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R.I.P. Larry Gelbart

Posted by Joanna Weiss  September 11, 2009 08:29 PM

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Larry Gelbart, the acclaimed comedy writer who developed the TV version of "M*A*S*H," died Friday morning. He was 81.

Gelbart got his break when his father, a barber in Los Angeles, boasted about his funny 16-year-old son to one of his clients, Danny Thomas. Gelbart went on to write for Bob Hope and Red Buttons, and later joined the staff of "Caesar's Hour." But he was best known for converting "M*A*S*H" from a movie to a television series, creating a dark comedy that managed to explore the absurdity of war, and using his own sensibility as a model for Alan Alda's character, Hawkeye Pierce.

Gelbart also co-wrote the book to the Broadway musical "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for the movie "Tootsie." His screenplay for the film "Oh, God" was also nominated for an Oscar.

Some of the best-known names in comedy offered tributes to the Los Angeles Times today. Mel Brooks called him "among the very best comedy writers ever produced in America," Woody Allen called him "the best comedy writer that I ever knew and one of the best guys," and Carl Reiner called him "one of the most gifted satirists who ever lived."

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1 comments so far...
  1. All that is true, but he couldn't write for women. Women were shadow figures in his work - sex symbols or sad sacks. He never shook that borscht-belt tradition which strongly lurked in his work.

    Posted by reindeergirl September 12, 09 09:48 PM

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