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Paul Mazursky
Paul Mazursky.jpg
Mazursky in 2008
Irwin Lawrence Mazursky

(1930-04-25)April 25, 1930
DiedJune 30, 2014(2014-06-30) (aged 84)
Alma materBrooklyn College
  • Film director
  • screenwriter
  • actor
Years active1953–2011
Betsy Mazursky
(m. 1953)

Irwin Lawrence "Paul" Mazursky (April 25, 1930 – June 30, 2014) was an American film director, screenwriter, and actor. Known for his dramatic comedies that often dealt with modern social issues, he was nominated for five Academy Awards: three times for Best Original Screenplay, once for Best Adapted Screenplay, and once for Best Picture for An Unmarried Woman (1978). His other films include Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), Blume in Love (1973), Harry and Tonto (1974), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), and Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986).

Early life and education

He was born in to a Jewish family[1] in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jean (née Gerson), a piano player for dance classes, and David Mazursky, a laborer.[2][3] Mazursky's grandfather was an immigrant from Ukraine.[4] Mazursky graduated from Brooklyn College in 1951.



Mazursky began his film career as an actor in Stanley Kubrick's first feature, Fear and Desire (1953). Kubrick asked for verification of his name for the credits and at that point he decided on a first-name change to Paul. Two years later he appeared in a featured position as one of a classroom of teenagers with issues towards authority in The Blackboard Jungle (1955). His acting career continued for several decades, starting with parts in episodes of television series such as The Twilight Zone and The Rifleman.

Mazursky appeared in supporting roles or cameos in most of his own films. In Moon over Parador (1988), with the Rio Opera House available for only three days of shooting, Mazursky cast himself as a dictator's mother when Judith Malina was unavailable, playing the character in drag.

Mazursky also played supporting roles in The Other Side of the Wind (1972; finished 2015), A Star Is Born (1976), History of the World Part I (1981), Into the Night (1985), Punchline (1988), Man Trouble (1992), Carlito's Way (1993), Love Affair (1994), 2 Days in the Valley (1996), Miami Rhapsody (1995), Crazy in Alabama (1999), and I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (2006). He also performed the voice of the Psychologist in Antz (1998).

In later years, Mazursky had a small part as "Sunshine" the poker dealer in The Sopranos. He also appeared in five episodes of season 4 of Curb Your Enthusiasm as Mel Brooks' associate Norm, a role that he later reprised in a season 7 episode.

Writing and directing

Soon after starting his acting career, Mazursky became a writer and worked on The Danny Kaye Show in 1963. In 1965, he collaborated with Larry Tucker in crafting the script of the original pilot of The Monkees television series, in which they both also appeared in cameos.

Mazursky's debut as a film screenwriter was the Peter Sellers comedy I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968). The following year he directed his first film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (produced and written by Mazursky and Larry Tucker), which proved to be a major critical and commercial success. The film was the fifth highest grossing of the year and earned Mazursky his first Oscar nomination.

His career behind the camera continued for the next two decades as he wrote and directed a prolific string of quirky, dramatic and critically popular films. His most successful films were contemporary dramatic comedies and include the Academy Award-winning Harry and Tonto (1974), the Best Picture-nominated An Unmarried Woman (1978), and popular hits such as Moscow on the Hudson (1984) and Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986). In light of his comedies that tackled a number of modern social subjects, The Hollywood Reporter stated that "from the late '60s through the '80s, [he] seemed to channel the zeitgeist..."[5] and Variety stated that "his oeuvre smacks of cultural significance."[6]

Other films made by Mazursky during this time include the Hollywood satire Alex in Wonderland (1970), the cutting Los Angeles relationship comedy Blume in Love (1973), the semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976), the New York City-based Jules and Jim homage Willie & Phil (1980), the contemporary Shakespeare comedy Tempest (1982), the Caribbean-set political farce Moon over Parador (1988), and the acclaimed Isaac Bashevis Singer adaptation Enemies, a Love Story (1989).

Film critic Roger Ebert was a particular fan of Mazursky's work, giving six of his films the optimal four stars in his reviews.[7] In 1986, Ebert stated that "Mazursky has a way of making comedies that are more intelligent and relevant than most of the serious films around."[8]

Mazursky experienced less success in the 1990s, beginning with Scenes from a Mall (1991), starring Woody Allen and Bette Midler. Following his filmmaking satire The Pickle (1993), which was his last writing credit, Mazursky worked only sporadically as a director on such films as Faithful (1996), Winchell (1998), and Coast to Coast (2003). His final film was the independent documentary Yippee (2006).

Every film written and directed by Mazursky used New York City or Los Angeles as one of its settings. In 1991 the Los Angeles Times commented that "No filmmaker has been wiser or funnier about the L.A. cavalcade than Mazursky. It's not simply a matter of being hip to the scene; what makes such L.A. movies as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and Alex in Wonderland and Blume in Love and Down and Out in Beverly Hills soar is Mazursky's wide-eyed infatuation with the city's rampant pop nuttiness."[9]

His films received a total of twelve Academy Award nominations, with one win, and nineteen Golden Globe nominations, with two wins.

Other work

In his autobiography Show Me the Magic (1999), Mazursky recounts his experiences in filmmaking and with several well-known screen personalities including Peter Sellers.

Mazursky appeared as himself in a number of documentaries on film, including A Decade Under the Influence, New York at the Movies, and Screenwriters: Words Into Image.

Late in his life, Mazursky was developing a Broadway musical adaptation of his 1988 film Moon over Parador.[10]

From 2011 until his death in 2014, Mazursky served as a film critic for Vanity Fair.[11]


Mazursky received five Academy Award nominations, four for his screenplay writing on Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), Harry and Tonto (1974), An Unmarried Woman (1978), and Enemies, a Love Story (1989), and once as producer of An Unmarried Woman (nominated for Best Picture). He was also twice nominated for a Golden Globe and twice for the Cannes Film Festival's Palm d'Or, among many other awards.

In 2000, he was the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award.

In 2000, he was awarded the Amicus Poloniae (Latin: "Friend of Poland"), which is a distinction established by the Polish ambassador to the United States and conferred annually on citizens of the United States for special contributions to Polish-American relations.

In 2010, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association honored him with an award for Career Achievement.

On December 13, 2013, Mazursky was awarded the 2,515th star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in front of Musso & Frank Grill.[12] Friends and collaborators Mel Brooks, Richard Dreyfuss, and Jeff Garlin were all present.

On February 1, 2014, at the WGA Awards, Mazursky received the Screen Laurel Award, which is the lifetime achievement award of the Writers Guild of America. Comedian, filmmaker and close friend Mel Brooks presented the award.

In May 2014, Mazursky received the Best of Brooklyn Award at his alma mater Brooklyn College's annual gala in New York City.[13]

In 2015, Joe Swanberg's film Digging for Fire was dedicated in memory to Mazursky.[14]

In 2019, Greg Pritikin dedicated his film The Last Laugh to Mazursky.

Personal life

Mazursky was married to librarian and social worker Betsy Mazursky (née Purdy) from 1953 until his death. They had two daughters, Meg and Jill.[15][16] Mazursky was an atheist.[17]

Mazursky went into cardiopulmonary arrest and died on June 30, 2014, aged 84, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.[15][18]


As writer and director

Year Film Notes
1969 Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice Feature film
Co-written with Larry Tucker
Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay
1970 Alex in Wonderland Feature film
Co-written with Larry Tucker
Nominated – New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
1973 Blume in Love Feature film
Written by Mazursky
Nominated – Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay
1974 Harry and Tonto Feature film
Co-written with Josh Greenfeld
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated – Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay
1976 Next Stop, Greenwich Village Feature film
Written by Mazursky
Nominated – Palme d'Or
Nominated – Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay
1978 An Unmarried Woman Feature film
Written by Mazursky
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Picture
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated – Palme d'Or
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated – Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film
Nominated – Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay
1980 Willie & Phil Feature film
Written by Mazursky
1982 Tempest Feature film
Co-written with Leon Capetanos
Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award
Nominated – Golden Lion
1984 Moscow on the Hudson Feature film
Co-written with Leon Capetanos
1986 Down and Out in Beverly Hills Feature film
Co-written with Leon Capetanos
Nominated – Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
1988 Moon over Parador Feature film
Co-written with Leon Capetanos
1989 Enemies, A Love Story Feature film
Co-written with Roger L. Simon
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
1991 Scenes from a Mall Feature film
Co-written with Roger L. Simon
1993 The Pickle Feature film
Written by Mazursky

As writer only

Year Film Notes
1966 The Monkees TV pilot
Co-written with Larry Tucker
1968 I Love You, Alice B. Toklas Feature film
Co-written with Larry Tucker
Nominated – Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay

As director only

Year Film Notes
1996 Faithful Feature film
Written by Chazz Palminteri
Nominated – Golden Bear
1998 Winchell Television film
Written by Scott Abbott
2003 Coast to Coast Television film
Written by Frederic Raphael
2006 Yippee Documentary

Selected acting credits

Year Title Role Notes
1953 Fear and Desire Pvt. Sidney
1955 Blackboard Jungle Emmanuel Stoker
1965 Deathwatch Maurice
1968 I Love You, Alice B. Toklas Hippie on Sidewalk Uncredited
1969 Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice Man Screaming at the Institute Uncredited
1970 Alex in Wonderland Hal Stern
1972 The Other Side of the Wind Paul Unfinished film
1973 Blume in Love Kurt Hellman
1974 Harry and Tonto Prostitute Uncredited
1976 Next Stop, Greenwich Village Casting Director Uncredited
1976 A Star Is Born Brian Wexler
1978 An Unmarried Woman Hal
1979 A Man, a Woman, and a Bank Norman Barrie
1979 An Almost Perfect Affair Himself Uncredited
1981 History of the World: Part I Roman Officer (The Roman Empire)
1982 Tempest Terry Bloomfield Producer
1984 Moscow on the Hudson Dave
1985 Into the Night Bud Herman
1986 Down and Out in Beverly Hills Sidney Waxman
1988 Moon over Parador Momma Credited as Carlotta Gerson
1988 Punchline Arnold
1989 Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills Sidney
1989 Enemies, a Love Story Leon Tortshiner
1991 Scenes from a Mall Dr. Hans Clava
1992 Man Trouble Lee MacGreevy
1993 The Pickle Butch Levine
1993 Carlito's Way Judge Feinstein
1994 Love Affair Herb Stillman
1995 Miami Rhapsody Vic Marcus
1996 Faithful Mr. Susskind
1996 2 Days in the Valley Teddy Peppers
1996 Frasier Vinnie, calling in to show looking for pinky ring Voice, Episode: "The Last Time I Saw Maris"
1997 Touch Artie
1998 Bulworth Himself Uncredited
1998 Why Do Fools Fall in Love Morris Levy
1998 Antz Psychologist Voice
1999 Crazy in Alabama Walter Schwegmann
1999–2002 Once and Again Phil Brooks TV series
6 episodes
2000–2001 The Sopranos Sunshine TV series
2 episodes
2001 The Majestic Studio Executive Voice
2001 Big Shot's Funeral Studio Boss
2002 Do It for Uncle Manny Famous Movie Director
2003 Coast to Coast Stanley Tarto TV movie
2004–2009 Curb Your Enthusiasm Norm TV series
5 episodes
2006 I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With Charlie Perlman
2006 Cattle Call Judge Mandel
2011 Femme Fatales Warden Jeffries TV series
2 episodes
Kung Fu Panda 2 Musician Bunny Voice
2018 The Other Side of the Wind Himself (final film role)


  1. ^ Tugend, Tom Jewish Journal: "Paul Mazursky, filmmaker, 84" Archived 2015-10-08 at the Wayback Machine Jewish Journal (July 9, 2014)
  2. ^ "Paul Mazursky Biography (1930-)". Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  3. ^ Variety: "Secret lunch honors Ladd" by Bob Verini September 27, 2007
  4. ^ Farber, Stephen (2006-12-31). "A Night in Hollywood, a Day in Ukraine". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-30.
  5. ^ "Paul Mazursky: How the WGA Awards Honoree Captured the Culture". Hollywood Reporter. 31 January 2014. Retrieved February 19, 2014.
  6. ^ "Mazursky and Actors: A Love Story". Variety. 11 December 2013. Retrieved February 19, 2014.
  7. ^ Emerson, Jim. "Roger Ebert on Mazursky". Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (1986-01-31). "Roger Ebert Review of Down and Out in Beverly Hills". Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  9. ^ Rainer, Peter (February 22, 1991). "MOVIE REVIEW : Down and Out in Beverly Center : A Slice of L.A.--Without the Bite". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  10. ^ Thompson, Anne. "RIP Paul Mazursky, Brilliant Hollywood Writer-Director". Retrieved 2014-11-22.
  11. ^ Mazursky, Paul. "Paul Mazursky in Vanity Fair". Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  12. ^ Ruymen, Jim. "Paul Mazursky honored with star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles". United Press International.
  13. ^ Brooklyn College Magazine. 3 (2/ Spring/Summer 2014): 36. September 2014. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ Walsh, Katie. "Interview: Joe Swanberg Talks Personal Filmmaking, Paul Mazursky, And The Inspiration Of 'Friday Night Lights'". Indiewire.
  15. ^ a b Natale, Richard (1 July 2014). "Paul Mazursky, Director of 'Unmarried Woman,' Dies at 84". Variety. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  16. ^ Cheng, Cheryl (October 3, 2017). "Betsy Mazursky, Widow of Director Paul Mazursky, Dies at 90". The Hollywood Reporter.
  17. ^ Farber, Stephen (2006-12-31). "A Night in Hollywood, a Day in Ukraine". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-31. I’ve always felt very Jewish but very ambivalent about being Jewish. I’m an atheist.
  18. ^ Woo, Elaine (1 July 2014). "Paul Mazursky dies at 84; director chronicled trends of '60s and '70s". Retrieved 10 July 2014.

External links

This page was last edited on 30 October 2022, at 09:37
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