Author-screenwriter Max Wilk dies at his Westport home at 90
Published 4:55 pm, Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Max Wilk, author, playwright, film and television writer and music impresario, died Feb. 19 at his home in Westport. He was 90.
Wilk, who wrote mostly comedy in many forms, studied drama at Yale, graduating in 1941. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Force Motion Picture Unit under then-Capt. Ronald Reagan. He worked on Irving Berlin's "This is the Army" show, and wrote and appeared in Army training films.
Soon after, Wilk turned to the then-new medium of television, writing live TV shows and later sitcoms and comedy specials through the 1970s.
He won a Peabody Award for the 1960 special "The Fabulous Fifties." He wrote screenplays for "Raggedy Ann and Andy" and "They Said It With Music," among many other television and film projects. His original play, "Cloud 7," ran briefly on Broadway, and a later play, "Mr. Williams and Miss Wood," about Tennessee Williams, has been widely produced in recent years.
He published humorous novels, often set in the New York suburbs he knew well. One of his novels, "Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the Water" was made into a Jerry Lewis film whose screenplay he wrote. While living in London in the 1960s he worked on the Beatles Yellow Submarine project and was commissioned to write the novel based on the film.
His best-known nonfiction work was "They're Playing Our Song," a collection of interviews with and stories about the great Tin Pan Alley and Broadway songwriters of the 20th century, in print for almost 40 years, and widely quoted as an important source for many other writers. Other books include "The Golden Age of Television," "The Wit and Wisdom of Hollywood," "Schmucks with Underwoods," and "OK! The Story of Oklahoma."
In later years, Wilk became a local music impresario, successfully producing scores of jazz and live shows for the Westport Arts Center during a nearly 20-year run.
He was pre-deceased by his wife, artist Barbara Wilk, and is survived by his three children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A memorial service is being planned for a later date.