Marty Feldman – Six Degrees of Separation (Documentary)58:20

  • 431
Published on August 30, 2016

Marty Feldman

VIDEO of  Marty Feldman – Six Degrees of Separation (Documentary)

This article is about the actor. For the football player, see Marty Feldman (American football).
Marty Feldman
Marty Feldman.png
Feldman in 1969
Born Martin Alan Feldman
8 July 1934
London, England
Died 2 December 1982 (aged 48)
Mexico City, Mexico
Cause of death Heart attack
Occupation Actor, comedian
Spouse(s) Lauretta Sullivan
(m. 1959–82, his death)

Martin Alan “Marty” Feldman (8 July 1934[1] – 2 December 1982) was a British comedy writer, comedian, and actor, easily identified by his bulbous and crooked eyes. He starred in several British television comedy series, including At Last the 1948 Show and Marty, the latter of which won two BAFTA awards. He was the first Saturn Awardwinner for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Young Frankenstein.

Early life[edit]

Feldman was born on 8 July 1934 in the East End of London, the son of Jewish immigrants from Kiev, Ukraine, Cecilia (née Crook) and Myer Feldman, a gown manufacturer.[2][3] He recalled his childhood as “solitary”.[4]

A BBC documentary explained that a botched operation for his Graves’ disease resulted in his eyes being more protruded and misaligned (strabismus).[4] Leaving school at 15, he worked at the Dreamland funfair in Margate,[4] but had dreams of a career as a jazz trumpeter, and performed in the first group in which tenor saxophonist Tubby Hayes was a member.[5] Feldman joked that he was “the world’s worst trumpet player.”[5] By the age of 20, though, he had decided to pursue a career as a comedian.

Early career[edit]

Although his early performing career was undistinguished, he became part of a comedy act, Morris, Marty and Mitch, who made their first television appearance on a BBC series called Showcase in April 1955.[1] Later in the decade, Feldman worked on the scripts of Educating Archie, in both its radio and television incarnations with Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe.

In 1954, Feldman first met Barry Took, while they were both working as performers, and with Took he eventually formed an enduring writing partnership which lasted until 1974.[1] They wrote a few episodes of The Army Game (1960) and the bulk of Bootsie and Snudge (1960–62), both situation comedies made by Granada Television for the ITV network. For BBC radio they wrote Round the Horne (1964–67), their best-remembered comedy series, which starred Kenneth Horne and Kenneth Williams.[4] (The last series of Round the Horne in 1968 was written by other hands.) This work placed Feldman and Took “in the front rank of comedy writers” according to Denis Norden.[4]

Feldman became the chief writer and script editor on The Frost Report (1966–67). He co-wrote the much shown “Class” sketch with John Law, in which John 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).[4]

The television sketch comedy series At Last the 1948 Show raised Feldman’s profile as a performer. The other three participants (future Pythons, Graham Chapman and John Cleese, and future Goody, Tim Brooke-Taylor) needed a fourth cast member and had Feldman in mind.[4] 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. His character in At Last the 1948 Show seems often to be called Mr Pest, according to John Cleese.[6] Feldman was co-author, along with Cleese, Chapman, and Brooke-Taylor of the “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch, which was written for At Last the 1948 Show.[4]

Feldman was given his own series on the BBC called Marty (1968);[4] it featured Brooke-Taylor, John Junkin, and Roland MacLeod, with Cleese as one of the writers.[4] 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)

After 1970[edit]

Promotional photo for Marty Feldman’s Comedy Machine.

In 1971, Feldman gave evidence in favour of the defendants in the Oz trial.[4] He would not swear on the Bible, choosing to affirm.[4] Throughout his testimony, he was disrespectful to the judge after it was implied that he had no religion for not being Christian.[4] By this time, The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (1971–72) was in preparation, a TV series co-produced by Associated Television (ATV) and the American Broadcasting Company which was produced at ATV’s Elstree Studios, near London. This show lasted for one series.

In 1974, Dennis Main Wilson produced a short BBC sketch series for Feldman 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 Every Home Should Have One (1970).[4] Feldman spent time in Soho jazz clubs, as he found a parallel between “riffing” in a comedy partnership and the improvisation of jazz.[4]

On film, in Mel BrooksYoung Frankenstein (1974), he was Igor (pronounced “EYE-gore” – a comic response to Wilder’s claim that “it’s pronounced FRONK-EN-SHTEEN”). Many lines in Young Frankenstein were improvised. Gene Wilder says he had Feldman in mind when he wrote the part.[4] At one point, Dr Frankenstein (Wilder) scolds Igor with the phrase, “Damn your eyes!” Feldman turns to the camera, points to his misaligned eyes with a grin and says, “Too late!” Feldman’s performances on American television included The Dean Martin Show.

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. He appeared in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother and 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, especially Cookie Monster with whom he shared a playful cameo comparing their eyes side by side.

During the course of his career, Feldman recorded one LP, I Feel a Song Going Off (1969), re-released as The Crazy World of Marty Feldman. The songs were written by Denis King, John Junkin, and Bill Solly (a writer for Max Bygraves and The Two Ronnies).[7] It was re-released as a CD in 2007.

Personal life[edit]

Feldman was married to Lauretta Sullivan (29 September 1935 – 12 March 2010) from January 1959 until his death in 1982.[8] She died, aged 74, in Studio City, Los Angeles.[9] Feldman’s peers have reported, in a number of biographies, that he was highly attractive to women in spite of his unconventional facial appearance.[10]

His younger sister, Pamela,[3] who no longer uses her family name, lives in the Tereken district of the Belgian town of Sint-Niklaas.[citation needed]


Feldman died from a heart attack in a hotel room in Mexico City on 2 December 1982 at age 48, during the making of the film Yellowbeard. On the DVD commentary of Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks cites factors that may have contributed to Feldman’s death: “He smoked sometimes half-a-carton (5 packs) of cigarettes daily, drank copious amounts of black coffee, and ate a diet rich in eggs and dairy products”.

Feldman’s gravestone in Forest Lawn Memorial Park

He is buried in Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery near his idol, Buster Keaton, in the Garden of Heritage.[4]


Television series[edit]

Radio series[edit]


  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c Oliver, John. “Feldman, Marty (1934–1982)”. BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  2. Jump up^ “MOVIE MEMORY Marty Feldman 1977”. 4 August 2002. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
  3. ^ Jump up to:a b Barry Took (September 2004). Feldman, Martin Alan [Marty] (1934–1982), comedian and scriptwriter. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8.
  4. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Marty Feldman: Six Degrees of Separation. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  5. ^ Jump up to:a b Martin Chilton “Marty Feldman – The Biography Of A Comedy Legend by Robert Ross: review”, Daily Telegraph, 17 November 2011
  6. Jump up^ BBC Radio 2 programme East End Boys, 2014
  7. Jump up^ “Kettering Magazine Issue #2”. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
  8. Jump up^ “Marty Feldman”. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  9. Jump up^ Los Angeles Times, 15 April 2010
  10. Jump up^ Robert Ross (25 October 2011). Marty Feldman: The Biography of a Comedy Legend. Titan Books. pp. 252–. ISBN 978-0-85768-602-2.

Further reading[edit]

  • Roger Wilmut From Fringe to Flying Circus—Celebrating a Unique Generation of Comedy 1960–1980, Eyre Methuen, 1980, ISBN 978-0-413-46950-2

External links[edit]

Sharing is caring!

Enjoyed this video?
"No Thanks. Please Close This Box!"