Cancer Claims Comedy Icon Larry Gelbart

Larry Gelbart at the 2008 Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame ceremony i

Larry Gelbart at the 2008 Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame ceremony Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Larry Gelbart at the 2008 Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame ceremony

Larry Gelbart at the 2008 Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame ceremony

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Larry Gelbart, one of the most admired comedy writers in television history, died Friday of cancer at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., the writer's agent says. Gelbart was 81.

Gelbart spent a lifetime behind the scenes of popular radio shows, TV series and films. He was best known for his work on the TV series M*A*S*H, which he filled with quips and wisecracks, but he also shared an Oscar nomination after helping craft the screenplay for the 1982 Dustin Hoffman film Tootsie and had a major hand in the Broadway hit A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

In earlier years, he wrote for Eddie Cantor, Jack Paar, Bob Hope and Sid Caesar. He was nominated for 13 Emmys and two Oscars.

More recent work included screenplays for HBO, including Barbarians at the Gate in 1993 and And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself in 2003.

His movie efforts earned him an Oscar nomination for Oh, God! in 1977. Among his other film work was the screenplay for Blame It on Rio.

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M*A*S*H, the series based on director Robert Altman's 1970 movie (and a 1968 novel by Richard Hooker), followed the exploits of the Army's "meatball" surgeons during the Korean War, contrasting clever and irreverent comedy with serious storylines.

It hit TV screens as America was trying to come to terms with the Vietnam War, and continues today in syndication, nearly 30 years after the final episode aired.

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