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It's Marty (1968-69)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of It's Marty (1968-69)
BBC, tx. 29/4/1968-13/1/1969
12 x 30 min editions in 2 series plus 1 special, colour
ProducerDennis Main Wilson
Production CompanyBBC Television
Written byMarty Feldman
 Barry Took

Cast: Marty Feldman, John Junkin, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Roland MacLeod, Mary Miller

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A collection of daft and surreal sketches and stunts.

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Successfully cajoled into appearing in front of the camera by John Cleese and Graham Chapman for At Last the 1948 Show (ITV, 1967-68), Marty Feldman was soon offered his own series by the BBC. With his long-term writing partner, Barry Took, he created It's Marty, two series of fast, sharp and very inventive sketches.

Feldman's flights of fancy took his stock company, including Tim Brooke-Taylor and John Junkin, into a variety of absurd and surreal sketches: a man takes his monster to the vet; taxi drivers are recast as RAF fighter pilots, with pedestrians as their targets; a theatregoer insists on a play featuring an elephant. Recurring subjects were history (the death of Nelson with Oliver Hardy), football (a controversial sketch in which a player makes sexual advances to the Queen) and religion (a Jewish bus worker is offered the job of Pope). Musical interludes included the lament 'Is it wrong to love an Elephant?' and 'French Song for Sauce Lovers', a torch-song pastiche in which Feldman recites the label of an H.P. sauce bottle.

Nobody was safe from his cynicism, least of all the BBC. He lampooned popular Corporation series like Dixon of Dock Green (1955-76) and Z Cars (1962-78), while 'An Obituary to David Frost', the ubiquitous presenter marries Princess Anne and, as King David, dies in 2006. Feldman further worried his Shepherd's Bush bosses by revealing that Lord Hill, Huw Wheldon and David Attenborough were in fact the Black and White Minstrels.

In the spirit of Feldman's hero Buster Keaton, sketches were filmed on location with a minimum of dialogue. 'A Day in the Life of a Stuntman' follows a death-defying journey to work; the subject of 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Golfer' found each shot taking him further from the green; and 'The Lightning Coach Tour' used speeded up footage to compress a day trip to the seaside into less than three minutes. These sketches were reportedly the most expensive produced by the BBC at the time.

A compilation episode in 1969 won the coveted Rose d'Argent at the Montreux Festival. Feldman later added the Rose d'Or with his series The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (ITV, 1971-72).

Graham Rinaldi

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Video Clips
1. Veterinary Surgery (4:01)
2. A Day in the Life of a Stuntman (2:45)
3. England versus Paraguay (3:03)
Brooke-Taylor, Tim (1940-)
Chapman, Graham (1941-1989)
Cleese, John (1939-)
Feldman, Marty (1934-1982)
Gilliam, Terry (1940-)
Jones, Terry (1942-)
Palin, Michael (1943-)
Took, Barry (1928-2002)
Wilson, Dennis Main (1924-1997)
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