By Wendy Mitchell
Updated September 11, 2009 at 10:10 PM EDT

Writer Larry Gelbart, best known as one of the key creative forces behind groundbreaking TV series M*A*S*H, died today at the age of 81. His wife, Pat Gelbart, said he died of cancer at his home in Beverly Hills. The Chicago-born writer/director/producer’s work spanned radio, TV, film (Tootsie, Oh God!, Blame it on Rio) and theater (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). Producer-director Gene Reynolds hired him to write the pilot script for M*A*S*H (which grew out of Robert Altman’s 1970 film, based on Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel). Gelbart served as executive script consultant and executive producer of the Emmy-winning Korean War sitcom from 1972-76, and also directed several episodes. He also worked on After M*A*S*H in the 1980s.

More: Ken Tucker’s appreciation of Larry Gelbart