He died of cancer at his home today. He was 81. He was the screenwriter’s screenwriter — an intelligent role model with ascerbic wit who was also kind but candid. That’s a rare combination in Hollywood these days. He was very active in Writers Guild issues, and in fact just recently gave me a support statement for WGAw presidential candidate Elias Davis and his slate of candidates. Gelbart had success on stage, film, and TV. He is best known for works as varied as the big screen hit Tootsie as well as turning Robert Altman’s M.A.S.H. into the long running TV series as producer and writer. He also penned the teleplay for HBO’s very adept adaptation of the financial book Barbarians At The Gate. He also co-wrote the book for the 1962 Broadway musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” which was recently revived on The Great White Way. His writing won a slew of Tony and Emmy awards and Oscar nominations (For Tootsie and Oh, God!). “Laughing Matters,” a collection of Mr. Gelbart’s essays and reminiscences, was published by Random House in 1998. Every now and then, Larry would phone me to complain about this mogul or that. (Harvey Weinstein came in for frequent withering criticism by Gelbart because of problems with their projects.) He never feared what Hollywood’s Powers That Be would do to him when he went public with a dispute. Success and self-confidence gave him courage. I adored him for that.
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