Marty - The Whowrotewhat Wotnot (series 2)

marty_footballby Peter Gordon

Series two was commissioned immediately after the first. An album of highlights from the first series was released on the Pye label along with a single, Funny He Never Married/ Travel Agency. Funny He Never Married remains something of an enigma. Written by Took and Feldman and staring Feldman and Brooke-Taylor, it takes place at a wake where two old friends toast the deceased, a lifelong bachelor with a great interest in sailors and the Boy Scout movement. It is one of the most fondly recalled sketches from the series and yet I can find no record of its ever being broadcast. Is it an out-take? Was it recorded especially for the album? If anyone out there knows, please drop me a line. The second series was intended to be written with the same set up as the first, with Took/ Feldman, Cleese/ Chapman and Jones/ Palin writing all the material, and with the same results.

Took and Feldman wrote the whole of the first show themselves. In the second show Cleese and Chapman wrote another outing for the old couple, this time in a Post Office, a sketch subsequently heavily re-written by Brooke-Taylor and Junkin. The final sketch is nowhere near the standard set by the previous two, but it does contain the line “I’ve seen Arthur Stoatbridge dance the tango on a man’s giblets”, for which much thanks. In the same show Cleese and Chapman give us another variation on the Bishop sketch, this time called The Séance, featuring a working class medium demanding money with menaces. After this show the writers’ only contribution to the rest of the series are two old Frost Report sketches.

Jones and Palin start off a bit more strongly with a sketch set in a maniacally bad Serbian restaurant (show 2), a Python-ish fantasy called SuperMidwife, a nice little piece about an annoying man who turns up in other people’s holiday snaps (both show 3) and an obvious but fun reversal sketch, The Clothists (show 5).

Junkin and King provide a few more songs (Is It Wrong To Love An Elephant?, A Joyous Time Of Year and Le Sauce HP). Junkin contributed several sketches of his own, including the famous Wine Treaders’ Dance.

There is one very odd little sketch from show 4, which takes the form of a fantasy obituary for David Frost, where Frost has become King Of England and all the world bows down to him. It’s a wonderfully spiteful and over-the-top piece of satire packed with in-jokes. It could have come from the pen of Feldman, Cleese or Chapman, all of whom had served time in the Frost Empire and come away with feelings of bitterness, or possibly from Private Eye, an organ that seemed to despise Frost from the very depth of its being. If fact it was lifted from the rather more genteel pages of Punch and was written by one of their editorial staff, Peter Dickinson, now more famous as an author of children’s fantasy books. (Punch August 7 1968. Part of series called “Coming Obituaries”.)

Another contributor to the series was Jim Franklin. Working with the great Ray Millichope, Franklin was a BBC film editor who specialised in stringing together pieces of video in strange ways. He later went on to direct Broaden Your Mind and The Goodies where he created the famous sequence of two dogs singing Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better. For Marty he fashioned two marvellously inventive sketches, one featuring Enoch Powell speaking in a heavy Jamaican accent, and another set in a court room where a succession of famous figures, from Churchill to Mao Tse Tung were made to echo the usher’s cry of “Call Marty Feldman”. Other freelance contributors for series two of Marty included Paul McDowell, Robin Grove-White (now a leading member of Greenpeace) and Michael Seddon.

A half-hour compilation culled from both series won the Silver Rose at Montreux in 1970 and a single version of A Joyous Time Of Year was released before Feldman reappeared on the BBC, complete with a blonde hair-do, in March 1970 for a one-off special, Marty Amok. Roger Race directed again with Michael Mills now in the producer’s chair and the same cast minus Roland MacLeod.

marty_the-yechhAmok features far less Took and Feldman material (only one sketch, Restaurant) than the original series and relies far more on the Python contingent, now including Eric Idle. Palin and Jones take care of the show’s two lengthy pre-filmed pieces, one concerning an improbably lengthy run up taken by a bowler and the other, Reality In The Cinema, a very long and expensive sketch about a man who goes to the movies and finds himself trapped in a Western. The Cleese/ Chapman team (curiously uncredited at the end of the show) chip in with two ready-written items, The Bookshop (from At Last The 1948 Show and The Contractual Obligation Album), and Cockpit (from the abandoned pilot How To Irritate People, co-written with Feldman and Brooke-Taylor). Idle’s contribution is another neat piece of film editing, this time taking footage of the Royal family walking around the course at Ascot and putting a racing commentary over the top, and another about a man who wants to buy a bed for an orgy.

Another writer and performer on Amok was one of Feldman’s heroes, the French comedian Robert Dhéry who contributed and co-starred in a couple of his own most famous routines for the show, Changing Cubicles and Little Café. Brian Cooke and John Mortimer supplied one more sketch (concerning a door-to-door judge) and Vivian Stanshall’s band BIg gRUNT provided the music with a rather spacey rendition of Eleven Moustachioed Daughters. The end credit sequence, featuring Feldman dressed as Britannia embossed on a coin came from way back in 1965 from Took and Feldman’s time as writers with the series Scott On

A couple of sketches remain frustratingly impossible to pin down. Two in particular, Vet’s Waiting Room concerning a mysterious pet from the Book of Revelations with a fondness for owls and Feldman’s tribute to Harpo Marx Royalty At Soccer (“Bona fortuna”) are popular favourites with no credited author in the BBC’s records. Others include The Candidate, a strange sketch that appears to be a parody of the Pinter/ Kafka/ Prisoner school of existential angst, and The Yechh, a mockumentary about a pop band some seven years before The Rutles came to life. The Yechh even came complete with their own songs, The Shudder Of The Bomwahwah and The Magic Door.

This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared in Kettering 4

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