The Comedy Man (1964): Studiocanal’s new 4K release

Studiocanal recently announced a brand new 4K release of 1964’s The Comedy Man, part of the Vintage Classics Collection. Never before released on Blu-ray, The Comedy Man has been lovingly restored in 4K. We had the chance to review it:

The Story…

The Comedy Man stars Kenneth More as Chick Byrd, a jobbing actor entering middle age. He returns to London and his community of actor friends after disgracing himself while with a regional repertory company.

At first, he settles back into life as an out-of-work performer easily and with just a hint of reluctance. He bounces around between casting directors, agents and friends, with relish for the challenge and optimism that any minute will come his big break. When his roommate secures the longed-for role in a film and goes off on a six-month shoot, he begins to get a little less choosy about jobs.

He takes crowd work on a TV production, where he meets Fay Trubshaw (Angela Douglas), a naive yet cynical, enthusiastic young actress. We see Chick adopt the attitude of a mentor towards her. He buys her a drink later at a bar, trying to impart a few words of wisdom about some of the realities of the profession.

Chick has previously turned down work in commercials for television, feeling that they are beneath him. He reluctantly takes seasonal work as a retail Father Christmas, among other things. Meanwhile, he has spent more time with another old actor friend, Jack Lavery. Jack has a wife and baby; his wife Sandy is desperate for him to give up acting for a more stable way of life. Chick continues to encourage him. Chick is enthused and jovial when he is with Jack, assuming that they will both keep pushing towards their goal. After all, what else can they do? They are actors…

A long winter of trudging around the agents and casting offices takes its toll on Chick. He takes refuge with on-off girlfriend Judy (Billie Whitelaw), herself a “resting” actress. She admonishes him for his stubbornness, intimating that he should start to “act” his age. She even offers to lend him money, so low on luck does he sink.

When tragedy strikes, Chick reaches a crisis. He chooses the lucrative path, profiting from a friend’s misfortune. He is repeatedly given the opportunity to turn back, but keeps taking the money, despite feeling guilty.

Fay Trubshaw comes back into his life and they begin a relationship. But it becomes clear that, although fond of him, she is also ambitious to advance her career. In the end, Chick is left with a choice. Should he take the money and continue playing the game without fulfilment, or leave it all behind and resume his nomadic life, making little money but feeding his passion for the profession?

My Impressions…

The Comedy Man is not a comedy, contrary to the suggestion of the title. There are comedic elements, such as the little mundanities that happen in Chick’s lodging house which run through the film as a sort of connecting thread. The other residents, the landlord and the broken-down nature of the house are the constants in a story when nothing else is stable for the main character.

This film is a great example of the Kitchen Sink style of drama. There is a grubbiness to this film. The shine you might expect from a typical Kenneth More film isn’t present at all. Even during the sequences depicting a filming set or theatre, the realism is depicted rather than the glamour.

More is really given a chance to act here. He portrays the conceit of a middle aged actor, as well as the vulnerability, with truth and intensity. It should be no surprise that More could bring so much to a role. After all, as well as the light-hearted, jolly Englishman parts he was well known for, he also portrayed Douglas Bader in Reach for the Sky and Second Officer Lightoller in A Night to Remember. Both of these roles demanded a similar level of human emotion as The Comedy Man, and More is well and truly up to the task. It is hard to see which other actor in this era could have played the joviality and extroverted largeness against the self-doubt and despair as convincingly as More.

On first glance, it seems as though this film is going to be a superficial glance at the acting trade. The jokes at the expense of the comedy grotesques could be off-putting. But they do not in any way preclude the entrance of the gloom bubbling under the surface, nor its growth into something quietly consuming and malevolently despondent.

4K Restoration…

The restoration of The Comedy Man brings out the emotion wonderfully. The detail jumps out of the screen, showing the dirtiness of the world which Chick inhabits. It helps to create a solid link between his physical surroundings and the emotional and ethical sides of his life. Alvin Rakoff’s direction is really shown to its best here, with the drab lodging house and streets shown in stark contrast against the relative glamour of the superficial, big-money work Chick eventually secures. The new 4K transfer really does this film justice.

Special Features

This new release of The Comedy Man from Studiocanal includes the Theatrical Trailer, an interview with director Alvin Rakoff entitled The Show Must Go On, as well as More to the Point, an interview with film historian Neil Sinyard.


With its incredibly strong supporting cast, including Cecil Parker, Dennis Price, Angela Douglas, Frank Finlay, Billie Whitelaw and many others, The Comedy Man is a solid film. The balance between the absurdity of Chick Byrd’s domestic surroundings, the interminable drudgery of waiting and trying, and the eventual tragedy is perfect. We as the audience are lulled into a false sense of security in the first part of the film, believing all Chick’s jollity and bravado. Then a palpable sense of bleakness spreads over us as we see his sense of self-worth diminish. And so we feel the gut-punch alongside him when the blow comes. We are then invested enough in him to both sympathise with his decision to push through and profit from it, as well as deplore his weakness and now almost pathetic ambition.

This film is very effective and the new restoration by Studiocanal really enhances its impact. It is an opportunity for Kenneth More to show a much more complex performance than other more well-known roles of his might appear.

The Comedy Man from Studiocanal is part of the Vintage Classics Collection. It is now available from Amazon on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

The Comedy Man Blu-Ray




Leave a Reply

Next Post

Warner Archive Titles in the UK

Sun Mar 17 , 2024
Since 2009, Warner Archive has been restoring classic movies and TV shows for physical media release. In recent years, material from libraries including Warner Bros, MGM, RKO have been making […]

You May Like