with rebellious bluster that infuriates one and inspires the sympathy of the other.  Herb Gardner’s rarely remembered play becomes a film that was a huge success at the time and has been mostly forgotten today.  It’s easy to see why as it’s a smart movie that isn’t exactly brimming over with charisma, its romance too muted for the Breakfast At Tiffany’s crowd and its cynicism about modern corporate culture a bit too ambivalent for fans of The Apartment.  You get the impression that Gardner is criticizing the world that tries to normalize the creative spark of Robards’ type by forcing him to fit into a narrow idea of productivity and morality, but at the same time his unconventional mode of living is presented with enough grime that perhaps his capitulating to the man would be a relief.   steals the show in an Oscar-winning performance as Robards’ brother.

USA, 1965

Directed by

Screenplay by , based on his play

Cinematography by

Produced by Fred Coe

Music by

Production Design by ,

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

Cast Tags:  ,

Academy Award
Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Martin Balsam as “Arnold Burns”)

Best Music (Scoring of Music-adaptation or treatment) (Don Walker)
Best Picture (Fred Coe, producer)
Best Writing (Screenplay–based on material from another medium) (Herb Gardner)

Golden Globe Award Nominations
Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical
Best Actress-Comedy or Musical (Barbara Harris)
Best Actor-Comedy or Musical (Jason Robards)

National Board of Review Award
Top Ten Films

Writers Guild Award
Best Written American Comedy


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