For about ten years hypocrisy ran through the veins of British Showbiz. Among the best - known whose careers foundered were Macdonald Hobley,the first thinking woman's crumpet TV personality,Max Wall,one of our greatest - ever comedians and Kenneth More,an actor who had,more than any other,come to symbolise all that was decent and fair in the British psyche.All these men were ostracised for committing adultery,an event so commonplace by the end of the sixties that it was hardly worthy of comment,let alone disapproval. Fortunately for Mr More he had a very strong fan base who remained loyal and non - judgemental,and he was able to tough it out to the extent that in 1964 he starred in "The Comedy Man" along with Miss Angela Douglas,his partner - in - adultery;a slap in the face for his detractors and a welcome back into the fold for an actor who even today is remembered with great fondness by many of us old enough to qualify for the government's "Winter Warming" allowance. It was made at a time when the film industry considered itself at war with Television - the upstart entertainment medium that required no more effort from its audience than pushing a switch.Much as "the theatre" had thought movies to be inferior 40 years earlier,so the movies now looked down on TV and lost no opportunity to belittle it. This attitude might have been all right for the theatrical aristocracy but was always going to cause problems for the jobbing actor like Chick Byrd (Mr K.More)recently sacked from a Rep for sexual misconduct. He has "Principles" - professional ones at least - and holds out against TV's filthy lucre until he is down on his uppers and accepts a part in a commercial that unaccountably becomes very popular,making him a "success de cash" that causes him a certain amount of schadenfreunde. He lives in a seedy flat with a former colleague recently returned from Hollywood and no better for it(Mr E.Purdom in a role surely "hommaged" from Robert Maine in Robert Morley's "Goodness,how sad"). Mr Cecil Parker is nothing short of marvellous(as usual) as an old - school "Actor" and Dennis Price as Byrd's agent may well have taken George Sanders' in "All about Eve" as a role model. In the end Mr More reclaims his soul for the theatre and TV's villain is reduced to slinking away,face behind it's cloak,cursing. Only a man with the breezy innocence and basic good nature of More's screen image could have made it convincing. Now,with TV and the movies in each other's pocket it's hard to believe that once their rivalry was so deadly. "The Comedy Man" is a spot - on portrait of it's time,the movies tightening their belts,television's great gravy train slowly starting to move off,the "talent",mere grist to the mills of both.
The Comedy Man
The Comedy Man
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Charles Byrd, known as "Chick", has spent his adult life acting in small repertory companies all over the UK, and he's never had much luck. All too aware that he's no longer young, Chick makes one last stab at finding success in London.
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As two great Industries battle,the "talent",falls between the cracks.
the perils of an acting career
Actors must lead a tough life: not only does the trade deny them the luxury of a steady income, but the challenge of constantly changing roles can throw their own identity out of shape. Or so one English actor (Kenneth More) discovers as he sinks to success in this caustic but witty comedy drama, in which the extroverted façade of the dedicated thespian stands revealed for what it really is: a protective shield against the burden of inconsistent work, the humiliation of endless auditions, and the hunger for popular acclaim. More's luck begins to turn after professional desperation and a need for quick cash lead him to accept a job in the lucrative but disreputable world of television advertising. Nothing, he soon learns, corrupts like fame and fortune, especially when neither is earned (it's easier to be morally pure when you're a starving artist). The film was made in 1963, but is so rarely revived that it qualifies as a lost treasure of sorts.
The Two Lightollers Meet!
The first thing the trader said, who sold me this rare DVD was, "It's not a comedy".No it's not, only in an ironic bittersweet way.The second thing I noticed was that Edmund Purdom (who played second officer Lightoller in "Titanic" 1953 and More (who played the same role in "A Night to Remember" (1958) are playing thespian friends.They share a grotty, run down flat somewhere in London while they struggle to find acting work.I was rather surprised to note "The Comedy Man" is dated 1964 as this seems quite recent considering both actors shone in the mid-fifties and I mentally dated it 1953 while I watched it but realised it must be in reality more recent when a mid-sixties Roller drove up to their lodgings.
Those like me who make a note of jobbing actors will note a whole plethora of well known faces in the British film industry in this film.Notable were Billy Whitelaw as Chick Byrd's true love Judy.Norman Rossington (a steward in "A Night to Remember) as Theodore Littleton who act as an unofficial pawnbroker in the lodgings, Dennis Price playing a seedy theatrical agent Tommy Morris, and Cecil Parker playing an old "ham" Thomas Rutherford.I believe Kenneth More married Angela Douglas who plays Fay Trubshaw.An old girlfriend in my youth said I reminded her of Edmund Purdom in my facial looks, (he certainly was a handsome devil)!
Other reviewers have explained the plot and I too won't provide a spoiler for its denouement in the final scene.It certainly shows that acting is not for the faint-hearted, it's a bit like trying to make a living out of art.Only the very talented, dedicated and lucky usually manage to make a successful career in these professions, instead of doing "a proper job".I was surprised I had not seen this film before and was pleasantly surprised by it's authentic "feel".I rated it 7/10.