7.5/10
2,935
68 user 26 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:

Fred Coe

Writers:

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

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Jason Robards ... Murray
Barbara Harris ... Sandra
Martin Balsam ... Arnold
Gene Saks ... Leo
William Daniels ... Albert
Philip Bruns ... The Man in the Restaurant (as Phil Bruns)
John McMartin ... The Man in the Office (as John MacMartin)
Barry Gordon ... Nick Burns / Wilbur Malcome Burns / Theodore Burns / Raphael Sabatini / Dr. Morris Fishbein / Woodrow Burns / Chevrolet Burns / Big Sam Burns / Lefty Burns
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Storyline

12-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 (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:

...IT'S LAUGHTER FOR EVERYONE!! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

9 September 1966 (Finland) See more »

Also Known As:

Mil payasos See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Harrell See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Two of the names Nick adopted temporarily are those of specific real people. Dr. Morris Fishbein was the very controversial editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) from 1924 to 1950. In 1947 Time Magazine described him as "the nation's most ubiquitous, the most widely maligned, and perhaps most influential medico." Rafael Sabatini was an author, and a few of his most popular novels were adapted for film. These films include Captain Blood (1935) and Scaramouche (1952). See more »

Goofs

As Murray puts on a shirt, his toothbrush appears and disappears in his mouth between shots. 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 called Nick, Nicky, and Nicholas. See more »

Connections

References M (1931) See more »

Soundtracks

"Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! (The Boys Are Marching): (1864) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by George Frederick Root
In the score during the opening credits
See more »

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User Reviews

 
My own private pig, my own private python
2 January 2007 | by gort-8See all my reviews

In most ways that matters, this is the perfect film. Yes, as an adapted stage-play it sometimes gets a little claustrophobic by modern standards that say movies are a collection of chase-scenes, fight-scenes, love-scenes and with the odd bit of dialog tossed in to grease the wheels. But in this age of special effects this film offers us two of the most spectacular effects there are - great writing and great performances.

I first saw this movie when I was 13 years old, in the spring of 1966, at the Paramount theater in Baltimore. When I walked into the theater, in my private universe, everyone had this thing in life that they were supposed to do, be it sinner or saint, business or baking. When I walked out that universe was closed forever. What if, I wondered, there is no fit? What if, like Murray Burns, life was made up of a series of trade-offs and compromises. As I write these words the Paramount has been dark for decades. Most of the movies that I saw have been digested and placed in their apportioned slots in my life. But not this one.

A THOUSAND CLOWNS is like a pig in a python for me. Its imprint is still fresh 41 years later.

Friends know that I'm "into" movies. I watch them. I sometimes write and lecture about them. Silent or sound, domestic or foreign, classics, b's, newly released - it doesn't matter. I'm fairly omnivorous. I'm often asked for my favorite movie. I never struggle for an answer or give out my top five. I simply smile and reply, "A THOUSAND CLOWNS." Some are puzzled by it. Most have never heard of it. None of them really seem to understand it.

My world changed in 1966 in ways that, even now, I'm still discovering. This is the movie that as present at the creation.

One last thing - if you want to put together an interesting double feature, watch this in tandem with King Vidor's 1928 masterwork, THE CROWD. The two films share some fascinating common themes.


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