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The Life of Reilly

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(No longer in theaters)
  • Rating: No Rating
  • Director: Frank L. Anderson, Barry Poltermann   Cast: Charles Nelson Reilly
  • Running Time: 87 minutes
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David Dahlman


Reel Diva Consultants

Release Date

Nov 9, 2007

Release Notes


Official Website


Occasionally you see a documentary and it hits you how much you don’t know about someone who was part of your mental landscape. Bewigged and queeny, the late Charles Nelson Reilly was a presence in mine, via The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Match Game, and so many other seventies-TV excrescences. He didn’t arouse much of anything in me, but he does in The Life of Reilly, a film built around his autobiographical one-man show. Bone thin, in the late stages of the pneumonia that killed him, he doesn’t dish much about fellow actors, and he only alludes to his homosexuality indirectly, when he describes how an executive told him early on that there was no place on TV for queers. Mostly the film is a series of vignettes about his childhood and the eviscerating mother who’d give Noah Baumbach’s Margot the heebie- jeebies. A titanic force of negativity, she’d bellow, "Save it for the stage!" and in the end, he says, tenderly, she’s why he’s on that stage. It’s the spark that’s missing from Margot at the Wedding, the core of hope that makes this wispy documentary indelible.

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