Marty Feldman

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Marty Feldman
Marty Feldman.png
Feldman in 1969
Martin Alan Feldman

(1934-07-08)8 July 1934
London, England
Died2 December 1982(1982-12-02) (aged 48)
Mexico City, Mexico
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • comedy writer
Years active1948–1982
Lauretta Sullivan
(m. 1959)
AwardsBAFTAs: Best Light Entertainment Performance
1968 Marty
Best Writer
1968 Marty

Martin Alan Feldman (8 July 1934[1] – 2 December 1982) was a British actor, comedian and comedy writer. He was known for his prominent, misaligned eyes.[2][3][4] He initially gained prominence as a writer with Barry Took on the ITV sitcom Bootsie and Snudge and the BBC Radio comedy programme Round the Horne. He became known as a performer on At Last the 1948 Show (co-writing the "Four Yorkshiremen sketch" which Monty Python would perform) and Marty, the latter of which won Feldman two British Academy Television Awards including Best Entertainment Performance in 1969.

Feldman went on to appear in films such as The Bed Sitting Room and Every Home Should Have One, the latter of which was one of the most popular comedies at the British box office in 1970.[5] In 1971, he starred in the comedy-variety sketch series The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine. In 1974, he appeared as Igor in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein for which he received the first Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor. He died in 1982 of a heart attack while filming Yellowbeard in Mexico City.[6]

Early life[edit]

Feldman was born on 8 July 1934 in East London, the son of Cecilia (née Crook) and Myer Feldman, a gown manufacturer,[7] who was a Jewish immigrant from Kyiv, Ukraine. He recalled his childhood as "solitary" especially during his years of evacuation to the countryside during the Second World War.[8]

Feldman suffered from thyroid disease and developed Graves' ophthalmopathy, causing his eyes to protrude and become misaligned. A childhood injury, a car crash, a boating accident, and reconstructive eye surgery may also have contributed to his appearance.[2][4][8][9] He later described his appearance as a factor in his career success: "If I aspired to be Robert Redford, I'd have my eyes straightened and my nose fixed and end up like every other lousy actor, with two lines on Kojak. But this way I'm a novelty."[10]


Early career[edit]

Leaving school at 15, Feldman worked at the Dreamland funfair in Margate,[8] 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.[11] Feldman joked that he was "the world's worst trumpet player."[11] By the age of 20, he had decided to pursue a career as a comedian.

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

In 1954, Feldman met Barry Took while both were 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.[8] (The last series of Round the Horne, in 1968, was written by others.) This work placed Feldman and Took 'in the front rank of comedy writers', according to Denis Norden.[8]

Feldman then became the chief writer and script editor on The Frost Report (1966–67). With John Law, he co-wrote the much-shown "Class" sketch, 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).[8]


The television sketch comedy series At Last the 1948 Show raised Feldman's profile as a performer. The other three participants (future Monty Python members Graham Chapman and John Cleese; and future star of The Goodies Tim Brooke-Taylor) needed a fourth cast member, and had Feldman in mind.[8] In a sketch broadcast on 1 March 1967, Feldman's character harassed a patient shop assistant (played by Cleese) regarding a series of fictitious books, achieving success with Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quantity Surveying. His character in At Last the 1948 Show was often called Mr. Pest, according to Cleese.[12] Feldman was co-author - along with Chapman, Cleese and Brooke-Taylor - of the sketch "Four Yorkshiremen", which was written for At Last the 1948 Show, later adapted by Monty Python for their stage performances.[8]

Feldman was given his own series on the BBC, Marty, in 1968;[8] it featured Brooke-Taylor, John Junkin and Roland MacLeod, with Cleese as one of the writers.[8] Feldman won two BAFTA awards. The second series in 1969 was retitled It's Marty (this title being retained for the DVD release of the series).

Marty proved popular enough with an international audience (the first series winning the Golden Rose Award at Montreux) to launch a film career. Feldman's first feature film role was in Every Home Should Have One (1970).[8]

After 1970[edit]

Promotional photo for The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, 1972

The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (1971–72) was a television series co-produced by Associated Television (ATV) in the UK and the American Broadcasting Company, produced at ATV's Elstree Studios, near London. This vehicle lasted for just one series.[13]

In 1974, Dennis Main Wilson produced a short BBC sketch series for Feldman titled Marty Back Together Again — a reference to reports about the star's health — but it never captured the impact of the earlier series.

On film, in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein (1974), Feldman played Igor (pronounced "EYE-gore", a comic response to Gene Wilder's claim that 'it's pronounced FRONK-EN-SCHTEEN'). Many lines in Young Frankenstein were improvised. Wilder says he had Feldman in mind when he wrote the part.[8]

Feldman's performances on American television included The Dean Martin Show.

In 1976, Feldman ventured into Italian cinema, starring with Barbara Bouchet in the sex comedy 40 Gradi All'Ombra del Lenzuolo (Sex with a Smile). He later 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 also guest-starred in "Arabian Nights", an episode of The Muppet Show in which he was teamed up with several Sesame Street characters, especially Cookie Monster, with whom he shared a playful cameo comparing their eyes side by side.

Recording career[edit]

During the course of his career, Feldman recorded two albums, Marty (1968) and I Feel a Song Going Off (1969), re-released in 1971 as The Crazy World of Marty Feldman. The songs on his second album were written by Denis King, John Junkin and Bill Solly (a writer for Max Bygraves and The Two Ronnies).[14] It was later released as a CD in 2007.

Personal life[edit]

Feldman was married to Lauretta Sullivan from January 1959 until his death in 1982. She died, aged 74, in 2010 in Studio City, Los Angeles.[15] Feldman's peers have reported, in a number of biographies, that he was highly attractive to women in spite of his unconventional facial appearance.[16]

He spent time in jazz clubs, as he found a parallel between 'riffing' in a comedy partnership and the improvisation of jazz.[8][17]

Politically, Feldman was described as an "avowed socialist"[18] telling one interviewer, "I'm a socialist by conviction, if not by lifestyle"[19] and another, "I'm a socialist from way back, but in order to pay my back taxes I have to live in America to earn enough money to pay the back tax I owe to the socialist government that I voted in."[8] He later joked that when a Labour cabinet minister said to him "Of course you vote Labour," Feldman replied, "No, I don't, because I'm a socialist!"[20] Nevertheless, he generally did not seriously discuss politics in public. An exception was when during a promotional tour for The Last Remake of Beau Geste, he denounced the campaign led by Anita Bryant against homosexuality.[21]

In 1971, Feldman gave evidence in favour of the defendants in the obscenity trial for Oz magazine.[8] He would not swear on the Bible, choosing instead to affirm.[8] Throughout his testimony, he mocked the judge after it was implied that Feldman had no religion because he was not Christian.[8]

Feldman was an lacto-ovo vegetarian. In a 1979 interview, when asked how long he had practised this, he stated: "I was about five and a half or six when I converted; I'm forty-three now, so it's been approximately thirty-eight years."[22]

Feldman wrote an autobiography, Eye Marty: the newly discovered autobiography of a comic genius, which was brought to light following Lauretta's death. It was published in 2012 with a foreword by Eric Idle.[23]


Feldman died of a heart attack[10] in a hotel room in Mexico City on 2 December 1982 at age 48[6] during the making of the film Yellowbeard; the film was subsequently dedicated to him. According to an editor's note in Feldman's posthumously published autobiography, Graham Chapman was with him at the time of his death.[24]

Feldman's gravestone in Forest Lawn Memorial Park

Feldman is buried in the Garden of Heritage at Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery, California, near his idol, Buster Keaton.[8]



Year Title Role Notes
1969 The Bed Sitting Room Nurse Arthur
1970 Every Home Should Have One Teddy Brown
1971 The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins guest appearance segment "Sloth"
1974 Young Frankenstein Igor
1975 The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother Sgt. Orville Stanley Sacker
Closed Up-Tight Cat Burglar
1976 40 gradi all'ombra del lenzuolo (Sex With a Smile) Alex, the "Bodyguard" male (segment "La Guardia del Corpo")
Silent Movie Marty Eggs
1977 The Last Remake of Beau Geste Dagobert 'Digby' Geste

Also director

1980 In God We Tru$t Brother Ambrose Also director
1982 Slapstick of Another Kind Sylvester
1983 Yellowbeard Gilbert (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1967 At Last the 1948 Show various characters
1968–69 Marty / It's Marty
1970 Marty Amok! television special
1971 Marty Abroad television special
1971–72 The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine himself
1971–73 The Flip Wilson Show
1972 The Marty Feldman Show various television movie
1974 Marty Back Together Again various characters
1981 The Muppet Show himself television series - one episode, "Arabian Nights"

Radio series[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Oliver, John. "Feldman, Marty (1934–1982)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Marty Feldman: "Damn your eyes!"". Archived from the original on 6 July 2018. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  3. ^ Doonan, Simon (2 November 2009). "Marty Feldman: Dead Cool". Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  4. ^ a b Chilton, Martin (13 January 2016). "The mad world of Marty Feldman". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  5. ^ Harper, Sue (2011). British Film Culture in the 1970s: The Boundaries of Pleasure: The Boundaries of Pleasure. Edinburgh University Press. p. 269. ISBN 9780748654260.
  6. ^ a b "Marty Feldman, Film Comic, Victim Of Heart Attack At 48". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 November 2021. Marty Feldman, the wild-eyed British comedian [...] died Thursday in his hotel room in Mexico City.
  7. ^ Took, Barry (September 2004). Feldman, Martin Alan [Marty] (1934–1982), comedian and scriptwriter. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Marty Feldman: Six Degrees of Separation". BBC Two. 13 August 2011. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  9. ^ "The Unorthodox Comedian - The Official Marty Feldman website!". 4 January 2016. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  10. ^ a b Lawson, Carol (4 December 1982). "Marty Feldman, Film Comic, Victim of Heart Attack at 48". The New York Times.
  11. ^ a b Chilton, Martin (17 November 2011). "Marty Feldman – The Biography Of A Comedy Legend by Robert Ross: review". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 19 November 2015.
  12. ^ BBC Radio 2 programme East End Boys, 2014
  13. ^ "Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (The): The Complete Series". Network ON AIR. 1 November 2015. Archived from the original on 4 May 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Marty - The Whowrotewhat Wotnot (series 1)". The Kettering (4). Archived from the original on 10 August 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
  15. ^ "Lauretta Sullivan Feldman". Los Angeles Times. 15 April 2010.
  16. ^ Ross, Robert (25 October 2011). Marty Feldman: The Biography of a Comedy Legend. Titan Books. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-85768-602-2.[need quotation to verify]
  17. ^ Feldman, Marty (2016). eyE Marty: The Official Autobiography of Marty Feldman. Rare Bird Books.
  18. ^ Mike Kuhlenbeck. “Marty Fieldman versus the suits", Jewish Currents, June 29, 2016
  19. ^ "Feldman has 'ideal equipment'", The Pittsburgh Press, January 11, 1976
  20. ^ Marty Feldman: The Biography of a Comedy Legend by Robert Ross, chapter 15, footnote 17
  21. ^ Mike Kuhlenbeck. "Marty Feldman versus the Suits", Jewish Currents, 29 June 2016
  22. ^ Berry, Rynn (1979). "Marty Feldman". The Vegetarians. Brookline, MA: Autumn Press. p. 30. ISBN 0-394-73633-8.
  23. ^ Feldman, Marty (2016). eyE Marty: The Official Autobiography of Marty Feldman. Rare Bird Books.
  24. ^ Feldman, Marty (2012). eyE Marty: The Official Autobiography of Marty Feldman. Rare Bird Books. p. 7.

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]