Larry Simon Gelbart (born February 25, 1928 - died September 11, 2009) was a prolific comedy writer and television show producer with over sixty years of credits.

Early careerEdit

Larry Gelbart was born in Chicago, Illinois to a Jewish family; immigrants Harry Gelbart ("a barber since his half of a childhood in Latvia")[1] and Frieda Sturner, who migrated to America from Dombrowa, Poland. Marcia Gelbart Walkenstein was his sister. His family relocated to Los Angeles when he was sixteen, in 1944, soon afterwards, he began a career as a writer for The Danny Thomas Show on radio during the 1940s, and wrote for Jack Paar and Bob Hope. On 1950s television, he worked for comedian Sid Caesar on Caesar's Hour, along with other gifted comedy writers Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and Carl Reiner.[2]

Gelbart wrote the long-running Broadway farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with Burt Shevelove and Stephen Sondheim in 1962, and collaborated with Shevelove on the British movie comedy, The Wrong Box.

M*A*S*H years (1972-76)Edit

In 1972, Gelbart was one of the main forces behind the creation of the CBS television series M*A*S*H. He wrote and produced some of the series' finest episodes, and left after the fourth season.

Film/Stage productionsEdit

Gelbart also wrote the screenplays to Oh, God! and Blame It on Rio, and in 1982 co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Tootsie.

Gelbart's other Broadway credits include the musical City of Angels, which received an Edgar Award in 1990, and the Iran-contra satire Mastergate, as well as Sly Fox. In the early 1960s, he uttered the now-classic line, "If Hitler is alive, I hope he's out of town with a musical." TV credits include cable TV-movie Barbarians at the Gate. Gelbart wrote a memoir in 1997 called Laughing Matters: On Writing M*A*S*H, Tootsie, Oh, God!, and a Few Other Funny Things [1].

Gelbart was sometimes credited as 'Francis Burns' in the credits. The German translation of his last name (written as "Gelbbart") means "yellow beard."


Gelbart was diagnosed with cancer in June and died at his Beverly Hills home on September 11, 2009. His wife of 53 years, Pat Gelbart, said that after being married for so long, "we finished each other's sentences." She declined to specify the type of cancer he had.[3]

From May 2005 until his passing, Gelbart had been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post.


  1. Laughing Matters: On Writing MASH, Tootsie, Oh, God!, and a Few Other Funny Things, by Larry Gelbart, New York City, Random House Publishers, 1998 ISBN 0-679-42945-X.
  2. Malarcher, Jay (2003). The Classically American Comedy of Larry Gelbart. Lanham, Md.: The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4772-8.
  3. 'M-A-S-H' writer Larry Gelbart dies at 81, Dennis McClellan, Associated Press article, created and accessed September 11, 2009.

External linksEdit

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