On this past Friday, as Moviedozer Dailies was being updated with a new post, late word came that screenwriter and television show creator Larry Gelbart had passed away at the age of 81. Well known for his landmark work in developing the long running break-through TV comedy M.A.S.H., Mr. Gelbart also had a unique history in creating enduring screen comedies that would be defined by both magnificent casts and legendary directors.
To give just a sense of Mr. Gelbart's contribution to cinematic history, consider the names attached to some of our favorite movies of all time, just a sampling of an extraordinary resumé.
The Thrill it All from 1963 is a classic in the series of movies starring James Garner and Doris Day. The film was directed by Norman Jewison and Mr. Gelbart shares his story credit with none other than Carl Reiner, who also wrote the screenplay.
In 1966, Mr. Gelbart's writing credits include Not with My Wife You Don't which starred Tony Curtis, Carroll O'Connor and George C. Scott with direction by legendary writer/director Norman Panama, and the film adaptation of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a writing collaboration that included Mr. Gelbart's work on the book from the Broadway show. That film was also directed by a legendary talent, Richard Lester (who's many credits include both Beatles films, A Hard Day's Night and Help) and included the all star comedy cast of Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Buster Keaton and Jack Gifford along with the singing talents of a very young Michael Crawford.
The tradition of great actors under the direction of legendary directors highlighted an extraordinary amount of Larry Gelbart's subsequent writing projects. Oh God from 1977 cast George Burns and John Denver under the direction of Carl Reiner. 1980's Rough Cut teamed actors Burt Reynolds, Leslie-Anne Down and David Niven with director Don Siegel (who earlier had directed a large part of Clint Eastwood's best work including Dirty Harry and Play Misty for Me). In 1981, there was Neighbors, casting John Belushi and Dan Akroyd with director John G. Alvidsen and in '84, Blame It On Rio with Michael Caine and Joseph Bologna (and a very young Demi Moore), directed by Stanley Donen. Most memorable, from 1982, an unforgettable cast lead by Dustin Hoffman in one of director Sydney Pollack's gems, Tootsie.
Larry Gelbart was a writer's writer in every sense. The caliber of talent who brought his words to life on movie screens and televisions over five decades is a fitting testimony to his accomplishments and to his legacy.
Unfortunately, more sad news broke in the movie business today with the announced passing of actor Patrick Swayze. Mr. Swayze succumbed to a long and well publicized struggle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
Mr. Swayze has also left an enduring list of memorable screen performances. Among our very favorites are 1984's Red Dawn with Jennifer Grey, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson and C. Thomas Howell, Point Break, with Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey (1991) and two of his most beloved films and bona fide blockbusters, 1987's Dirty Dancing where he ignited screens with Red Dawn co-star Jennifer Grey, and Ghost, the brilliantly conceived supernatural love story co-starring Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, released in the summer of 1990 and earning more than a half billion dollars worldwide.
Our warmest wishes to the friends and families of both Mr. Gelbart and Mr. Swayze and to movie fans who, like us, will find some time over the coming weeks to watch and relive a little of the legacy each has left behind.
Photo of Larry Gelbart courtesy of mptvimages.com.