Comedy genius Marty Feldman found stardom in his first Hollywood role in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. However, it took Feldman twenty years to land a role, after struggling in variety shows, then to a prolific scriptwriter and a television star. Jeepers Creepers tells the story of Jeepers Creepers with his wife Loretta by his side. Discussing the rise and fall of Marty Feldman, with Wink Taylor playing Marty and Jessica Martin as Lauretta. Jeepers Creepers is based-on the original West-End play by Robert Ross. Get to know a loving, complicated couple through the eyes of Marty Feldman.
Bulbous eyes and a big character, the life of Marty Feldman.
Words: Colleen Considine
You might not know him as the “worlds worst trumpet player” but you should recognise him for playing Igor in Mel Brooks’ Frankenstein, The Last Remake of Beau Geste and of course for his bulbous eyes. Feldman born on the 8th July 1934 in East London was the son of a Jewish immigrant from Kiev, Ukraine. As a child he suffered from thyroid disease and developed Graves’ ophthalmopathy, causing his eyes to protrude and become misaligned. It may have been a childhood injury, car crash, boating accident and his reconstructive eye surgery which may have also contributed to his appearance. He once described his appearance as a “novelty” and related it to his career success.
Feldman had early dreams of becoming a jazz trumpeter but later decided against this, saying he couldn’t play and went down the comedy route instead. In 1955 he became part of the comedy act – Morris, Marty and Mitch who made their tv appearance on BBC. He then went on to work on the scripts for Educating Archie for both its radio and television incarnations. He began writing for more programmes such as The Army Game in 1960, Bootsie and Snudge, and Round the Horne which starred Kenneth Horne and Kenneth Williams. It was in 1966 until 67 when he became the chief writer and script editor for The Frost Report. He wrote the “Class” sketch in which John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett faced the audience with their descending height order and suggested their relative social status. With Cleese representing the upper classes, Barker as middle-class and Corbett as working-class. Feldman was described as an “avowed socialist” and although he didn’t describe politics in public, this sketch went on to be highly popular and something that is still referenced today.
It was the television sketch comedy series, At Last the 1948 Show that increased Feldman’s profile as a performer. He worked alongside future Monty Python members Graham Chapman and John Cleese, and future start of The Goodies, Tim Brooke-Taylor. In 1968 he was then given his own series, Marty, which featured Brooke-Taylor, John Junkin and Roland MacLeod, with Cleese as one fo the writers. For the series Feldman won two BAFTA awards.
His first feature film role came in Every Second Home Should Have One in 1970, but of course his most famous feature came in 1974 with Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. Feldman played Igor alongside Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein. Many lines within the film were improvised and Wilder says he had Feldman in mind when he initially wrote the part.
As well as being a tv and film star, Feldman also recorded two albums, Marty in 1967 and I Feel a Song Going Off in 1969, re-released in 1971 as The Crazy World of Marty Feldman. And it seems it certainly was a crazy world; he was married to Lauretta Sullivan from 1959 until he died from a heart attack on December 2nd 1982. In spite of his unconventional appearance, he was highly attractive to women, and being married didn’t stop him from having affairs. An autobiography about Feldman was discovered after Lauretta’s death in 2010, Eye Marty: the newly discovered autobiography of a comic genius. It had a foreword provided by Eric Idle which was published in 2012.
Marty Feldman had a short-lived comedy career when he died aged 48, but it didn’t stop him from going on to be known as a comic genius of the 20th Century whose look didn’t define the outcome.