THE COMIC died onscreen when it was thrown away on double bills in 1969. Dick Van Dyke didn’t draw crowds, and this was a downbeat drama about an egotistical, alcoholic, silents-era comedian who fades into lonely obscurity. Carl Reiner produced, directed and co-wrote it for his TV pal Van Dyke, basing parts of the character on Buster Keaton, with a touch of Harold Lloyd.
It’s thoughtful, has some funny schtick and is well acted. Van Dyke is quite good as the self-centered pratfaller, and his scenes of the comic’s embittered old age are especially well done.
Mickey Rooney plays a foil/friend clearly drawn from the long-gone Ben Turpin: he’s fine as ever. Michele Lee does good work as ‘Billy Bright’s lost love; Cornel Wilde peeks in amusingly as the guy she ends up with.
Several familiar faces pepper the vignettes and Reiner’s recreations of the old-style movie gags and stunts are done with clear affection.
Running 94 minutes, it features Nina Wayne, Pert Kelton, Reiner, Jeannine Riley, Steve Allen, Gavin MacLeod, Jay Novello, Fritz Feld, Jerome Cowan and Isabel Sanford.