Marty Feldman, 1934 – 1982
Perhaps a comedy talent who doesn’t get the exposure he deserves. Marty Feldman was the British actor, comedian and comedy writer who was widely known for his prominent, misaligned eyes.
However physical attributes aside he was a comic genius star of many films and his own TV shows. He was also comedy writer, many people forgetting he was co-creator of the legendary BBC Radio series: Round The Horne.
Born Martin Alan Feldman on 8th July, 1934 in the East End of London. He was the son of two Jewish immigrants Cecilia (née Crook) and Myer Feldman from Kiev, Ukraine. His Father was a gown manufacturer. He was the older of two children having a younger sister: Pamela.
Feldman suffered fromthyroid disease disease and developed Grave’s ophthalmopathy. This caused his eyes to protrude and become misaligned. A series of incidents including: a childhood injury, a car crash, a boating accident, and reconstructive eye surgery may also have contributed to his appearance.
His appearance would later become his trademark. Indeed Feldman himself once commented that his appearance was a factor in his career success: “If I aspired to be Robert Redford, I’d have my eyes straightened and my nose fixed and end up like every other lousy actor, with two lines on Kojak. But this way I’m a novelty.”
Marty Feldman left school at 15. On leaving school he worked at Dreamland funfair in Margate, however his dream was to carve out a career as a jazz trumpeter. He did get a start performing in the first group in which tenor saxophonist Tubby Hayes was a member. it was a short lived career move with Feldman himself joking that he was “the world’s worst trumpet player.”
At the age of 20 he had decided to pursue a new career as a comedian.
Feldman was married Lauretta Sullivan in January 1959, they remained together until his death in 1982. She died, 12th March 2010, aged 74, in Studio City, Los Angeles.
Marty Feldman was described as being Socialist, telling one interviewer “I’m a socialist by conviction, if not by lifestyle” and another “I’m a socialist from way back, but in order to pay my back taxes I have to live in America to earn enough money to pay the back tax I owe to the socialist government that I voted in.” He was also a vegetarian.
It was during the making of the film Yellowbeard that Marty Feldman died of a heart attack on 2nd December 1982, aged 48. At the time he was staying in a hotel in Mexico city. He is burried in Forest Lawn – Holywood Hils Cemetry near his idol, Buster Keaton, in the Garden of Heritage.
Although his early performing career was undistinguished, he became part of a comedy act—Morris, Marty and Mitch—that made its first television appearance on the BBC series ‘Showcase’ in April 1955. Later in the decade, Feldman worked on the scripts for Educating Archie for both it’s radio and TV series, alongside Ronald Chesney and later, Ronald Wolfe.
It was 1954, Feldman first met Barry Took while both were working as performers. Together they would form an enduring writing partnership which lasted until 1974.
Amongst their work were episodes of The Army Game (1960) and the bulk of Bootsie and Snudge (1960–62), both early ITV sitcoms. For BBC Radio they wrote Round The Horne (1964–67, the last season was written by others). This work placed Feldman and Took “in the front rank of comedy writers”, according to another writing legend Denis Nordan.
Further writing successes came when Feldman became head writer and script editor for The Frost Report, he co-wrote the famous “class sketch”
Feldman’s profile as a performer was raised when he starred alongside: John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Tim Brooke-Taylor in the television sketch series At last the 1948 Show. It was for this show he co-wrote the famous ‘four Yorkshiremen’ sketch alongside: Cleese, Chapman and Brooke-Taylor.
By 1968 Feldman was given his own BBC entitled ‘Marty’ it featured Tim Brooke-Taylor, John Junkin and Roland MacLeod. John Cleese was one of the co-writers. A second series of the show followed in 1969, but this time it was entitled ‘It’s Marty’.
Marty Feldman was a regular fixture on TV during he 1970’s starring in his own TV specials Marty Amok (1970)Marty Abroad(1971) and The Marty Feldman Show in 1972. There were also a series of The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine and in 1974 Marty Back Together Again.
Marty Abroad(1971) and The Marty Feldman Show in 1972. There were also a series of The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine and in 1974 Marty Back Together Again.
In The Movies
Between 1969 and 1983 Feldman starred or made appearances in twelve big screen films. His mostf amous perhaps was as Igor in Young Frankenstein in 1974 and his final being Yellowbeard in 1983.
During the course of his career, MartyFeldman recorded two Lp’s Marty (1968) and I Feel a Song Going Off (1969), re-released in 1971 as The Crazy World of Marty Feldman. The songs on his second album were written by Denis King, John Junkin and Bill Solly (a writer for Max Bygraves and The Two Ronnies). This was later released as a CD in 2007.