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Marty Feldman
Born Martin Alan Feldman
8 July 1934(1934-07-08)
London, England
Died 2 December 1982 (aged 49)
Mexico City, Mexico
Spouse(s) Lauretta Sullivan (1959-1982)

Martin Alan "Marty" Feldman (8 July 1934[1] – 2 December 1982) was an English comedy writer, comedian and actor who starred in a series of British television comedy shows, including At Last the 1948 Show, and Marty which won two BAFTA awards. He also starred in several films including Young Frankenstein. His face was notable for his bulging eyes, a condition caused by Graves' disease.


Early life

Feldman was born in the East End of London, the son of Jewish immigrants from Kiev.[2] He recalled his childhood as "solitary".[3] Leaving school at 15, he worked at the Dreamland fun fair in Margate.[3] By the age of 20, he had decided to pursue a career as a comedian.


In 1954, Feldman formed a writing partnership with Barry Took.[3] For British television, they wrote situation comedies such as The Army Game, Bootsie and Snudge, and the BBC radio show Round the Horne, which starred Kenneth Horne and Kenneth Williams.[3] This put Feldman and Took "in the front rank of comedy writers" (Denis Norden).[3]

The television sketch comedy series At Last the 1948 Show featured Feldman's first screen performances.[3] The other three performers. including Tim Brooke-Taylor and John Cleese, needed a fourth and had Feldman in mind.[3] In one sketch on 1 March 1967, Feldman's character harassed a patient shop assistant (played by Cleese) for a series of fictitious books, achieving success with Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quantity Surveying. The sketch was revived as part of the Monty Python stage show and on Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album (both without Feldman).

Feldman was co-author, along with Cleese, Graham Chapman and Brooke-Taylor of the "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch, which was also written for At Last the 1948 Show.[3] The "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch was performed during Amnesty International concerts (by members of Monty Python — once including Rowan Atkinson in place of Python member Eric Idle), as well as during Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl and other Monty Python shows and recordings. This association has led to the common misconception that the "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch was a Python sketch, with the origin and co-authorship by non-Python writers Marty Feldman and Tim Brooke-Taylor overlooked or forgotten.[citation needed] Feldman was also script editor on The Frost Report with future members of Monty Python.[3] He wrote the "Class" sketch, in which Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett faced the audience, with their descending order of height suggesting their relative social status as upper class (Cleese), middle class (Barker) and working class (Corbett).[3]

Following his At Last the 1948 Show, Feldman was given his own series on the BBC called Marty (1968),[3]; it featured Brooke-Taylor, John Junkin and Roland MacLeod, with Cleese as one of the writers.[3] Feldman won two BAFTA awards. The second series in 1969 was renamed It's Marty (the second title being retained for the DVD of the show); in 1971 he was signed to a series co-produced by ATV and ABC TV entitled The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, this show lasted one season. In 1974, Dennis Main Wilson (producer for the UK television show Till Death Us Do Part) produced a short sketch series for Feldman on the BBC entitled Marty Back Together Again — a reference to reports about the star's health. But this never captured the impact of the earlier series. The Marty series proved popular enough with an international audience (the first series won the Golden Rose Award at Montreux) to launch a film career. His first feature role was in 1970s Every Home Should Have One.[3]

Feldman spent time in Soho jazz clubs.[3] He found a parallel between "riffing" in a comedy partnership and the improvisation of jazz.[3]

In 1971 Feldman gave evidence in favour of defendants at the Oz trial.[3] He would not swear on The Bible, choosing to "affirm".[3] Throughout his testimony he was disrespectful to the judge.[3]

Feldman's performances on American television included The Dean Martin Show and Marty Feldman's Comedy Machine. On film, he was Igor (pronounced "EYE-gore") in Young Frankenstein where many lines were improvised. Gene Wilder says he had Feldman in mind when he wrote the part.[3] At one point, Dr Frankenstein (Wilder) scolds Igor with the phrase "Damn your eyes!" Feldman turns to the camera, points to his misaligned eyes, grins and says, "Too late!"

Feldman met American comedy writer Alan Spencer on the set of Young Frankenstein when Spencer was a teenager. Spencer was a fan of Feldman as a writer and performer. Feldman offered Spencer guidance that led him to create the television show Sledge Hammer!.[4]

He also made one LP, I Feel a Song Going Off (1969), re-released as The Crazy World of Marty Feldman. The songs were written by Dennis King, John Junkin and Bill Solly (a writer for Max Bygraves and The Two Ronnies).[5] It was re-released as a CD in 2007.

In 1976, Feldman ventured into Italian cinema, starring with Barbara Bouchet in 40 gradi all'ombra del lenzuolo, (Sex with a Smile), a sex comedy.

Feldman appeared in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother and Mel Brooks' Silent Movie, as well as directing and starring in The Last Remake of Beau Geste. He guest-starred in the "Arabian Nights" episode of The Muppet Show with several Sesame Street characters.

Personal life

Feldman married Lauretta Sullivan in January 1959. She had proposed, since Feldman had not, though they had been dating for nine months. They remained married until his death in 1982.[6]

He had one younger sister, Pamela.[7]


Feldman died from a heart attack in a hotel room in Mexico City on 2 December 1982, during the making of the film Yellowbeard. Cartoonist Sergio Aragonés, who was filming nearby dressed for his role as an armed policeman, abruptly encountered Feldman while introducing himself, frightening Feldman and possibly induced his heart attack. Aragonés has recounted the story with the punchline "I killed Marty Feldman". The story was converted into a strip in Aragonés's issue of DC Comics' Solo.[8]

On the DVD commentary of Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks cites additional factors that may have contributed to Feldman's death: he smoked sometimes six packs of cigarettes daily, drank copious amounts of coffee, and ate a diet rich in eggs and dairy products. Michael Mileham, who made the behind-the-scenes movie Group Madness about the making of Yellowbeard, said he and Feldman swam to an island where a local was selling lobster and coconuts. Mileham and Feldman used the same knife on their lobsters. Mileham said he got shellfish poisoning the next day, and theorised that since Feldman used the same knife he also could have been poisoned. (It can take days to feel symptoms of food poisoning, which could have been a factor in Feldman's heart attack). The stress of altitude—2,300m (7,546 ft) where the air is thin—may also have been a factor.

He is buried in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery near his idol, Buster Keaton, in the Garden of Heritage.[3]

Feldman is referenced in the 1988 Italian horror movie A cena col vampiro (called Dinner with the Vampire in English).


Television series

  • At Last the 1948 Show (1967)
  • Marty (1968)
  • Marty Amok (1970)
  • Marty Abroad (1971)
  • The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (1971-1972)
  • The Marty Feldman Show (1972)
  • Marty Back Together Again (1974)
  • The Muppet Show (1981)

Further reading

  • From Fringe to Flying Circus—Celebrating a Unique Generation of Comedy 1960-1980 — Roger Wilmut, Eyre Methuen Ltd, 1980.


  1. ^ Marty Feldman biography — Screen Online, United Kingdom
  2. ^ "MOVIE MEMORY Marty Feldman 1977". 2002-08-04. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Marty Feldman: Six Degress of Separation, BBC FOUR
  4. ^ It's Good To Be The King: The Seriously Funny Life Of Mel Brooks by James Robert Parrish
  5. ^ "Kettering Magazine Issue #2". Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  6. ^ Marty Feldman at the NNDB website
  7. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  8. ^ "''I Killed Marty Feldman''; ''Solo'' #11, p.4-11, August 2006". 2007-02-19. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Marty Feldman (8 July 19342 December 1982) was an English writer, comedian and BAFTA award winning actor, notable for his bulging eyes.


  • Comedy, like sodomy, is an unnatural act.
    • The Times, June 9, 1969.
  • Sex is two plus two making five, rather than four. Sex is the X ingredient that you can't define, and it's that X ingredient between two people that make both a man and a woman good in bed. It's all relative. There are no rules.
    • Interviewed in Wendy Leigh Speaking Frankly (London: Muller, 1978) [1]
  • Hookers have to deliver on their promise... unlike politicians.
    • Marty Feldman - Six Degrees of Separation, BBC4.
  • I feel about Keaton the way an organist thinks of Bach.
    • Marty Feldman - Six Degrees of Separation, BBC4.
  • I carry Keaton's photo around with me to remind me what happened to him. If the Hollywood system can destroy him it can destroy me.
    • Marty Feldman - Six Degrees of Separation, BBC4.
  • When I quoted Bulwer Lytton's "The pen is mightier than the sword" to Marty Feldman he added reflectively, "Yes, and considerably easier to write with."


  • I won't eat anything that has intelligent life, but I'd gladly eat a network executive or a politician. [2]
  • Money can't buy poverty. [3]

External links

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