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Feldman's first brush with fame was as a part of comedy / musical trio Morris, Marty and Mitch, making several appearances on BBC TV in the mid-fifties until falling out with each other in the late fifties. But it was as a writer rather than performer that he first really made his name, writing for such hit comedy radio shows shows as Take It From Here and Educating Archie. Moving over to TV with his writing partner Barry Took they had significant success with The Army Game and its spin-off Bootsy and Snudge. Writing on The Frost Report in 1966 Feldman would co-write the legendary 'class' sketch for John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, and at the same tile Feldman and Took were also writing the ground-breaking radio series Round The Horne.


It was just a matter of time before he would give performing another go. However, fate had other ideas. The pace and sheer amount of work he needed to do in order to write dozens of TV and radio scripts every year got the better of his health. His subsequent erratic behaviour and a hyperthyroid condition was causing concern. A side-effect of the required surgery was expected to go away. It didn't. His bulging eyeballs would become his physical trademark for the rest of his life, with the TV Times once calling him "a little bloke with gob-stopper eyes."


In 1967 he was invited to come back to work with Frost and Cleese on a new TV series for Rediffusion, At Last The 1948 Show. This would be the first time most people would have seen Marty, certainly the first time since the days of Morris, Marty and Mitch. The show only ran for two series, leading BBC2 to an offer Marty a new series of his own to be broadcast in colour. All of the future members of Monty Python would contribute to the show, even Terry Gilliam who did animations and captions for it. It proved so successful that the BBC exported it, winning several international awards, and leading to an invitation by Dean Martin to appear on his his USA show, recreating some of his BBC sketches.


As a result of his American success Lew Grade offered him the chance to make a series for ATV in the UK and ABC in the USA, The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine. Produced by Larry Gelbart, the UK based American writer for TV's M.A.S.H., the show would mix verbal comedy, silent comedy, dance (from the Irving Davies Dancers) and music, plus top-shelf comedy guests like Groucho Marx, Peter Sellers, Orson Welles and Spike Milligan who appeared in all shows. Among the writers were not only Feldman and Gelbart but future film director Barry Levinson, who would also occasionally perform on the show, plus John Cleese and Graham Chapman. However, some of the sketches were rehashed from At Last The 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set, but the American audience wouldn't be aware of it. The musical talent included Dusty Springfield, Osibisa, Tom Paxton, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Collesseum, Fame & Price, Randy Newman and Marsha Hunt. All the music seemed to have been recorded separately, off set with no involvement by Feldman, not even an introduction. Synth' interruptions were provided by Derek Scott, who had previously worked for Tony Hancock.


Concluding a sketch recorded for the thirteenth episode (according to TV Times) Feldman grabbed hold of a curtain that was being raised above the stage. He fell onto the stage breaking his arm which, now in a cast, he would show off to the cameras once he had come back from hospital. The sketch (but not the fall) was shown during the fourteenth and final show.


The show was broadcast as an hour-long (including adverts) show by ATV on Saturday evenings, with London Weekend broadcasting it the day before. ABC in the US re-edited the shows into thirty minute lumps which were broadcast from April to August 1972. Despite the positive reviews, and winning the Golden Rose of Montreux TV Festival in 1972, it was pushed further back in the Saturday night schedules by ATV.


The Comedy Machine lasted just one series before Feldman went back to the BBC and then onto Hollywood for what was to be the final phase of his career, although a return to the UK was on the cards before his sudden death, testing the water with an appearance on ITV's Give Us A Clue. Comedy Machine showcased what was best about Feldman, silent comedy, inventive use of props, a sense of the absurd, all achieved with virtuoso jazz timing. A half-hour compilation was assembled and shown, and then the show was forgotten about.


Although his involvement in Mel Brooks' movies were worth him moving to Hollywood for, his own late seventies movies weren't, but TV would always have him back.


The entire series was scheduled for release as a 4 DVD set in 2016 by Network in the UK but was cancelled.



MARTY FELDMAN'S COMEDY MACHINE


ATV

2nd October 1971 - 15th January 1972 (but shown the day before on LWT)