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Mike Myers thinks he was “a genius”, while John Cleese regards him as “a true cultural icon”. He was an architect of British comedy, paving the way for Monty Python, and then became a major Hollywood star, forever remembered as Igor in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. A writer, director, performer and true pioneer of his art, he died aged only 48.  His name was Marty Feldman Mike Myers thinks he was “a genius”, while John Cleese regards him as “a true cultural icon”. He was an architect of British comedy, paving the way for Monty Python, and then became a major Hollywood star, forever remembered as Igor in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. A writer, director, performer and true pioneer of his art, he died aged only 48.  His name was Marty Feldman, and here, at last, is the first ever biography. Acclaimed author Robert Ross has interviewed Marty’s friends and family, including his sister Pamela, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, and also draws from extensive, previously unpublished and often hilarious interviews with Marty himself, taped in preparation for the autobiography he never wrote.  No one before or since has had a career quite like Marty’s. Beginning in the dying days of variety theatre, he went from the behind the scenes scriptwriting triumphs of Round the Horne and The Frost Report to onscreen stardom in At Last the 1948 Show and his own hit series Marty. That led to transatlantic success, his work with Mel Brooks, and a five-picture deal to write and direct his own movies. From his youth as a tramp on the streets of London, to the height of his fame in America – where he encountered everyone from Orson Welles to Kermit the Frog, before his Hollywood dream became a nightmare – this is the fascinating story of a key figure in the history of comedy, fully told for the first time.


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Mike Myers thinks he was “a genius”, while John Cleese regards him as “a true cultural icon”. He was an architect of British comedy, paving the way for Monty Python, and then became a major Hollywood star, forever remembered as Igor in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. A writer, director, performer and true pioneer of his art, he died aged only 48.  His name was Marty Feldman Mike Myers thinks he was “a genius”, while John Cleese regards him as “a true cultural icon”. He was an architect of British comedy, paving the way for Monty Python, and then became a major Hollywood star, forever remembered as Igor in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. A writer, director, performer and true pioneer of his art, he died aged only 48.  His name was Marty Feldman, and here, at last, is the first ever biography. Acclaimed author Robert Ross has interviewed Marty’s friends and family, including his sister Pamela, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, and also draws from extensive, previously unpublished and often hilarious interviews with Marty himself, taped in preparation for the autobiography he never wrote.  No one before or since has had a career quite like Marty’s. Beginning in the dying days of variety theatre, he went from the behind the scenes scriptwriting triumphs of Round the Horne and The Frost Report to onscreen stardom in At Last the 1948 Show and his own hit series Marty. That led to transatlantic success, his work with Mel Brooks, and a five-picture deal to write and direct his own movies. From his youth as a tramp on the streets of London, to the height of his fame in America – where he encountered everyone from Orson Welles to Kermit the Frog, before his Hollywood dream became a nightmare – this is the fascinating story of a key figure in the history of comedy, fully told for the first time.

30 review for Marty Feldman: The Biography of a Comedy Legend

  1. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Zapata

    Of course I remember Marty Feldman as Igor ("No, it's pronounced EYE-gor!") in the movie Young Frankenstein. I also have fuzzy memories of seeing him on various shows on television before that. But I never knew much about him except that he was from England. This book introduced me to the real Marty Feldman: the street-wise kid who quit or was expelled from 13 schools before running away from home at age fifteen to live what was then known as a bohemian life in France. The jazz musician who knew Of course I remember Marty Feldman as Igor ("No, it's pronounced EYE-gor!") in the movie Young Frankenstein. I also have fuzzy memories of seeing him on various shows on television before that. But I never knew much about him except that he was from England. This book introduced me to the real Marty Feldman: the street-wise kid who quit or was expelled from 13 schools before running away from home at age fifteen to live what was then known as a bohemian life in France. The jazz musician who knew he could not play well but loved the lifestyle. The poet. The artist. The carnival sideshow actor. The professional book thief. (He stole books and took them to his boss, who paid him a percentage, then sold them. This is how Marty began to appreciate reading. He liked Rabelais, Cervantes, and Evelyn Waugh among others.) And the writer. Feldman became one of the most popular comedy writers in Great Britain, writing scripts for both radio and television for years, then beginning to find his place in front of the camera as well, until he eventually starred in his own show. He lived at a hysterically fast and unhealthy pace; and it was that pace (and 8 packs of cigarettes a day) that caused him to develop Graves' Disease, which resulted in what became his trademark...those bulging eyes. Like most comics, he felt as though he did not really belong, was not understood. He seemed to be a mixture of a gentle soul, anxious for love and attention, and an egotistic artiste. An alcoholic, a recreational drug user, a complex person trying to cope. This was Marty Feldman. It all caught up to him at age 48 when he died of a massive heart attack while filming the movie Yellowbeard. Feldman's life was fascinating, but I admit I skimmed through many of the chapters of this book. Anyone more familiar with British television of the 50's and 60's would not skim, but for me there were too many names dropped that meant nothing, and too much focus on contract negotiations and other aspects of the business side of Marty's world at that point. And while I learned details about the man, I never really felt that he came to life here, not the way subjects of other biographies usually do. I'm not sure just why that is; the author was sympathetic to Marty and certainly included plenty of information, but somehow the timing was off for me. I did manage to find this nifty youtube video of The Monster Sketch from Feldman's early days, and watching it brought him a bit more into focus. Maybe that is the secret to understanding Marty...we have to see him, not merely read about him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlPAV...

  2. 5 out of 5

    F.R.

    To be a good biographer, one has to be a critical friend. One has to acknowledge flaws, recognise that not everything the subject did had merit, be ready to challenge those set in stone stories the subject told about their life. Although not quite hagiography, Robert Ross’s biography of Marty Feldman is too fawning to be anything other than a big old fan letter to its subject. Yes, Marty Feldman was a very funny man, but I’m not convinced that he was the timeless legend this biography makes him To be a good biographer, one has to be a critical friend. One has to acknowledge flaws, recognise that not everything the subject did had merit, be ready to challenge those set in stone stories the subject told about their life. Although not quite hagiography, Robert Ross’s biography of Marty Feldman is too fawning to be anything other than a big old fan letter to its subject. Yes, Marty Feldman was a very funny man, but I’m not convinced that he was the timeless legend this biography makes him out to be. After ‘Young Frankenstein’ pretty much all his films (so pretty much all his work) was crap. Some flaws are acknowledged in this period at the dreg-end, but in a way that’s anxious to prove that Marty’s comedy genius is still visibly radiating from them. Okay, we get it, Mr Ross, you’re a massive fan, but please take a critical step back. Don’t praise absolutely everything, don’t try and force your view of Marty’s genius into the reader’s face, and please, please don’t believe every anecdote a comedian repeats on a chat show couch. That last one is particularly crucial, as the first chapters of this book tell the stories of Marty’s early life through well-worn anecdotes from the man himself – with no corroboration – in a way that suggests nothing more than Marty sat late at night in a TV show with Michael Parkinson or Russell Harty listening intentively. It’s not an approach that’s conducive to depth. Towards the end of his life, Feldman was involved in a screenplay about Buster Keaton’s desperate later years writing gags at MGM. As a comedian who was falling of fame himself, this was clearly a project which would have had resonance with him. And perhaps another biographer could have latched on to a detail like that and written a much better work – by acknowledging the brilliant moments and the great work, but zeroing in on how it all went wrong. A book about the scriptwriter’s scriptwriter who couldn’t really write anymore, and a screen clown who had lost his knack for ‘funny’. That would be a better biography, a more human biography. Not one determined to buttress its subject’s legend, while gliding over the missteps and mistakes.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Old Man Aries

    Marty Feldman è un attore che chiunque appartenga alla mia generazione avrà visto almeno una volta, tipicamente in quel capolavoro comico che è Frankenstein Jr.: oltre a questo, però, molti (me incluso) non saprebbero dire. Per questo motivo, oltre che per la mia smodata passione per quel film, quando in libreria ho incrociato la sua biografia ho colto al volo l'occasione, sperando di imparare qualcosa in più di quell'uomo tanto riconoscibile. Quindi diciamo che se il mio scopo fosse stato solo qu Marty Feldman è un attore che chiunque appartenga alla mia generazione avrà visto almeno una volta, tipicamente in quel capolavoro comico che è Frankenstein Jr.: oltre a questo, però, molti (me incluso) non saprebbero dire. Per questo motivo, oltre che per la mia smodata passione per quel film, quando in libreria ho incrociato la sua biografia ho colto al volo l'occasione, sperando di imparare qualcosa in più di quell'uomo tanto riconoscibile. Quindi diciamo che se il mio scopo fosse stato solo quello di avere nozioni in più sulla vita di un bravo attore, ecco, in tal caso il libro ha funzionato. Se invece l'interesse è quello di andare oltre i meri dati tecnici, di scoprire qualcosa di più coinvolgente dell'importo dettagliato di ogni contratto sottoscritto da Feldman, di capire meglio il personaggio magari senza sbadigliare o perdersi via con duemila note di documentazione, allora si inizia a fare un po' acqua. L'autore ha fatto ricerche. Tante ricerche. E ha deciso di far vedere al lettore quanto è stato bravo nel suo compitino, come qualunque ragazzino che ha studiato a memoria. Tanti, troppi dettagli sui contratti televisivi e radiofonici, dicevo, contrapposti a una scarsa capacità narrativa vera e propria: mancano le sequenze, ci sono salti temporali, non si capisce bene quando si svolgano certe situazioni e, se non fossero indicati gli anni in alcuni momenti, ci si troverebbe in un vero e proprio limbo narrativo. E non si approfondisce. Non che l'autore non ci provi, eh? E' solo che non gli viene proprio bene, quando si tratta di parlare della persona Feldman. Cerca di far empatizzare, cerca di mostrarne il lato umano, ma non ci riesce. Tutto troppo asettico, tutto troppo distante. Anche l'argomento della malattia che ne deformò il viso viene quasi solo accennato: eppure un qualcosa del genere ha sicuramente segnato pesantemente l'attore. Niente: in un capitolo ha ancora il suo viso di nascita, alla fine del capitolo si accenna alla malattia, in quello dopo si parla già dei suoi occhi peculiari. Sia chiaro, non è che si chiedano i dettagli morbosi, ma almeno qualche approfondimento su un evento tanto importante. Poi indubbiamente il libro non è da buttare: conoscere meglio un personaggio come Feldman è sempre interessante e se la bocciatura non è totale è solo grazie al soggetto. Peccato, però. Il buon Marty (oddio, il buon geniale, ubriacone, iperdipendente Marty, se vogliamo dirla tutta) avrebbe meritato di più. Da leggere solo se la vostra curiosità supera la potenziale noia dell'esposizione.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Lord

    Awkward writing and a fawning tone ruin what could have been a great appreciation of underrated pop-eyed* actor/writer comedy genius Marty Feldman. Feldman’s 1970s fame came at the price of a couple of decades of energetically pursued misery, including stints as jazz-loving bohemian in Paris and in hundreds of crappy odd jobs, including book stealer, busker, dishwasher, trumpeter, and boot sole groover‚ whatever that is. Feldman’s early show biz work in dance halls sounds unbelievably dreary, th Awkward writing and a fawning tone ruin what could have been a great appreciation of underrated pop-eyed* actor/writer comedy genius Marty Feldman. Feldman’s 1970s fame came at the price of a couple of decades of energetically pursued misery, including stints as jazz-loving bohemian in Paris and in hundreds of crappy odd jobs, including book stealer, busker, dishwasher, trumpeter, and boot sole groover‚ whatever that is. Feldman’s early show biz work in dance halls sounds unbelievably dreary, the prevailing theme being that he would do almost anything for a buck; he finally settled into a routine of being basically, a bad musical specialty act. Feldman soon found a niche as a writer‚ at times a brilliant one. Who else could describe Jesus Christ as not the kind of Jew who would be accepted by the Hampstead Garden Suburb. He wasn’t a lawyer or a doctor or the kind of Jew my parents would have accepted. He was merely a savior, which wasn’t a professional. Disjointedly, Ross details the well-liked Feldman’s rise to stardom as Eye-Gor in Young Frankenstein, his eventual disillusion with Hollywood, and his death from a heart attack during the filming of Yellowbeard. Instead of reading this ultimately frustrating jumble, look Feldman up on YouTube, where you’ll find his work on At Last the 1948 Show exuberantly irreverent. Let’s hope someone biographicalizes someday soon. *As for his famous eyes, the cause is pretty mundane: an operation for Graves’ disease (just like Rod Stewart and Orca Winfrey have), which resulted in his eyes being more protruded; he also had a squint. Find reviews of books for men at Books for Dudes, Books for Dudes, the online reader's advisory column for men from Library Journal. Copyright Library Journal.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Pam Keevil

    A very detailed account of Marty Feldman's career from his rise as a writer on programs like the Billy Cotton Band Show and Educating Archie- staples of listening to the radio with my parents as a small child. I never realized he was very much part of the top team of writers on so many shows. It was good to be reminded of the sketches where he's Bishop of the Train, with the monster in the wicker basket and the gnome who wants a mortgage on a property in Dingly Dell. Brilliant stuff. There was l A very detailed account of Marty Feldman's career from his rise as a writer on programs like the Billy Cotton Band Show and Educating Archie- staples of listening to the radio with my parents as a small child. I never realized he was very much part of the top team of writers on so many shows. It was good to be reminded of the sketches where he's Bishop of the Train, with the monster in the wicker basket and the gnome who wants a mortgage on a property in Dingly Dell. Brilliant stuff. There was less about his personal life but that is fine; there was enough to get a flavor of his life and the challenges he encountered. What pity he died so young. I wonder what he would be writing now?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Martinocorre

    Ero un grandissimo fan di Marty Feldman e questo libro mi ha soddisfatto, magari non sarà perfetto però mi ha soddisfatto.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    I bei vecchi tempi sono belli solo quando sono passati. La biografia di Marty Feldman ricalca la falsariga di molti altri personaggi famosi, in modo particolare dei comici: spesso l’uomo che va in scena è molto diverso da quello che vive il quotidiano e spesso l’allegria che riescono a trasmettere al pubblico non corrisponde a quella nel loro cuore. Nel caso di Marty Feldman le cose stanno un po’ a metà; Robert Ross, autore del libro, racconta bene soprattutto l’adolescenza del ribelle Martin che I bei vecchi tempi sono belli solo quando sono passati. La biografia di Marty Feldman ricalca la falsariga di molti altri personaggi famosi, in modo particolare dei comici: spesso l’uomo che va in scena è molto diverso da quello che vive il quotidiano e spesso l’allegria che riescono a trasmettere al pubblico non corrisponde a quella nel loro cuore. Nel caso di Marty Feldman le cose stanno un po’ a metà; Robert Ross, autore del libro, racconta bene soprattutto l’adolescenza del ribelle Martin che spazia tra esperienze e iniziative a dir poco stravaganti. Le notti passate dove di regola dovevi legare gli scarponi alla branda per evitare che te li fregassero. E anche la giacca e i pantaloni finivano con te sotto le lenzuola se volevi ritrovarli la mattina successiva. Dopodiché potevi sdraiarti in questo abominevole dormitorio. Per non parlare delle fughe verso Parigi, all’epoca città simbolo per artisti ed intellettuali, alla ricerca di qualcosa che non riusciva a trovare tra recitazione e musica jazz. All’età di sedici anni Marty aveva già sperimentato la vita dell’artista. Tra le varie esperienze dopo il terzo rimpatrio forzoso dalla Francia, anche una, breve ma significativa, come operaio di catena in una fabbrica che realizzava scarponi. Poi la consapevolezza dell’innata capacità di riuscire a far ridere e da quel momento una via praticamente segnata. Il libro ripercorre in maniera molto dettagliata la storia delle serie televisive della BBC e per un lettore normale questa cosa risulta fin troppo pesante per il fatto che praticamente nessuno di quei telefilm è mai stato trasmesso sulle nostre reti. Le cose migliorano quando si arriva al 1973 e alle riprese di Frankenstein Junior perché almeno si comincia ad avere una corrispondenza diretta tra quello che si legge e ciò che si è potuto vedere di persona. Però per arrivare a questa esperienza di lettura bisogna giungere ad almeno metà del libro, davvero troppo. Da quel momento in poi l’interesse rimane ad un livello accettabile ed il resto della biografia diventa interessante e a tratti anche coinvolgente. In conclusione mi sentirei di consigliare questo libro solo ai veri appassionati del personaggio Marty Feldman, mentre invece un normale lettore può trovare nella biografia citata su wikipedia già un buon livello di informazione. Tempo di lettura: 11h 06m http://ferdori.wordpress.com

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tlingit

    So far the writing is unclear in that certain terms that are not in use lately aren't explained well. I have to guess at what is being written about. And the inconsistencies like petty crime was in Marty's blood and yet he wasn't cut out to be villain; they don't make sense to me. So far these things are making it distracting to get into his story. The shame is it sounds like an interesting time but I can't understand half the story for the poorly described detail and the writing. I give up. I th So far the writing is unclear in that certain terms that are not in use lately aren't explained well. I have to guess at what is being written about. And the inconsistencies like petty crime was in Marty's blood and yet he wasn't cut out to be villain; they don't make sense to me. So far these things are making it distracting to get into his story. The shame is it sounds like an interesting time but I can't understand half the story for the poorly described detail and the writing. I give up. I thought this would be an interesting story but it's gotten into tedious details of his television writing career that I'm not interested in. I think I just don't know enough about Marty Feldman and I am even less interested in English life to care to look up the many expressions in this book. I give up. A quarter of the way into the book, what a shame.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    Bit hard to argue with the reviews saying the author of this book puts on the rose tinted glasses once too often, however that doesn't mean the book isn't worth your time. Marty Feldman's cultural impact seems to have been boiled down to one film; whereas the impact of something like Python would be broad and deep, Feldman's is a single sharp point in Young Frankenstein. But he was a contemporary of the Pythons, helped them out, started with them in their early TV appearances. The Goon Show is t Bit hard to argue with the reviews saying the author of this book puts on the rose tinted glasses once too often, however that doesn't mean the book isn't worth your time. Marty Feldman's cultural impact seems to have been boiled down to one film; whereas the impact of something like Python would be broad and deep, Feldman's is a single sharp point in Young Frankenstein. But he was a contemporary of the Pythons, helped them out, started with them in their early TV appearances. The Goon Show is the Year Zero that caused the comedy boom of the 60s, but Feldman is the spark that got it properly going on TV. Which makes this book worthwhile as no one really knows that anymore. Thanks to lost show recordings and few repeats, all we really know him for is a hump and a great line about werewolves. There's a lot out there of Marty, the starting point being here.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    A really insightful and interesting read. Fascinating to find out about Marty's early life, a real revelation, and his rather sad ending. It does show how fickle showbiz can be. A star today and nobody tomorrow. I enjoyed Marty in his heyday, but think he never really surpassed his role as Igor in Young Frankenstein, but this book, excellently researched and written by Robert Ross, got me searching on You Tube to remind me how clever, inventive and prolific he was, both as a writer and an actor. A really insightful and interesting read. Fascinating to find out about Marty's early life, a real revelation, and his rather sad ending. It does show how fickle showbiz can be. A star today and nobody tomorrow. I enjoyed Marty in his heyday, but think he never really surpassed his role as Igor in Young Frankenstein, but this book, excellently researched and written by Robert Ross, got me searching on You Tube to remind me how clever, inventive and prolific he was, both as a writer and an actor.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maurice Leahy

    i think this was written with a some very rosey glasses on indeed but nevetheless was throughly enjoyed. Marty's long list of writing credits was an eye opener for me, was aware of his general body of work beforehand but again was an eye opener. His time in Hollywood seemed to lack any depth. A good read, worth while. Just don't expect a "warts and all" read. i think this was written with a some very rosey glasses on indeed but nevetheless was throughly enjoyed. Marty's long list of writing credits was an eye opener for me, was aware of his general body of work beforehand but again was an eye opener. His time in Hollywood seemed to lack any depth. A good read, worth while. Just don't expect a "warts and all" read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alex Orbescu

    A must read for every british humour addict.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David

    Not bad. An interesting character and not a bad biography with interesting comments by others

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barnaby Eaton-jones

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ceiteach

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Davies

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mr Michael

  18. 5 out of 5

    Justin

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chiara

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dave Dutton

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ian Palmer

  22. 5 out of 5

    Phil

  23. 5 out of 5

    Larry Hardwicke

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Brannigan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Donny Broussard

  26. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wiggum

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Schneider

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cal Desmond-Pearson

  30. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Plastini

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