A Mouthful of Marty Ingels

How is this NOT Red Skelton?

Haha, THAT title got your attention! With this post, I believe we complete the Holy Trinity of Jewish comedy Marties, joining Marty Allen and Marty Feldman. No less of a kooky character than the other two is Marty Ingels (Marty Ingerman, 1936-2015).

Such is my age that I grew up thinking of Ingels primarily as “Mr. Shirley Jones“, much as one thought of Gary Morton as “Mr. Lucille Ball“. But Ingels had been much more prominent in the years prior to my birth and attainment of consciousness, especially on television. A Brooklyn native, and a nephew of NYC mayor Abe Beame, he always gave off a night-club comic energy, although reportedly he didn’t enter the business that way. He was more of a comic actor. With his dimples, high pitched raspy voice, and talent for popping his eyes, he must have reminded audiences of his day as Red Skelton. As a young man, Ingels had done a hitch in the army, and got some roles at the Pasadena Playhouse. He broke into TV with some early appearances on The Phil Silvers Show, The Steve Allen Show, The Ann Sothern Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, et al. Somehow, he already had the juice to play himself in The Ladies Man with Jerry Lewis by 1961.

By some measures Ingels peaked early, for some folks probably know him best for I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster, the sit-com on which he co-starred with a pre-Addams Family John Astin. Another cast member was Frank De Vol as their boss (they played a couple of carpenters). With its mix of clever writing and broad slapstick, this show was (and is) a hit with critics, but it came in third in the ratings against Sing Along with Mitch and Route 66 in the ratings despite coming on right after The Flintstones, and so it was cancelled after one 32 episode season.

Ingels did films as well. For a few years he was a regular presence in the wacky sex comedies that were popular at the time: The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962), Wild and Wonderful (1964), The Busy Body (1967), A Guide for the Married Man (1967), For Singles Only (1968) and If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium (1969). On TV, he was a regular on the short-lived The Phyllis Diller Show (1967), and a panelist on the game show It Takes Two (1969), on which he was paired with Marlo Thomas. And there were guest appearances on The Hollywood Palace, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Joey Bishop Show, The Woody Woodbury Show, George Jessel’s Here Come the Stars, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Joe Franklin (with whom he shared a birthday), Adam-12, Bewitched, etc.

As a kid, I knew him as the voice of Beegle Beagle on The Great Grape Ape Show (1975). His voice was well suited to animated cartoons and he did many of them over the years. People slightly younger than me may remember him as the voice of Pac Man on the eponymous Saturday morning cartoon (1982-83) based on the popular video game. On the flip side, he also did things like Playboy After Dark and porn-like comedies such as How to Seduce a Woman (1974), and Linda Lovelace for President (1975). When he married Shirley Jones in 1977, he seemed instrumental in converting her image from wholesome all-American to salty old broad, and you will find plenty of photographs of the pair of them running around Hollywood in freakish get-ups during their sunset years. (Jones obviously had a thing for naughty men; her previous husband had been Jack Cassidy).

While he continued acting and making personal appearances, Ingels also became a talent agent during these years, specializing in connecting advertisers with celebrities for television ads. His best known coup (if you can call it that) was hooking up Orson Welles with Paul Masson Wines. I don’t know if it raised Paul Masson’s stock; it certainly lowered Welles’s. In later years Ingels continued to appear on shows like The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, ER, CSI, etc. Some of his later roles tell the story of how his persona had evolved. They include “Grandpa” (Burt Paxton, 2014), “Pop-Pop” (The Middle Ages, 2015), and “Gramps” (Bruce the Challenge, 2016), his last. He died in 2015 of a stroke.

Care to support the voluminous and variegated work of Travalanche? Please do so by joining our Patreon Posse here. As little as $1 a month gets you all sorts of extra content over and above what we do here, including our Daily Digest; lots of old time movie, radio, TV and record clips; and exclusive audio and video presentations by Your Humble Servant. Hither to the 411.

To learn more about show business history, including variety television, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville FamousFor more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.