7.5/10
2,955
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 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

Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the 500 movies nominated for the Top 100 Funniest American Movies. 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 The Wizard of Oz (1939) See more »

Soundtracks

Entry of the Gladiators
(1897) (uncredited)
Written by Julius Fucík
In the score when Murray and Nick go to the Statue of Liberty
See more »

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User Reviews

One of those rare gems you could see over and over again
1 August 1999 | by Scoop-15See all my reviews

Jason Robards, Jr. plays the lead role of the unique, quirky, firmly unemployed Murray Burns and effortlessly masters the clever dialogue the way it was meant to be performed. Writer, Herb Gardner, created a delightful character like those you yourself rarely meet who have an uncommon outlook on life.

This movie caught my attention and prompted me to check out the screenplay from the library so I could experience the dialogue again and again.

There are so many one-liners and passages to admire, and you'll enjoy the charming performance on ukuleles of "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby" by Robards and Barry Gordon which is played against the background of Murray and Sandra exploring New York.

The sad thing about discovering a gem like this play for the first time is knowing that you won't experience that same pique of excitement and discovery again the second time through it again. But you do continue to marvel at the mind that can create such a fresh screenplay.

Unfortunately, I could not find much more information about the author, Herb Gardner, than what was on the cover jacket of the screenplay: He was born in Brooklyn and worked as a teen-ager selling orange-juice and checking coats at the Cort and National Theatres. "He saw some plays as many as 140 times and reports that that's an excellent way to learn the craft of the dramatist." He was also married to actress Rita Gardner.

Some favorite quotes:

"If most things aren't funny, Arn, then they're only exactly what they are; then it's one long dental appointment interrupted occasionally by something exciting, like waiting or falling asleep. What's the point if I leave everything exactly the way I find it? Then I'm just adding to the noise, then I'm just taking up some more room on the subway."

". . . it could have been any day, Arnie. . . sitting in the train going through any day. . . in the dark through any year. ... Arnie, it scared the hell out of me. You got to know what day it is. You got to know what's the name of the game and what the rules are with nobody else telling you. You have to own your days and name them, each one of them, every one of them, or else the years go right by and none of them belong to you. . . And that aint' just for weekends, kiddo. . . ."


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