7.6/10
2,724
68 user 25 critic

A Thousand Clowns (1965)

A middle-aged iconoclast, doggedly avoiding the tedium of employment and conventional life, faces the prospect of losing custody of his young ward.

Director:

Writers:

(screenplay), (based on his original play)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Leo
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The Man in the Restaurant (as Phil Bruns)
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The Man in the Office (as John MacMartin)
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Storyline

Twelve-year-old Nick lives with his Uncle Murray, a Mr. Micawber-like Dickensian character who keeps hoping something won't turn up. What turns up is a social worker, who falls in love with Murray and a bit in love with Nick. As the child welfare people try to force Murray to become a conventional man (as the price they demand for allowing him to keep Nick), the nephew, who until now has gloried in his Uncle's iconoclastic approach to life, tries to play mediator. But when he succeeds, he is alarmed by the uncle's willingness to cave in to society in order to save the relationship. Written by Warlen Bassham <wcb@zso.dec.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Sooner or later, you'll fall in love with 'A Thousand Clowns'! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

9 September 1966 (Finland)  »

Also Known As:

Mil payasos  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Michael Gordon was the original director but left before shooting began. See more »

Goofs

After Leo leaves the apartment, two different cardboard cutouts of him are used, with different facial appearances. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Murray: [shouts at rows of houses] Neighbors, I have an announcement for you. I have never seen such a collection of dirty windows. Now I want to see all of you out there on the fire escape with your Mr. Clean bottles, and let's snap it up!
See more »

Crazy Credits

In opening credits: and introducing Barry Gordon as Nick. In the end credits, Gordon is credited to all the different names his character has tried: Nick Burns, Wilbur Malcome Burns, Theodore Burns, Raphael Sabatini, Dr. Morris Fishbein, Woodrow Burns, Chevrolet Burns, Big Sam Burns and Lefty Burns. In the film, however, he is just called Nick. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Facts of Life: A Thousand Frowns (1988) See more »

Soundtracks

Yes, Sir, That's My Baby
(1925) (uncredited)
Music by Walter Donaldson
Lyrics by Gus Kahn
Sung an played on ukuleles by Jason Robards and Barry Gordon
Also sung and whistled by Jason Robards and Barbara Harris
See more »

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User Reviews

Delightful and thought-provoking
10 August 2003 | by (Dayton, Ohio) – See all my reviews

I loved this movie passionately the first time I saw it, which was almost 30 years ago, and I love it every single time I watch it. Certainly aspects of it have gotten more meaningful as I've gotten older. The cast, full of people I had no idea of at the age of 10, turned out to be full of some of my all-time favorite actors (William Daniels, Barbara Harris, Jason Robards...how can you go wrong?)

I think some of the reviewers here (especially the ones giving it mixed reviews) are under the impression that the viewer is supposed to view Murray as a totally sympathetic character. He's not, and I don't think he's intended to be. Murray is really fun to be around for over half the movie; you're rooting for him all the way. As Sandy says, "No wonder Nick loves it here. I'd love to live here too if I were eleven years old!" When it's really time for Murray to settle down and do something to keep Nick, he can't bring himself to do it, and his free-spirited ways start looking, to the objective viewer, shallow and irresponsible. Murray needs to grow up, and do it fast, and growing up means compromising. That's the lesson; not that Murray was right all along, but that you can't be completely free if you do in fact have something left to lose, and Murray does. But life isn't a black and white choice between happiness and unhappiness, it's a continuum, and sometimes "doing the best you can" is enough.

I found it truly interesting that, throughout the movie, Nick was what Murray describes as "a middle-aged kid," seeming older than Murray himself. At the end, when Murray grows up, Nick seems to revert. He throws a full-scale tantrum, and that's the first time in the whole movie I remembered he was actually a child. I think that's a testament to Gordon's skill as an actor.

For anyone who read/saw the play: the director didn't seem to quite "get" the point of the play, and changed the end of the first and second (or is it second/third? I don't have it in front of me) to make the end of the movie more of a downer than the play. I never quite forgave him for that. The end of the play suggested that compromises have to be made, life goes on and it can even be good. The end of the movie seems to suggest that the last scene was unsubtly a "sell-out." I disagree. But I still loved the movie.

"Getting back to reality..." "I'll only go as a tourist!"


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