Larry Gelbart

Active - 1962 - 2005  |   Born - Feb 25, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois, United States  |   Died - Sep 11, 2009   |   Genres - Comedy, Comedy Drama

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Noted producer and screenwriter Larry Gelbart was best known for his television work, but he also penned the scripts for several humorous films. He started out as a radio comic and at age 16 began writing material for Danny Thomas on Fanny Brice's radio show. Before going to television in 1952, he also wrote for Eddie Cantor, Bob Hope, and Jack Parr. On television Gelbart got his start on the Red Buttons Show then went on to work with some of America's greatest comedy writers, including Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon and Woody Allen on Your Show of Shows. In 1962, Gelbart penned his first screenplay The Notorious Landlady, but his best-known screenplay from that era is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, on which he collaborated with Burt Shevelove. He also wrote the screenplay for Oh, God! (1977) and the smash hit Tootsie (1982). Gelbart was probably best known, however, as the producer and frequent writer for the long-running and highly distinguished comedy-drama M*A*S*H.

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Factsheet

  • Began his career while he was still in high school, as a writer for Danny Thomas's radio program.
  • In the early 1950s, moved to TV writing for Red Buttons, Pat Boone, Sid Caesar and others.
  • Cowrote the book for the 1962 Tony-winning musical-farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with Burt Shevelove.
  • Adapted Robert Altman's film M*A*S*H into an innovative and hugely successful TV series that ran for 11 seasons.
  • Created one of television's first dramedies, the short-lived United States, in 1980.
  • Was artist-in-residence at Northwestern University in 1984-85.
  • Won a 1990 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America as author of the book for the Tony-winning musical City of Angels.
  • Penned the 1998 memoir Laughing Matters: On Writing M*A*S*H, Tootsie, Oh, God!, and a Few Other Funny Things.