American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
“I’ve got to marry you. It’s too embarrassing having you as a date.”
So says Kim Darby to Henry Winkler, early on in her relationship with “The One and Only.” She is correct. Winkler plays a monumentally conceited young man who struts across life’s stage expecting general applause because he is, after all, himself.
His dream is to become a great actor. No, check that. His dream is to be recognized as the great actor he knows himself to be. But when his dream finally comes true, he finds himself acting, not with the Royal Shakespeare, but as a wrestler on Saturday night TV in the early 1950s. He settles, as it were, for the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd.
The role is allegedly based on the career of Gorgeous George. Having never met Mr. George, I have no opinion on the accuracy of the story. But surely even Mr. George couldn’t have been as conceited as Andy Schmitt, the Winkler character, who uses hypnosis to put the whammy on his opponents before finally transforming himself into The Lover.