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Jerry Belson

  • Highest Rated: 100% Close Encounters Of The Third Kind: 40th Anniversary Release (2017)
  • Lowest Rated: 13% Surrender (1987)
  • Birthday: Jul 8, 1938
  • Birthplace: Not Available
  • Justly proclaimed by "insiders" as one of the funniest men in the world (on par with such giants as Larry Gelbart and Buck Henry), the El Centro, California-born TV comedy writer Jerry Belson hotfooted it to Tinseltown immediately after high-school graduation, where he briefly supported himself with stints as a comic-book writer, magician, and drummer. Not long after, at the tender age of 22, Belson sold his first script for an episode of The Danny Thomas Show (in 1960), then on CBS. He quickly met and teamed up with Northwestern grad Garry Marshall, four years his senior; the two pooled their abilities and jointly scripted some of the most enduring small-screen series comedies of the 1960s and '70s, including The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966, CBS, for which Belson won an Emmy), The Joey Bishop Show (1961-1965, NBC, CBS), The Lucy Show (1962-1974, CBS), Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. (1964-1970, CBS), Hey, Landlord (1966-1967, NBC), and The Odd Couple (1970-1975, ABC), on which Belson also served as producer and director. Needless to say, the towering, uniform success of these programs (many of which ran concurrently) turned both men into wealthy sitcom veterans and revered show-business legends, whose style of writing spurred countless others on to great heights. During this period, Belson and Marshall also created specials for Bob Hope, Danny Thomas (a project that won the WGA award), Fred Astaire, and Bing Crosby. As The Odd Couple wrapped in the mid-'70s, Belson segued into big-screen work, with varying degrees of success. He began brilliantly, scripting one of the funniest American comedies of the postwar era, Michael Ritchie's Smile (1975) -- a heartfelt satire about a California beauty pageant. Uncredited collaborations with Steven Spielberg (on 1977's Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and Ritchie (Semi-Tough, 1977) followed. Belson authored an original script for the hilarious Burt Reynolds-directed black comedy The End (1978), with Reynolds as a terminally ill man whose attempts to off himself are abetted by a nutty-as-a-fruitcake, schizoid mental patient (Dom DeLuise). It opened to solid reviews and box office, but everyone except for a (very) few die-hard Burt fans dismissed Belson's silver-screen reunion with Reynolds, Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), which Belson co-scripted with Brock Yates and Michael Caine. The same applied to Belson's cinematic directorial debut, the insane comedy Jekyll & Hyde... Together Again (1982, produced, coincidentally, at the same time as Garry Marshall's freshman directorial outing). The director actually spun the material off of a sketch on ABC's late-night sketch comedy series Fridays (the network's answer to Saturday Night Live), in which comedian Mark Blankfield played a recurrent cocaine-snorting pharmacist. Belson turned the material into a feature, a loony Airplane!-style parody of Robert Louis Stevenson's seminal novel, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. The pedigree could hardly have been better, with Belson at the helm, and four of the most talented comic scripters in the business sharing authorship (the director's sister Monica Johnson, Michael Leeson, Belson, and Harvey Miller). Variety proclaimed it "irresistible," but the public most certainly did resist, and the picture bombed unceremoniously. So did Belson's sophomore directorial outing, for Cannon, 1987's Surrender. That film stars Michael Caine as a rich, misogynistic divorcée whose hatred of women springs from his being wrung dry in an alimony suit. Life takes a turn for the better when he is robbed, stripped, and tied to a chair opposite Sally Field -- and they fall in love. Roger Ebert best summed up the problem with that film when he surmised, "Instead of continuing to develop their relationship, Belson starts throwing unnecessary plot developments at his story....The movie loses track of its simple human feelings, and gets bogged down in plot gimmicks. The fragile relationship between Caine and Field is one of the casualties." Bel

Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

Movies

Rating

Title

Credit

Box
Office

Year

100% Close Encounters Of The Third Kind: 40th Anniversary Release Screenwriter $3.1M 2017
67% Always Screenwriter 1989
18% For Keeps Producer 1988
38% The Couch Trip Yuri V.O. Screenwriter 1988
13% Surrender Director 1987
77% Fletch Screenwriter 1985
No Score Yet Jekyll and Hyde...Together Again Director Screenwriter 1982
25% Student Bodies Producer Executive Producer 1981
81% Modern Romance Jerry 1981
17% Smokey and the Bandit II Screenwriter 1980
64% The End Screenwriter 1978
88% Semi-Tough TV Director 1977
95% Close Encounters of the Third Kind Screenwriter 1977
55% Fun with Dick and Jane Screenwriter 1977
100% Smile Screenwriter 1975
No Score Yet Evil Roy Slade Producer Screenwriter 1972
No Score Yet The Grasshopper Screenwriter Producer 1970
No Score Yet How Sweet It Is! Screenwriter Producer 1968

TV

Rating

Title

Credit

Year

No Score Yet The Drew Carey Show
1995-2004
Screenwriter
  • 2000
No Score Yet Laverne & Shirley
1976-1983
Mr. Wardcraft
  • 1976
No Score Yet Rhoda
1978
Director
  • 1975
No Score Yet The Mary Tyler Moore Show
1970-1977
Director
  • 1973
  • 1972
No Score Yet The Odd Couple
1970-1975
Screenwriter Executive Producer Director
  • 1973
  • 1972
  • 1971
  • 1970
No Score Yet The Dick Van Dyke Show
1961-1966
Screenwriter
  • 1966
  • 1965
  • 1964
No Score Yet The Tracey Ullman Show
1987-1990
Executive Producer

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