Buck Henry, Get Smart co-creator, dies

Buck Henry in Heaven Can Wait

Buck Henry, a writer and actor who co-created Get Smart, has died at 89, according to an obituary posted by Deadline: Hollywood.

Henry died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, Deadline said.

Henry collaborated with Mel Brooks on the pilot script for Get Smart, a parody of spy shows and movies.

The series originally was developed for ABC. The network rejected the show because the script had bumbling CONTROL agent Maxwell Smart confronting KAOS villain Mr. Big, who was a dwarf.

NBC, upon hearing about the script, commissioned a pilot. Henry and Brooks re-tooled their script for Don Adams, incorporating some of Adams’ bits from his comedy act. Michael Dunn was cast as Mr. Big opposite Adams’ Maxwell Smart.

The series sold. It ran for four seasons on NBC and a fifth on CBS.

By the time Get Smart went off the air in 1970, the spy craze that spawned it had run its course.

Henry was nominated twice for Emmys for Get Smart. The pilot script received one nomination. Henry and Leonard Stern won an Emmy for a two-part episode, Ship of Spies.

“For continual satiric inspiration, I want to thank all those zanies in the CIA and FBI,” Henry said in accepting the award. “Precisely what I was going to say,” Stern added.

Henry stayed with Get Smart for its first season as story editor. He later moved onto other projects, including co-scripting and appearing in 1967’s The Graduate. That got Henry an Oscar nomination.

He shared another Oscar nomination with Warren Beatty for directing 1978’s Heaven Can Wait. Henry also had a supporting role in the film.

The writer also was a frequent host in the early years of NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

Below is a YouTube video of the 1967 Emmy Awards show where Henry and Stern got their award for Get Smart. The video quality isn’t very good, unfortunately.

The awards program represented a high point for spy TV shows. In addition to Henry and Stern,  Barbara Bain won the first of her three Emmys for Mission: Impossible, beating out Diana Rigg of The Avengers. Bruce Geller also won an Emmy for his pilot script for Mission: Impossible.

The 007-Dick Tracy-Batman mashup

dicktracy

James Bond fans often discuss how Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories compare with literature or comment about the 007 movies (in particular the 2006-2012 movies) shape up as cinema.

There’s often little commentary about how they compare to pulp stories or to comic strips such as Dick Tracy or comic books such as Batman

In fact, 007 shares many of the same elements as Tracy (who made his debut in 1931) and Batman (whose first appearance was in 1939).

All three characters encounter larger-than-life villains: Flattop, Mumbles, Pruneface and many others for Tracy; Goldfinger, Dr. No, Ernst Stavro Blofeld for Bond; and the Joker, the Penguin, Two-Face and the Catwoman for Batman. All three characters dabble in science fiction: two-way wrist radios/televisions/computers/space coupes for Tracy; high-tech Batmobiles, Bat-computers and other devices for Batman; various gadgets (especially in films) and tricked-out cars for Bond.

The comparisons between 007 and Batman have been out in force this year after Skyfall director Sam Mendes said Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy influenced Skyfall. The Tracy comparison doesn’t get talked about as much for obvious reasons. There hasn’t been a Tracy movie since 1990, when Warren Beatty directed and starred in a Tracy film.

Still, Tracy, created by Chester Gould (1900-1985), had many of the same elements of 007 and Batman and was out earlier. Tracy doesn’t get much attention these days but if you CLICK HERE you can catch up on his newest exploits.

The main difference among the characters: Tracy married Tess Trueheart on Christmas Day 1949 and raised a family.