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Larry Gelbart, R.I.P.

By admin Published: September 11, 2009

The writer for stage, screen and TV has died. L.A. Times obit is here.

Let's keep it simple: Gelbart was The Man. He could write for any medium. He was funny and smart. His memoir, "Laughing Matters," is essential reading for anyone who cares about how popular art gets made. "M*A*S*H" is the big TV credit, but let's not forget "Barbarians at the Gate," or "And Starring Pancho Villa As Himself" (a terrific take on celebrity, history and media, and the DVD has audio commentary by Gelbart), the short-lived but bracing series "United States." He directed some, and acted a little. But most important, he wrote successfully for 60 years!

It didn't all come out right, or the way he had hoped. In "Laughing Matters," he talks about "Neighbors," lamenting the choice of director (John Avildsen, whose sense of humor was "720 degrees apart" from Gelbart) and the stars, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, who also got involved with the writing.

"Having John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd help with a script," Gelbart said, "was like throwing a party and having the Borgias as your bartenders."

Look just at those lines. The pace. The alliteration. As I said, Gelbart was The Man. It was nice to stop now and then and think, hey, a new piece of Gelbart writing might be coming soon. And terribly sad that there won't be any more.

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