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Deceased Name: Max Wilk , 90, writer of comedy

Max Wilk, author, playwright, film and television writer, and music impresario, died on Saturday, Feb. 19, at his home in Westport. He was 90 years old and had lived in Ridgefield in the 50s and 60s.


Mr. Wilk, who wrote mostly comedy in almost every form imaginable, was stage struck as a young man and studied drama at Yale, graduating in 1941. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Force Motion Picture Unit, whose captain was Ronald Reagan. He worked on Irving Berlin's famous "This Is the Army" show, and wrote and even appeared in Army training films.


After the war, living in New York City and, later, Ridgefield from 1951 till 1964, he wrote plays (including "Small Wonder" with George Axelrod), was a founding member of the 52nd Street Players group, and also wrote for many magazines. Soon after he turned to the then new medium of television, writing live TV shows and later sitcoms and comedy specials through the 1970's to make his living as a writer.


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 properties.


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.


By 1960, he began publishing humorous novels, often set in the contemporary New York suburban areas he knew so well - including Ridgefield. One of his novels, "Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the Water" was made into a Jerry Lewis film whose screenplay he wrote.


During a few years spent living in London in the 1960s, he became involved with the Beatles Yellow Submarine project and was commissioned to write the novel based on the film. He wrote comedy specials for such stars as Melina Mercouri and Jonathan Winters.


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 Under woods, and OK! The Story of Oklahoma.


In all, Mr. Wilk was the author of 19 books, four films, three produced plays and innumerable television shows and magazine articles.


In later years, Mr. Wilk became a local music impresario, successfully producing scores of jazz and live shows for the Westport Arts Center during a run of almost 20 years.


In addition, for more than 20 years, he served as dramaturge at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwright's Conference, working closely with many emerging and established playwrights, including Pulitzer-winners August Wilson and David Lindsay-Abaire.


Mr. Wilk was predeceased by his wife, artist Barbara Wilk, and is survived by his three children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.


Ridgefield Press, The (CT)

Date: February 24, 2011






Visual artist Barbara Wilk, who divided her time between Santa Fe and Westport, Conn., died April 2 in Connecticut after a long battle with cancer, according to her husband, writer Max Wilk. She was 84.


Wilk also worked as a film animator, educator and arts activist.


"She was such a talented woman," Max Wilk said by phone Friday. "I loved her, but I loved her talent as much as I loved her."


Her husband said she continued to make art until the end of last year, and her last public exhibition took place last autumn in Westport.


Wilk, who was born in Manhattan, once described herself as "a New York cowgirl." She graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., in 1944 and worked for a time as an editor for United Press International before enrolling in the Arts Students League of New York. She then moved to Europe, where she studied at the Fernand Leger Atelier in Paris.


She worked mostly in oils but turned to printmaking about 10 years ago. In June of 2000, she had an exhibition of prints based on Western movie lobby cards at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe.


"She had wonderful enthusiasm and adored traveling," said her friend, Madelon Hedden of Santa Fe. "She went to all sorts of places that nobody else would go to. Her last trip, I think, was to Petra (the ancient archaeological site in Jordan)."


Hedden said Wilk worked with Save the Children to develop a program called "Eyes on the Future" that brought eye doctors and glasses to Navajo reservations in Arizona and New Mexico.


In a January issue of Pasatiempo, Wilk recalled meeting Pablo Picasso in the South of France in the late 1940s. "He was strange -- he was a clown," she recalled. "He did a drawing for me that, as I was driving through the Alps, flew out the window of my car and disappeared into the mountains. I have regretted that to this day."


In addition to her husband, Wilk is survived by her sons, David Wilk of Weston, Conn., and Richard Wilke of Bloomington, Ind., a daughter, Mary Frances Begaye of Tuba City, Ariz., and seven grandchildren.


Contact Robert Nott at 995-3831 or


Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM)

Date: May 20, 2007



Deceased Name: Barbara Wilk

Barbara Wilk of Westport died on April 2 after a long struggle with cancer. She was 84.


Mrs. Wilk had a varied and remarkable career as an artist, film animator, volunteer and arts activist.


Born on March 27, 1923, in New York City, she graduated from Smith College in 1944, and worked in New York as an editor for United Press International. Later, she enrolled in the Arts Student League, studying with major American artists Reginald Marsh and Will Barnet. In Europe, she studied with Fernand Leger Atelier.


Married in 1949 to Max Wilk, the family moved to Ridgefield for several years. With three children, David, Richard and Mary Frances in tow, the family moved to Los Angeles, and then to London.


In 1965 they settled in Westport, where she established the avant garde art gallery, Optimums Inc., and was active there in the arts of the '60s and '70s. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 1993, she received the President's Volunteer Action Award for a program she initiated with Save the Children: "Eyes on the Future," bringing doctors and glasses to the hundreds of isolated members of the Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico.


The most recent shows of her work were at the Fairfield University Walsh Gallery in June 2006, and at the Westport Public Library in October 2006, both widely attended.


Mrs. Wilk is survived by her husband, Max; her sons, David Wilk of Weston, and Professor Richard Wilk of Bloomington, Ind.; her daughter, Mary Frances Begaye of Tuba City, Ariz.; and seven grandchildren.


There will be a memorial gathering for her many friends to be announced later this month.


Westport News (CT)






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