Paul Mazursky

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Paul Mazursky
Paul Mazursky.jpg
Mazursky at 43rd KVIFF, 2008
Born Irwin Mazursky
(1930-04-25) April 25, 1930 (age 84)
Brooklyn, New York
Occupation film director, screenplay writer, actor
Years active 1953–present
Spouse(s) Betsy (Purdy) Mazursky (?–present)

Paul Mazursky (born April 25, 1930) is an American film director, screenwriter, and actor. Acclaimed for his dramatic comedies, he has been nominated for five Academy Awards: three times for Best Original Screenplay, once for Best Adapted Screenplay, and once for Best Picture for An Unmarried Woman (1978). Other notable films written and directed by Mazursky include Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), Harry and Tonto (1974), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), and Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986).

Personal life[edit]

He was born Irwin Mazursky in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jean (née Gerson), a piano player for dance classes, and David Mazursky, a laborer.[1] Mazursky was born to a Jewish family; his grandfather was an immigrant from Ukraine.[2] He graduated from Brooklyn College in 1951. Mazursky is an atheist.[3]

Mazursky is married to Betsy (Purdy) Mazursky.[4]



Mazursky made his film debut as an actor in Stanley Kubrick's first feature, Fear and Desire, in which he changed his first name to Paul, and later appeared as a juvenile delinquent in the 1955 film The Blackboard Jungle. His acting career has continued for several decades, starting with television work in episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Rifleman.

In addition to appearing in most of his own films, he has played supporting roles in A Star Is Born (1976), History of the World Part I (1981), Into the Night (1985), Punchline (1988), Man Trouble (1992), Carlito's Way (1993), Love Affair (1994), 2 Days in the Valley (1996), Miami Rhapsody (1995), and Crazy in Alabama (1999). He also performed the voice of the Psychologist in Antz (1998).

In recent years, Mazursky had a small part as "Sunshine" the poker dealer in The Sopranos. He also appeared in five episodes of season 4 of Curb Your Enthusiasm as Mel Brooks' associate Norm, a role that he later reprised in a season 7 episode.

Writing and directing[edit]

Soon after starting his acting career, Mazursky became a writer and worked on The Danny Kaye Show in 1963. In 1965, he collaborated with Larry Tucker in crafting the script of the original pilot of The Monkees television series, in which they both also appeared in cameos.

Mazursky's debut as a film screenplay writer was the Peter Sellers comedy I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968). The following year he directed his first film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (produced and written by Mazursky and Larry Tucker), which proved to be a major critical and commercial success. The film was the fifth highest grossing of the year and earned Mazursky his first Oscar nomination.

His career behind the camera continued for the next two decades as he wrote and directed a prolific string of quirky, dramatic and critically popular films. His most successful films were contemporary dramatic comedies and include the Academy Award-winning Harry and Tonto (1974), the Best Picture-nominated An Unmarried Woman (1978), and the popular Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986). In light of his comedies that tackled a number of modern social subjects, the Hollywood Reporter has stated that "from the late '60s through the '80s, [he] seemed to channel the zeitgeist..."[5] and Variety has stated that "his oeuvre smacks of cultural significance."[6]

Other films made by Mazursky during this time include Alex in Wonderland (1970), Blume in Love (1973), the autobiographical Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976), Willie & Phil (1980), Tempest (1982), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Moon Over Parador (1988), Enemies, a Love Story (1989) and Scenes from a Mall (1991).

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert was a particular fan of Mazursky's giving six of his films the optimal four stars in his reviews.[7] In 1986, Ebert stated that "Mazursky has a way of making comedies that are more intelligent and relevant than most of the serious films around."[8]

Following his filmmaking satire The Pickle (1993), which is his last writing credit to date, Mazursky has worked only sporadically as a director on such films as Faithful (1996), Winchell (1998), Coast to Coast (2003) and most recently the documentary Yippee (2006).

Other work[edit]

In his autobiography "Show Me the Magic" (1999), Mazursky recounts his experiences in filmmaking and with several well-known screen personalities including Peter Sellers.

Mazursky has appeared as himself in a number of documentaries on film, including A Decade Under the Influence, New York at the Movies and Screenwriters: Words Into Image. In Moon Over Parador, with the Rio Opera House available for only three days of shooting, Mazursky cast himself as a dictator's mother when Judith Malina was unavailable, playing the character in drag.

Since 2011, Mazursky has served as a film critic for Vanity Fair.[9]


Mazursky has received five Academy Award nominations, four for his screenplay writing on Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), Harry and Tonto (1974), An Unmarried Woman (1978) and Enemies, a Love Story (1989), and once as producer of An Unmarried Woman (nominated for Best Picture). In 2000, he was the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award.

On December 13, 2013, Mazursky was awarded with the 2,515th star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in front of Musso & Frank Grill.[10]

On February 1, 2014, at the WGA Awards, Mazursky received the Screen Laurel Award, which is the lifetime achievement award of the Writers Guild of America. Comedian, filmmaker and close friend Mel Brooks presented the award.


As writer and director[edit]

As writer only[edit]

As director only[edit]

Selected acting credits[edit]


  1. ^ Paul Mazursky Biography (1930-)
  2. ^ Farber, Stephen (2006-12-31). "A Night in Hollywood, a Day in Ukraine". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  3. ^ Farber, Stephen (2006-12-31). "A Night in Hollywood, a Day in Ukraine". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-31. "I’ve always felt very Jewish but very ambivalent about being Jewish. I’m an atheist." 
  4. ^,,20093869,00.html
  5. ^ "Paul Mazursky: How the WGA Awards Honoree Captured the Culture". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 19, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Mazursky and Actors: A Love Story". Variety. Retrieved February 19, 2014. 
  7. ^ Roger Ebert on Mazursky
  8. ^ Roger Ebert Review of Down and Out in Beverly Hills]
  9. ^ Paul Mazursky in Vanity Fair
  10. ^ Ruymen, Jim. "Paul Mazursky honored with star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles". United Press International. 

External links[edit]