7.5/10
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67 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 A LIFT FOR THE SPIRITS 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

The original Broadway production of "A Thousand Clowns" by Herb Gardner opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theater in New York on April 5, 1962, ran for 428 performances and was nominated for the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play. Jason Robards, Gene Saks, William Daniels and Barry Gordon recreated their stage roles in the filmed production. Gordon was nominated for the 1963 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play. Sandy Dennis who did not recreate her stage role, won the 1963 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. 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

The Washington Post
(1889) (uncredited)
Music by John Philip Sousa
In the score after Murray and Sondra kiss
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Best Film of 1965
23 January 2005 | by ctroutSee all my reviews

A Thousand Clowns is about a twelve-year-old Barry Gordon who lives with his Uncle, Jason Robards. A social worker played by Barbara Harris shows up and ends up falling in love with Robards. But the child welfare people try to force Robards to get a good job so that they won't have to take Gordon away from him. Gordon, who also fancies Harris, looks up to his Uncle as his role model and loves his lifestyle. But then Gordon sees that Robards is willing to give up that great lifestyle in order to keep his "family" together.

The film is an excellent portrayal of the "not a care in the world" way of life and should definitely be seen by anyone who loves comedy. It's one of only a few films that made me laugh out loud and I'm sure if you see it, you'll agree with me. It's only flaw is one scene in which Gordon sees what his uncle's life has been reduced to. But even that was necessary as it shows the way anyone would succumb to social workers.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Picture, Supporting Actor (Martin Balsam as Robards' down to earth brother), Adapted Screenplay, and Score. Sadly, Best Supporting Actor was the only award that it was able to take home that night.


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