Sidney Joseph Perelman (1904-1979) wrote funny stories for The New Yorker and screenplays for the Marx Brothers.

Perelman was born in Brooklyn, and raised and educated in Providence, RI. Collections of his humor pieces included Strictly from Hunger (1937), The Road to Miltown; or, Under the Spreading Atrophy (1957), and Rising Gorge (1961). There's something of an omnibus called The Most of S. J. Perelman, of which the ever-clever Modern Library is now hawking a version abridged by the trembling hand of Steve Martin. Why? Who cares? It's in print, buy it.

Perelman was one of the finest comic writers who ever lived, but his humor was not obvious and his vocabulary was not small. Stupid people do not enjoy reading S. J. Perelman. In fact, they're totally baffled by him and they become resentful. He bounced between the vernacular and OED words with greater abandon than H.L. Mencken; but H.L. Mencken got away with writing well by being epigrammatic and obnoxious. He's almost a god among people who've heard of him, and there are several of those still living.

Some titles of stories: "The Hand that Cradles the Rock", "No Starch in the Dhoti, S'il Vous Plait", "Amo, Amas, Amat, Amamus, Amatis, Enough", "Beat me, Post-Impressionist Daddy".

It's hard to explain. It's just very hard to explain, but S. J. Perelman was a very important man.
The Marx Brothers movies that S.J. Perelman was involved in the writing of were "Monkey Business"(1931) and "Horse Feathers"(1932). There were 3 to 6 writers involved in most Marx Brothers scripts. Apparently because that was how many it took to remain sane while working with Julius "Groucho" Marx (they formed a sort of support group).

Perelman also wrote (and won an Oscar for) the screenplay of "Around the World in Eighty Days"(1956) starring David Niven. The Oscar was accepted on his behalf by Hermione Gingold with a Perelman written speech (which referred to little Oscar as an "Object D'Art").


Though he used the name Sidney, apparently his original first name was in fact Simeon. Though I guess that in Brooklyn early last century Sidney might be easier to live with.

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