The Life Of Reilly

The Life Of Reilly Release Date: November 9, 2007

“The Life Of Reilly” begins with Reilly recounting his childhood and his parents in New York City and Connecticut. We meet his family; an institutionalized father, a racist, baseball bat-wielding mother, and a lobotomized aunt, amongst others. “Eugene O’Neill would never get near this family,” Reilly declares. Prior to being put into an institution, Reilly’s father, a Paramount Pictures poster artist and illustrator, was offered the chance to go into business with another illustrator with the intention of making their first animated film in color together. The catch was simply that the senior Mr. Reilly would have to move himself and his family to California. Perhaps a defining moment in young Reilly’s life, his father asked his mother her thoughts and she unceremoniously rejected the possibility. The other illustrator went West without the senior Mr. Reilly as a partner. That other illustrator was named Walt Disney. After the missed opportunity to partner with Walt Disney, Reilly’s father began drinking heavily and eventually had a nervous breakdown. Upon being institutionalized, the senior Mr. Reilly’s family was forced to move out of the Bronx up to Connecticut to live with Mrs. Reilly’s family. When Reilly turned eighteen, he moved to New York City. “If you wanted to be an actor in those days,” he explains, “You did something that’s really unheard of today… you studied.” Young and hungry (literally), Reilly managed to find an acting class at HB Studios, which was rather liberal in its door policy and would let in aspiring actors even if they didn’t have the money to pay. Reilly’s class was taught by a young, award-winning, soon-to-be-legendary actress, Uta Hagen. In the class were such future stars and notables as Steve McQueen, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards, and Gene Hackman. It was a group of future Academy Award, Tony Award and Emmy Award winners, and, as Charles explains, “We wanted to go on the stage, none of us had any money, and this entire list… couldn’t act for sh*te” It was about this time when a friend of Reilly’s arranged a meeting with a powerful NBC executive. Reilly went in and was told, “They don’t let queers on television.” In retrospect, Reilly describes it as, “A short meeting.” Despite the apparent prejudice against him, his talent and tenacity landed him on Broadway, winning his first Tony Award for his role in “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”, as well as leading roles in the original Broadway casts of “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Hello, Dolly! (musical)”. Reilly went on to become a fixture in television appearing in numerous episodes of “Car 54, Where Are You?”, “The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (TV series)”, and starring in “Lidsville”. He also made hundreds of guest appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”, second in number of appearances only to Bob Hope, and had a more recent memorable guest spot on “The X-Files”. Over the years, he developed a habit of looking through the week’s TV Guide to see how many times he would be on TV that week. Coming in at over a hundred separate appearances, he reflected on the NBC executive who told him he would not be allowed on television; but now Reilly wondered, “Who do I have to F to get off?!” Success came to Reilly’s professional life, and he has used all the knowledge and expertise he has gained through a lifetime spent acting to teach. His longtime friend Burt Reynolds gifted him a theater in which to teach the craft of acting, and it has fulfilled Reilly ever since. As we leave him in what he calls “The twilight of an extraordinary life”, we see a portrait of an artist, a victim of prejudice who rose above it, a trailblazing comedic personality, an entertainer, a son, a teacher, and a man laid bare for all to see.

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Starring: Charles Nelson Reilly
Genres: BiographyComedyDocumentary
Directed By: Frank L. Anderson Barry Poltermann
Runtime: 84 minutes
Studio: ReelD
MPAA Rating Unrated