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Obituaries

Mickey Rose, screenwriter, partner of Woody Allen; at 77

When Mickey and Judy Rose married, Woody Allen, with actress Louise Lasser, was his best man. Mr. Rose helped Allen write several of his early movies.

Rose family

When Mickey and Judy Rose married, Woody Allen, with actress Louise Lasser, was his best man. Mr. Rose helped Allen write several of his early movies.

NEW YORK — As Brooklyn high school buddies, Woody Allen and Mickey Rose had a dream: One day, with luck, they would open a pharmacy together.

Instead, they combined to write two of Allen’s early movies, the comedies ‘‘Take the Money and Run’’ (1969) and ‘‘Bananas’’ (1971), which helped propel Allen to global fame.

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‘‘They established him as a filmmaker,’’ said Eric Lax, author of ‘‘Woody Allen: A Biography’’ (1991). ‘‘They made him popular enough to continue to do whatever he wanted to do.’’

Mr. Rose died of colon cancer on April 7 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., said his daughter, Jennifer Rose. He was 77.

As Allen became famous as a comedian, director, screenwriter, actor, author, playwright and musician, Mr. Rose continued to write for film as well as television: He worked for Sid Caesar, Johnny Carson, the Smothers Brothers, and Dean Martin, and he wrote several more screenplays. But the pair never parted ways, touching base regularly even though they lived 3,000 miles apart for most of their lives.

In a way they never left Brooklyn, and, fundamentally, they shared a wickedly sardonic comic sensibility. Allen introduced Mr. Rose to Judith Wolf (Mr. Rose wore a cape for the blind date), and Allen was best man at their wedding.

When she died in 2003 after 40 years of marriage, Allen offered words of comfort that perhaps only Mr. Rose could appreciate. ‘‘Well,’’ he said, ‘‘at least she beat old age.’’

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Michael Rose was born May 20, 1935, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and grew up there and in nearby Crown Heights. Allen hailed from Flatbush, a few miles away. They met in art class at Midwood High School when Allen was known by his birth name, Allan Konigsberg. (At 17, he legally changed his name to Heywood Allen.)

Soon the pair were going to Ebbets Field to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers, and to the Flatbush Theater movie palace to see the latest films. They played in a jazz combo, Allen on clarinet and Mr. Rose on drums. Mr. Rose saw his first television shows at the Konigsberg home.

They both went to New York University to study film. Mr. Rose graduated; Allen did not. Both did television writing, although for different shows. And both marveled at early Ingmar Bergman movies.

In 1966, Allen made his film-directing debut with ‘‘What’s Up, Tiger Lily?’’ The project involved taking a Japanese spy film and overdubbing original dialogue. The new plot involved a quest for the world’s best egg-salad recipe.

Mr. Rose was one of a half-dozen writers credited, along with Allen.

Mr. Rose then teamed up with Allen to work on a screenplay about a bumbling New Yorker who becomes involved in a Latin American revolution after being dumped by his girlfriend. They wrote 40 pages of what they first called ‘‘El Weirdo,’’ but a potential producer considered it less hilarious than they did.

In 1971, a new producer released a completed ‘‘El Weirdo’’ under a new title, ‘‘Bananas.’’ In the meantime, Mr. Rose collaborated with Allen on ‘‘Take the Money and Run’’ (1969) — the tale of Virgil Starkwell, an inept bank robber.

The two often walked around New York, each trying to make the other laugh.

The actor Bob Dishy, who knew Mr. Rose for 50 years, said his friend’s humor was inspired by surrealist painters and Franz Kafka, whom he thought Mr. Rose resembled.

Michael Barrie, who worked with Mr. Rose on ‘‘The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,’’ called him ‘‘a comedy writer’s comedy writer.’’

‘‘He had the ability in a writers’ meeting to get everyone thinking funny,’’ Barrie said.

Mr. Rose stopped writing comedy in the mid-1980s, partly because money was still coming in from earlier jobs. One of his last projects was the 1981 movie ‘‘Student Bodies,’’ a parody of horror movies.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Rose leaves his son, Quincy (named for the Brooklyn street on which Mr. Rose lived as child), and two grandchildren.

Allen and Mr. Rose talked on the phone as often as once a week, and when Allen visited Beverly Hills he often wandered over to Mr. Rose’s house and knocked on the door.

They conversed several times in the days before Mr. Rose’s death, Quincy Rose said. They talked about sports, old friends and, as the son recalled, an existential question, posed by Allen: ‘‘Are you scared?’’

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