TV writer Murray Burns (Robards), fed up with the soul-crushing repetition of modern working life, decides to bow out and live as a free man. The only problem is that he's not alone: his precocious, gifted 12-year-old nephew, Nick (Gordon), is under his care. When the Child Welfare Board, represented by stiff bureaucrat Albert (Daniels) and the more empathetic Sandra (Harris), tells Murray he'd better find some form of income or Nick will be taken away, Murray is faced with a difficult choice. Will he finally grow up?
Why we love it
Nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Screenplay, and winner of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Balsam (who's fabulous as Murray's long-suffering older brother): the long-unavailable "Clowns," based on Herb Garner's hit play, should be treasured as the kind of clever, dialogue-based comedy that's almost extinct today. The whole cast is wildly appealing, and there is no better Robards comic performance on film. To his credit, director Coe adds vibrancy — and softens the films stage origins — with kinetic, flavorful shots of mid-'60s Manhattan. There are "A Thousand" reasons to catch up with this small, offbeat, life-affirming gem.