Larry Gelbart And “Tootsie”

Tootsie_impWhen I read yesterday’s Times obituary of Larry Gelbart, and came to the line that the screenplay for “Tootsie” was “written with Murray Schisgal,” I just roared. Here’s a much more accurate account of who wrote that 1982 classic, taken from Pauline Kael’s review of the film: ‘”Tootsie” began with Don McGuire, who wrote what is said to have been a wild screenplay. After it was sold and Dick Richards was set to be the director, Robert Kaufman was hired to do a new draft. When Dustin Hoffman read Kaufman’s version, he agreed to play in the picture, and brought in his playwright pal Murray Schisgal (with whom he had once tried to concoct a movie about a man impersonating a woman) to rework the material. Then the director, DIck Richards, was replaced by Hal Ashby, and Larry Gelbart was hired for yet another version. After that, Hal Ashby was replaced by Sydney Pollack, and Elaine May (who chose to be anonymous) was signed to do a rewrite; after her came the team of Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin, and after them, Robert Garland. And with some of these people doing more than one draft, when the screenplay had to be submitted to the Writers Guild for arbitration over the issue of who should get the screen credit, three large cardboard boxes were needed to transport tthe more than twenty scripts. Pollack must have saved whatever he could of the best in each of them — “Tootsie” sounds as if one superb comedy writer had done it all. There is talk in Hollywood now of forming the I Also Wrote/I Almost Directed “Tootsie” Club. (The writing credit went to Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal.)’ That’s the real story of “Tootsie.

One Comment to “Larry Gelbart And “Tootsie””

  1. Yes. More amazing that I can’t think of a better rom-com in the 25 years since! As for Mr. Gelbart, certainly a great writer without any help, we just will never know how much of Tootsie he, or anyone else, is responsible for.

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