Today’s Guest: Hank Rosenfeld, author The Wicked Wit of the West
Hank Rosenfeld found the kind of book writing job that guys like me salivate over. He met Irving Brecher, a brilliant and funny writer from the Golden Age of Hollywood comedy, and spent hours recording stories from Irv about everyone from Groucho Marx and the Marx Brothers to Judy Garland and Jackie Gleason.
HANK ROSENFELD podcast excerpt: “Irv loved that movie, Meet Me in St. Louis. He had to read the entire script to Judy Garland because L.B. Mayer said, ‘She doesn’t want to do the picture!’ She didn’t want to be outshone in the movie by the little girl’s part. But Judy used to come over to his house and sing. So he sold every line in the script to her like it was Shakespeare.”
“The Wicked Wit of the West,” as Groucho called him, lived a long and productive live, starting out writing one-liners for Milton Berle in the 1930s, two Marx Brothers films, punching up the humor in The Wizard Of Oz, writing and convincing Judy Garland to star in Meet Me in St. Louis, creating the long running radio and TV sitcom, “The Life of Riley,” and writing the original film version of Bye Bye Birdie for Dick Van Dyke and Ann-Margaret.
Lucky for us, Brecher maintained a magnificent memory of the events of his life and spent his last years telling his stories to Hank Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld produced a book that is mostly Brecher’s memoir with some bits of Rosenfeld thrown in. The Wicked Wit of the West is a terrific read for any fan of comedy, particularly the Marx Brothers/Milton Berle/Jackie Gleason variety. It gets my highest possible recommendation.