A Thousand Clowns (1965)

118 mins | Comedy-drama | 13 December 1965

Director:

Fred Coe

Writer:

Herb Gardner

Producer:

Fred Coe

Cinematographer:

Arthur J. Ornitz

Editor:

Ralph Rosenblum

Production Company:

Harrell, Inc.
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HISTORY

The 3 Feb 1964 LAT reported stage and screen producer Fred Coe’s recent meeting with actor Steve McQueen, regarding the lead role in a film based on Herb Gardner’s hit Broadway play, A Thousand Clowns. An column in the 5 Apr 1964 NYT stated that Coe, through his production company, Harrell, Inc., planned to begin the eleven-week shoot on 11 May 1964, at Michael Myerberg Studios on Long Island, NY. New York City locations would include the West Side and Battery districts of Manhattan Island, Coney Island, and the Statue of Liberty. Broadway cast members Barry Gordon, Gene Saks, and William Daniels would reprise their roles for the screen, with Michael Gordon directing Herb Gardner’s screenplay. On 14 Apr 1964, DV announced that Steve McQueen withdrew from the project, prompting Michael Gordon’s resignation. Coe took over as director and replaced McQueen with Jason Robards, Jr., who originated the role on Broadway. A news item in the 20 May 1964 Var noted that location filming began two days earlier. Four weeks into production, the 10 Jun 1964 Var reported that Paul Richards had replaced Gene Saks, who had contracted hepatitis.
       An article in the 14 Jun 1964 NYT revealed that Robards had agreed to star in the film, even though he was currently appearing at the Washington Square Theatre in the Arthur Miller play, After the Fall, making it necessary for him to nap between scenes. The picture marked the screen debut of actress Barbara Harris, who was in the habit of trying different approaches to ... More Less

The 3 Feb 1964 LAT reported stage and screen producer Fred Coe’s recent meeting with actor Steve McQueen, regarding the lead role in a film based on Herb Gardner’s hit Broadway play, A Thousand Clowns. An column in the 5 Apr 1964 NYT stated that Coe, through his production company, Harrell, Inc., planned to begin the eleven-week shoot on 11 May 1964, at Michael Myerberg Studios on Long Island, NY. New York City locations would include the West Side and Battery districts of Manhattan Island, Coney Island, and the Statue of Liberty. Broadway cast members Barry Gordon, Gene Saks, and William Daniels would reprise their roles for the screen, with Michael Gordon directing Herb Gardner’s screenplay. On 14 Apr 1964, DV announced that Steve McQueen withdrew from the project, prompting Michael Gordon’s resignation. Coe took over as director and replaced McQueen with Jason Robards, Jr., who originated the role on Broadway. A news item in the 20 May 1964 Var noted that location filming began two days earlier. Four weeks into production, the 10 Jun 1964 Var reported that Paul Richards had replaced Gene Saks, who had contracted hepatitis.
       An article in the 14 Jun 1964 NYT revealed that Robards had agreed to star in the film, even though he was currently appearing at the Washington Square Theatre in the Arthur Miller play, After the Fall, making it necessary for him to nap between scenes. The picture marked the screen debut of actress Barbara Harris, who was in the habit of trying different approaches to her dialogue during retakes. Coe reportedly kept an open mind. The budget was estimated at below $1 million.
       The 28 Nov 1965 LAT noted that the primary set featured sixteen clocks, all set to different times. After an unidentified crewmember synchronized the clocks, Robards declared that having them all set to the same time “would be against the character’s whole personality pattern.” An article in the 12 Aug 1964 Var mentioned the recent completion of principal photography. Robards later told the 21 Feb 1965 LAT that making the film and doing eight stage performance per week left him exhausted.
       According to the 9 Jun 1965 Var and 19 Dec 1965 LAT, Herb Gardner became dissatisfied with Paul Richards’s performance while editing the picture and asked that the scenes be re-shot with Gene Saks as “Leo.” Fred Coe devoted three days to the assignment during Apr 1965, and later explained that the decision was not a personal affront to Richards, but simply about having the right actor for the part. Distributor United Artists Corp. (UA) was sufficiently pleased with the picture to approve the modest additional expense, even though company executives had not viewed any scenes featuring Richards.
       The 17 Nov 1965 Var reported that UA was delaying distribution until Dec 1965, hoping a holiday release would improve the film’s prospects for Academy Award nominations. A Thousand Clowns opened 13 Dec 1965 at the Trans-Lux East Theatre in New York City, and on 23 Dec 1965 at the Village Westwood Theater in Los Angeles, CA. Reviews were generally positive. Herb Gardner admitted in the 21 Jan 1966 LAT that he still had reservations about the finished product, but believed he could not have found a better cast. The picture garnered Academy Award nominations for Best Picture; Writing-Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; and Music-Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment (Don Walker). Martin Balsam won the award for Actor in a Supporting Role. Robards and Harris, as well as the picture itself, were nominated for Golden Globe awards. Herb Garner received an award from the Writers Guild of America (WGA), and the film was ranked among the top ten releases of 1965 by the National Board of Review. The 4 Jan 1967 Var reported rental earnings of $2.15 million, with an expected total of $2.4 million.
       The 4 Feb 1966 DV and 16 Feb 1966 Var announced that the soundtrack album, released on United Artists Records, would feature music by Gerry Mulligan and dialogue from the screenplay.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 Apr 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Nov 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
4 Feb 1966
p. 28.
Los Angeles Times
3 Feb 1964
Section C, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
21 Feb 1965
Section B, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
28 Nov 1965
Section B, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
1 Dec 1965
Section D, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 1965
Section M, p. 3, 23.
Los Angeles Times
21 Jan 1966
Section C, p. 9.
New York Times
5 Apr 1964
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
14 Jun 1964
Section X, p. 9.
New York Times
12 Dec 1965
Section X, p. 11.
New York Times
14 Dec 1965
p. 54.
Variety
20 May 1964
p. 13.
Variety
10 Jun 1964
p. 17.
Variety
12 Aug 1964
p. 23.
Variety
9 Jun 1965
p. 5.
Variety
17 Nov 1965
p. 4.
Variety
16 Feb 1966
p. 44.
Variety
4 Jan 1967
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Cam op
Lighting
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Scenic artist
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd mix
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Prod asst
Prod secy
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play A Thousand Clowns by Herb Gardner (New York, 5 Apr 1962).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"A Thousand Clowns," music and lyrics by Judy Holliday and Gerry Mulligan, sung by Rita Gardner
"Yes Sir That's My Baby," music by Walter Donaldson, lyrics by Gus Kahn.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 December 1965
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 13 December 1965
Los Angeles opening: 23 December 1965
Production Date:
11 May--late-July 1964
Copyright Claimant:
Harrell, Inc.
Copyright Date:
13 December 1965
Copyright Number:
LP32309
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
118
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Freespirited Murray Burns, unemployed for 5 months since quitting his job as a writer for the Chuckles the Chipmunk television show, must find a means of support for his precocious 12-year-old nephew, Nick. Nick, an illegitimate son of Murray's sister, has lived with Murray for 7 years but has never been legally adopted. One day Sandra and Albert, social workers from the New York City Child Welfare Board, visit Murray and threaten to take Nick away unless steps are taken to assure a proper home life for the boy. Albert adheres strictly to the rules, but Sandra becomes emotionally involved in the case. After informing Sandra that she is off the case, Albert leaves in a huff; but Sandra stays and spends the night with Murray. They fall in love, and at the insistence of both Sandra and Nick, Murray goes to his brother Arnold, an agent, to find a job. After some unsuccessful interviews, Murray confronts his former employer, Leo, who plays Chuckles the Chipmunk on the show. Despite Leo's dislike for Nick and his patronizing attitude toward Murray, he still offers Murray the job. Nick is offended by Leo and tries to talk Murray out of compromising his principles. Sandra, however, moves into the apartment and begins to refurbish her new home. Nick finally accepts the fact that Murray will again have to work for Leo, and the next morning Murray joins the crowd of people rushing off to their ... +


Freespirited Murray Burns, unemployed for 5 months since quitting his job as a writer for the Chuckles the Chipmunk television show, must find a means of support for his precocious 12-year-old nephew, Nick. Nick, an illegitimate son of Murray's sister, has lived with Murray for 7 years but has never been legally adopted. One day Sandra and Albert, social workers from the New York City Child Welfare Board, visit Murray and threaten to take Nick away unless steps are taken to assure a proper home life for the boy. Albert adheres strictly to the rules, but Sandra becomes emotionally involved in the case. After informing Sandra that she is off the case, Albert leaves in a huff; but Sandra stays and spends the night with Murray. They fall in love, and at the insistence of both Sandra and Nick, Murray goes to his brother Arnold, an agent, to find a job. After some unsuccessful interviews, Murray confronts his former employer, Leo, who plays Chuckles the Chipmunk on the show. Despite Leo's dislike for Nick and his patronizing attitude toward Murray, he still offers Murray the job. Nick is offended by Leo and tries to talk Murray out of compromising his principles. Sandra, however, moves into the apartment and begins to refurbish her new home. Nick finally accepts the fact that Murray will again have to work for Leo, and the next morning Murray joins the crowd of people rushing off to their jobs. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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