Marty Feldman

Active - 1969 - 1984  |   Born - Jul 8, 1933   |   Died - Dec 2, 1982   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Wild-haired, pop-eyed British comedian Marty Feldman dropped out of school at 15 in hopes of becoming a jazz trumpeter. Instead he found steady work as a radio comedy writer, first for the popular BBC weekly Educating Archie (which in the tradition of Edgar Bergen starred a ventriloquist and his dummy), and most famously for Kenneth Horne's Round the Horne, which ran from 1965 to 1969. Round the Horne would become something of a cult favorite when it was rebroadcast on American public radio in the 1970s to capitalize on Feldman's latter-day fame. Toiling away on many of Britain's best satirical TV and radio series of the 1960s, Feldman avoided the cameras, feeling that he was a bit too grotesque-looking for public consumption. Once he did start acting as well as writing, the public loved him and begged for more. His biggest British TV break was The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, in which he appeared in lightning-paced sketches (often artificially sped up, "Benny Hill" style) with some of the best English comedy talent available, most notably the great Spike Milligan. Feldman was introduced to American TV audiences when he co-starred on Dean Martin Presents the Golddiggers in London, the 1970 summer replacement for The Dean Martin Show (an Americanized Marty Feldman Comedy Machine would be broadcast briefly two years later).

Having made his film debut in The Bed Sitting Room (1969), Feldman became a U.S. movie favorite with his role as Igor, Gene Wilder's bemused hunchbacked assistant (whose hump switched shoulders from scene to scene), in director Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein (1973). Feldman later co-starred with Brooks and Dom DeLuise as a Ritz Brothers-like team of movie producers in Silent Movie (1975); his manic tango with Anne Bancroft, wherein the actress deftly imitated Feldman's cross-eyed squint, was the highlight of the film. In 1977, Feldman followed the footsteps of fellow Mel Brooks alumnus Gene Wilder by directing as well as starring in The Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977), an uneven but hilarious spoof in which Feldman cast himself as the twin brother of Michael York! A second directorial effort, the organized-religion takeoff In God We Trust (1979), was such a disaster that Feldman was obliged to confine himself to acting assignments for the rest of his career. While filming the all-star "comedy salad" Yellowbeard in Mexico City, Feldman died suddenly of heart failure. He is buried at Hollywood's Forest Lawn Cemetery in close proximity to the grave of his lifelong idol, Buster Keaton.

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