Paul Mazursky

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Paul Mazursky
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 (/məˈzɜːrski/; 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 for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), An Unmarried Woman (1978), Harry and Tonto (1974), and Enemies, A Love Story (1989). He is also known for directing such films as Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), Moon over Parador (1988), and Scenes from a Mall (1991).

Early life and education


He was born into 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). Mazurksy, who never liked his first name of Irwin, was asked by his then-girlfriend Betty Purdy what name he wanted to use in the credits for the film, as he had told Kubrick to use her as a go-between when he was busy waiting tables at Sunrise Manor. When on the phone with her, she suggested using Paul for his screen name, which he agreed with.[5] 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. He also did shows for nightclubs in the late 1950s, most notably with Herb Hartig, with their comedy act being named "Igor and H" before breaking up to do a solo act. He applied (and was rejected) to the Actors Studio, but he took classes with Lee Strasberg as instructor, having previously studied under Paul Mann and Curt Conway.[6]

Advertising tram for the film "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" in Amsterdam, Netherlands (March 26, 1970).

Soon after starting his acting career, Mazursky became a writer and worked on The Danny Kaye Show in 1963 with Larry Tucker, who he had first known when Tucker went from personal manager of comedy clients to being a part of the Los Angeles operation of The Second City troupe.[7] In 1965, they crafted the script of the original pilot of The Monkees television series, in which they both also appeared in cameos, although the pilot ended up being their only script for the series. Mazursky's debut as a film screenwriter was the Peter Sellers comedy I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968). The original intent was for Tucker to produce and for Mazursky to direct. Peter Sellers, the star of the feature, instead picked Hy Averback to direct the film.[8] The following year, he directed his first film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) 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..."[9] and Variety stated that "his oeuvre smacks of cultural significance."[10]

Looking at the Fox Theater in Westwood Village, where the film "A Star is Born" is premiering, in 1976 from Broxton Avenue.
World premiere of A Star is Born at the Fox Theater, Westwood Village

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), and the semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976). Mazursky also played supporting roles in The Other Side of the Wind (1972; finished 2015), A Star Is Born (1976). He also directed during the 1980s 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). Late in his life, Mazursky was developing a Broadway musical adaptation of his 1988 film Moon over Parador.[11] He had supporting roles in History of the World Part I (1981), Into the Night (1985), Punchline (1988) and Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (1989).

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. He also acted in 1990s in projects such as 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). He then experienced less success in the 1990s. He directed 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). 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. In his autobiography Show Me the Magic (1999), Mazursky recounts his experiences in filmmaking and with several well-known screen personalities including Peter Sellers. He was the subject of the 2011 book Paul on Mazursky by Sam Wasson. 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. From 2011 until his death in 2014, Mazursky served as a film critic for Vanity Fair.[12]



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."[13] His films received a total of twelve Academy Award nominations, with one win, and nineteen Golden Globe nominations, with two wins. Film critic Roger Ebert was a particular fan of Mazursky's work, giving six of his films the optimal four stars in his reviews.[14] 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."[15]

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.[16][17] Mazursky was an atheist.[18]

Mazursky went into cardiopulmonary arrest and died on June 30, 2014, aged 84, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.[16][19]





As writer and director

Year Film Notes
1969 Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice Co-written with Larry Tucker
1970 Alex in Wonderland Co-written with Larry Tucker
1973 Blume in Love Written by Mazursky
1974 Harry and Tonto Co-written with Josh Greenfeld
1976 Next Stop, Greenwich Village Written by Mazursky
1978 An Unmarried Woman Written by Mazursky
1980 Willie & Phil Written by Mazursky
1982 Tempest Co-written with Leon Capetanos
1984 Moscow on the Hudson Co-written with Leon Capetanos
1986 Down and Out in Beverly Hills Co-written with Leon Capetanos
1988 Moon over Parador Co-written with Leon Capetanos
1989 Enemies, A Love Story Co-written with Roger L. Simon
1991 Scenes from a Mall Co-written with Roger L. Simon
1993 The Pickle Written by Mazursky

As writer only

Year Film Notes
1966 The Monkees Co-written with Larry Tucker
1968 I Love You, Alice B. Toklas Co-written with Larry Tucker

As director only

Year Film Notes
1996 Faithful Written by Chazz Palminteri
2006 Yippee Documentary

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 finished posthumously in 2018
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 Lipkin
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
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
2001 The Majestic Studio Executive Voice
2001 Big Shot's Funeral Studio Boss
2002 Do It for Uncle Manny Famous Movie Director
2006 I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With Charlie Perlman
2006 Cattle Call Judge Mandel
2011 Kung Fu Panda 2 Musician Bunny Voice
2018 The Other Side of the Wind Himself (final film role)



Director only

Year Film Writer Notes
1998 Winchell Scott Abbott HBO film
2003 Coast to Coast Frederic Raphael Showtime film

Acting credits

Year Film Role Notes
1966 The Monkees T.V. Interviewer S1:E10, "The Monkees"
1996 Frasier Vinnie Voice, Episode: "The Last Time I Saw Maris"
1999–2002 Once and Again Phil Brooks 6 episodes
2000–2001 The Sopranos Sunshine 2 episodes
2003 Coast to Coast Stanley Tarto TV movie
2004–2009 Curb Your Enthusiasm Norm 5 episodes
2011 Femme Fatales Warden Jeffries 2 episodes

Awards and honors


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 Palme 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.[20] 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.[21] In 2015, Joe Swanberg's film Digging for Fire was dedicated in memory to Mazursky.[22] In 2019, Greg Pritikin dedicated his film The Last Laugh to Mazursky.

Year Association Category Project Result Ref.
1968 Writers Guild of America Best Original Screenplay I Love You, Alice B. Toklas Nominated
1969 Academy Award Best Original Screenplay Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice Nominated
BAFTA Award Best Screenplay Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award Best Original Screenplay Won
National Society of Film Critics Best Screenplay Won
New York Film Critics Circle Best Screenplay Won
1970 New York Film Critics Circle Best Supporting Actor Alex in Wonderland Nominated
1973 Writers Guild of America Award Best Original Screenplay Blume in Love Nominated
1974 Academy Award Best Original Screenplay Harry and Tonto Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
1976 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Next Stop, Greenwich Village Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
1978 Academy Awards Best Picture An Unmarried Woman Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Director Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Nominated
Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directing - Feature Film Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
National Society of Film Critics Best Screenplay Won
New York Film Critics Circle Best Screenplay Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Screenplay Won
1982 Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Tempest Nominated
Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award Won
1986 Writers Guild of America Award Best Adapted Screenplay Down and Out in Beverly Hills Nominated
1989 Academy Award Best Adapted Screenplay Enemies, A Love Story Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Best Director Won
1996 Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear Faithful Nominated


  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. ^ Show me the magic. Simon & Schuster. 1999. ISBN 9780684847351.
  6. ^ Wasson, Sam (January 2012). Paul on Mazursky. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 9780819571441.
  7. ^ Adler, Dick (1970-07-26). "'Bob & Carol' & Then What?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-02-05.
  8. ^ Show me the magic. Simon & Schuster. 1999. ISBN 9780684847351.
  9. ^ "Paul Mazursky: How the WGA Awards Honoree Captured the Culture". Hollywood Reporter. 31 January 2014. Retrieved February 19, 2014.
  10. ^ "Mazursky and Actors: A Love Story". Variety. 11 December 2013. Retrieved February 19, 2014.
  11. ^ Thompson, Anne (July 2014). "RIP Paul Mazursky, Brilliant Hollywood Writer-Director". Retrieved 2014-11-22.
  12. ^ Mazursky, Paul. "Paul Mazursky in Vanity Fair". Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Emerson, Jim. "Roger Ebert on Mazursky". Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (1986-01-31). "Roger Ebert Review of Down and Out in Beverly Hills". Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Cheng, Cheryl (October 3, 2017). "Betsy Mazursky, Widow of Director Paul Mazursky, Dies at 90". The Hollywood Reporter.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Woo, Elaine (1 July 2014). "Paul Mazursky dies at 84; director chronicled trends of '60s and '70s". Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  20. ^ Ruymen, Jim. "Paul Mazursky honored with star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles". United Press International.
  21. ^ Brooklyn College Magazine. 3 (2/ Spring/Summer 2014): 36. September 2014. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ Walsh, Katie (21 August 2015). "Interview: Joe Swanberg Talks Personal Filmmaking, Paul Mazursky, And The Inspiration Of 'Friday Night Lights'". Indiewire.