Like many reviewers, I saw this back around 1980 when I was 15 on television and never forgot it. This is a deep more-truth-than fiction tale about the life and times of Billy Bright. Dick Van Dyke (in what is undoubtedly his best performance) gives us a look at Bright (a semi-fictional silent screen comedian) whose life is loosely based on a composite of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel (Van Dyke's mentor), et. al. Van Dyke was greatly influenced by this genre of comedy and this film (written by Carl Reiner) is his tribute to them. We see the tragic fate of such comedians when silent comedy dies and sound films took over. Two scenes in particular stand out to me that I still remember after all these years: Van Dyke as the comic in a faux silent film playing a prisoner released from jail is as touching as anything Chaplin did at the time and where as an old man, the comedian sees a tv listing and eagerly waits until late night to catch one of his old films on television (a common practive in the pre VCR-DVD days).
AND SPEAKING OF DVD's, the number of people who were touched by this underground classic is considerable, based on the reviews here. So either Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, or anyone alive today connected with this film should BRING IT OUT ON DVD!