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A Thousand Clowns (1965) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot Summary

  • 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>
  • In New York City, Murray Burns happily leads a life of non-conformity. One of his latest non-beliefs is in work, most specifically the nine-to-five rat race, he five months ago quitting his job as a writer on a children's television series, and being unemployed ever since. He has for seven years taken care of his twelve year old nephew, who attends the Revere School for gifted children. He was abandoned by his never married mother, Murray's sister Elaine, whose current whereabouts are unknown and who also never gave him a name, including no last name. Murray has made an agreement with him that he could call himself whatever he wanted until he turned thirteen - which will be in four weeks - when they would apply to give him a legal name. He currently goes by the name Nick, which Murray believes is what he will eventually choose as that legal name. Murray and Nick's situation comes to the attention of the Child Welfare Board, who could take Nick away from Murray as he has never been officially Nick's guardian and as Murray may not be deemed as a suitable one, having no job. The case workers for the Child Welfare Board are the administrator, the officious Albert Amundson, and the child psychologist, the more emotionally sensitive Dr. Sandra Markowitz, who Murray can see just by their interactions with each other are also in a personal relationship with each other. While Murray does make an impression on the pair, he knows that to keep Nick, who he truly does love, he will have to make some quick concessions to show that he is taking steps to being a responsible guardian to the Board. The questions become how far Murray will go for Nick, especially to get work in his field, the nature of television having gone downhill in his opinion, but perhaps more importantly how far Nick will let Murray go to change from the man he knows and loves.

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

    - Written by Shannon Patrick Sullivan <shannon@mun.ca>

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