The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine


A final Orson Welles post for this week of Wellsiana. Welles was a familiar face on UK television in the early 70s, mostly for the notorious sherry adverts but he was also popular on chat shows. For Anglia Television he presented a number of short story adaptations in Orson Welles’ Great Mysteries, but had nothing else to do with the series. His appearance on The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (1971) is unusual for being an acting role in a sketch series, with Welles presenting and narrating a film about the preservation of endangered British aristocrats. There’s some crossover here with the London sketches Welles had filmed a couple of years before (see yesterday’s post): Welles played an English Lord in one of those sequences, and one of his co-actors was Tim Brooke-Taylor, a writer on Comedy Machine.

I’d hope that Marty Feldman needs no introduction. Most people know him as Igor in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein but in the late 60s and early 70s he was almost another member of the Monty Python team, writing and performing in the pre-Python At Last the 1948 Show (the origin of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch). The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, which ran for 14 episodes, is very Pythonesque—there’s even a Terry Gilliam title sequence—but the format is much more traditional. Besides Orson Welles, a highlight of this episode is Spike Milligan reading some of his nonsense poetry, and performing in a sketch about competing undertakers. Watch it here:

The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine Part 1 | Part 2

Previously on { feuilleton }
Orson Welles: The One-Man Band
The Immortal Story, a film by Orson Welles
Welles at 100
The Fountain of Youth
The Complete Citizen Kane
Return to Glennascaul, a film by Hilton Edwards
Screening Kafka
The Panic Broadcast

4 thoughts on “The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine”

  1. I stumbled upon “Round the Horne” at a vulnerable age and have been hopelessly hooked on Feldman’s oeuvre ever since.

  2. I’ve still not seen many of his TV shows. They were always shoved into late-night slots, and–unlike Python and co–weren’t repeated in later years.

  3. First off, I have been lurking on this site for many years and have found it immensely informative and entertaining. I have lost countless hours down the myriad rabbit holes this site has proffered. Thank you so much for all of it,
    Secondly, r.e. Orson Welles, have you mentioned his role in Michael Winner’s film “I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname”? The movie seems to me to be a an almost perfect time-capsule of the attitudes about class and sex at the time (1967 London). What are your thoughts?

  4. Hi Terry, and thanks. I’ve known about the Michael Winner film for years but it’s one I’ve never seen. There was a time on British TV when many of the films of that period didn’t get screened very much, possibly because their trendiness seemed too dated. I had to wait years to see Smashing Time again. I usually dislike Michael Winner’s films but that’s one’s probably more palatable for other reasons. Welles’ presence often enlivens things; in the right setting–The Third Man being the prime example–it’s the icing on the cake.

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