“You can’t steal another man’s moustache.”
Silent film comedian Billy Bright (Dick Van Dyke) rises to the top of his field, then loses it all.
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, Dick Van Dyke may very well have had “his best movie role” as silent comedian Billy Bright in this “offbeat” pseudo-biopic (loosely based on the life of Buster Keaton). Ironically, the film itself is far from comedic — indeed, it’s actually difficult to watch at times, as the philandering, ill-tempered, criminally self-absorbed Bright seemingly does everything in his power to ruin his chances for personal happiness. The scene in which Bright drives up to his house and mistakes the neighbor kid for his own is absolutely tragic, and reminded me of the scene in Payday (1971) where Maury Dann arrives “either four months too early or eight months too late” for his child’s birthday. Nonetheless, if you can find a copy of it, The Comic is worth watching at least once, due primarily to its “fine performances, impressive comical sequences, and sharp satire.”
Note: While this film isn’t technically a “biopic”, I’m classifying it as such simply because it follows the same basic structure.
- Van Dyke’s stand-out performances in the sepia-toned silent film sequence (had he been born during the silent comedy era, he would undoubtedly have been a big name)
- Michele Lee’s sympathetic performance as Bright’s long-suffering wife
- Mickey Rooney playing second-bill comedian as “Cockeye”
No, but it’s worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of silent comedy and/or Dick Van Dyke.