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The Wicked Wit of the West: The Last Great Golden Age Screenwriter Shares the Hilarity and Heartaches of Working With Groucho, Garland, Gleason, Burns, Berle, Benny, and many more Paperback – January 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Ben Yehuda Press (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934730238
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934730232
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #860,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The only good thing about making At the Circus was beginning my friendship with Irving Brecher." --Groucho Marx

"The only good thing about making At the Circus was beginning my friendship with Irving Brecher." --Groucho Marx --Groucho Marx

Review

"Irving Brecher was hilarious in 1938 and he's hilarious in 2008"

"Irving Brecher was hilarious in 1938 and he's hilarious in 2008" -Scott Eyman, author of Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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This is a book you will want to read and re-read.
Pamela M. Vetter
Brecher went on to write movies like _Meet Me in St. Louis_ and _Bye Bye Birdie_.
R. Hardy
I hate to say that because I just loved it so much....ipso facto i am old.
R Peters

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
Groucho Marx and S. J. Perelman both agreed: the fastest quippers, the best wits able to come back with "one line impromptus" were George S. Kaufman, Oscar Levant, and Irving Brecher. Irving Who? Brecher was behind the camera or behind a typewriter most of the time, but the subtitle of his memoir will tell you that he had connections: _The Wicked Wit of the West: The Last Great Golden-Age Screenwriter Shares the Hilarity and Heartaches of Working with Groucho, Garland, Gleason, Burns, Berle, Benny, & Many More_. The book is by Brecher "as told to Hank Rosenfeld", and for once the collaboration seems genuine and meaningful. Rosenfeld is himself a comedy writer, and he spent seven years hanging around the elderly Brecher, in plain hero worship. Much of the book is a transcription of their conversations, and it works well as a documentation of a friendship between two men who like bantering and kidding. It also includes some of Brecher's standup routines, but best of all, it has his stories of working and laughing with comic stars all through the twentieth century. Brecher died last November at 94, and didn't get to see the publication of the memoir he and Rosenfeld had been working on, but this merry book is one of the best last laughs you'll ever read. "So here it is," he says near the beginning of the book, "I'm saying it. I admit I am very funny. I don't like to quote myself, but unfortunately everybody I know who should be quoting me is dead. Fine friends they turned out to be."

Brecher was one of those Hollywood denizens that got his start the classic way, as an usher in New York City. As a teenager he would send in gags on postcards to columnists Walter Winchell or Ed Sullivan who would credit him by name.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Judson Nirenberg on November 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
The book is not only a an obvious work of love for Brecher, who comes right off the pages but is a great insider look at some of the most famous Hollywood personalities of the many decades when Brecher was writing. The anecdotes about work, travel and play with some of the 20th century's best known comedians can, on their own, make the reading worthwhile.

From the prejudices that Jews faced to the ways that different comedians and comics left their mark on today's film canon, this book packed in a lot of history before I stopped laughing and noticed the importance of the subject.

The book is a mixture of formats, including interviews/dialogues between the author and Brecher, who are both quick and funny.

Definitely get his book no matter whether you're looking for cinema studies, Judaica, American cultural studies or a light and funny read for the bathroom.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael OConnor TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
Irving Brecher, who died in November 2008, had many claims to fame during his long career in vaudeville, radio, films and television. Beginning as a gag-writer for Berle and Henny Youngman, Brecher became a Hollywood script doctor/writer and director, sole writer of two Marx Brothers movies, Emmy winner for 'The Life of Riley,' and so on. Yet the most meaningful distinction Brecher earned was probably the fact that Groucho Marx, no slouch in the wit department, rated Brecher as one of the three wittiest men living, the other two being Oscar Levant and George Kaufman! Brecher, with the help of comedian/writer/storyteller Hank Rosenfeld, details his many lives and (comedy) crimes in this wonderful 2009 release from Ben Yehuda Press.

Brecher's book is more oral history than straight autobiography. Over a period of years, Rosenfeld taped his conversations/interviews with this marvelously funny man, resulting in THE WICKED WIT OF THE WEST. While there is some jumping-back-and-forth throughout the book, it is still a tremendously entertaining look back at American entertainment in the 20th Century. A wonderful, insightful and honest storyteller, Brecher takes the reader back to the Catskills, Broadway and Hollywood of long ago and shares stories of so many entertainers of note - Berle, Henny Youngman, Jack Benny, the Marx Brothers, Jackie Gleason, Judy Garland, Ernie Kovacs - and some lesser lights as well. While Brecher's tale is a fun read, it also gets high marks for supplying a behind-the-scenes, warts-and-all look at show biz on both coasts.

THE WICKED WIT OF THE WEST is required reading for all cinema buffs and anyone wanting to spend some hours being regaled by one of God's gifts to comedy. Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Darlene Arden on May 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
The choice is whether to read "The Wicked Wit of the West" quickly because it's such a page turner or to savor each chapter, each page. This book is a treasure trove of vaudeville, radio, film and television history, captured before it could be lost to us forever. The wit of Irving Brecher was incredible: creative, intelligent, and rapier sharp. How fortunate that Hank Rosenfeld was able to spend years capturing that wonderful wit along with the man and his memories so that it will not be lost to the rest of us.
Don't just sit there: order this book now and enjoy every bit of this rare opportunity to truly see behind the curtain.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Eric H. Roth on December 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
ROFL. Irving Brecher, a guy I never heard of before, comes alive - even though I read he just died. This tour de force of funny includes insider stories about Harpo, Groucho, Chico, Judy Garland, Jack Benny, and others. Written in a casual, engaging style, this hybrid memoir - part first person autobiography and part biography - "a freak" as Brecher puts it in the book - will satisfy comedy lovers.

Yet the delightful wordplay also shows that intelligence and creativity can overcome difficult life circumstances. Inspiring on multiple levels. God Bless you Mr. Rosenfeld (Rosewater). Note: Kurt Vonnegut would have loved this book!
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