There would hardly be a single person on the entire planet who has not seen at least one episode of the 1960’s TV comedy “Get Smart.” Yes I am talking about that bumbling Agent 86 – Maxwell Smart.
I know that as a young boy growing up I used to love the crazy antics of this show – KAOS, Control, Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), bad guy Siegfried, the Chief (Edward Platt), Himey the humanoid, Larabie who always hid in the strangest places, the useless “cone of silence,” the shoe phone and much more.
So, it was with great sadness that we all heard of the recent passing of its wonderful prime actor, Don Adams. Some people leave an indelible mark on the world and Don was indeed one of them.
Born Donald James Yarmy in New York in April 1923 of Hungarian-Jewish descent, Adams was raised in his mother’s Catholic faith. His career took off in 1954 when he won a TV talent quest. That, in turn, led to appearances on a host of notable shows including Steve Allen’s Tonight Show, the Ed Sullivan Show and Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall.
By far his greatest role was Maxwell Smart where he played a secret agent in the spy-spoof series “Get Smart.” It ran for only a relatively short time (1965 to 1970) but has been re-running ever since, such is its cult following. It would come as no surprise to learn that Mike Myers used Get Smart as a basis for his own spy-sleuth character “Austin Powers” some three decades later.
As successful as the Get Smart series was it had the usual detrimental effect on Adams. Like so many others he was forever typecast. Bob Denver suffered the same fate as Gilligan on “Gilligan’s Island,” as did most of the other cast members on that particular series.
Adams had numerous other small casting roles but never escaped being Maxwell Smart. He also provided the voice-over for Inspector Gadget. Over the years, owing to Get Smart’s enormous popularity, there were a number of sequels. The first of these was “The Nude Bomb” in 1980, followed by “Get Smart Again!” in 1989. Finally, in 1994, at 71 years of age, Adams was elevated to the casting role of “the Chief” of Control in the last offering of Get Smart. Barbara Feldon, former Agent 99, played a Congresswoman.
Of the character he played, who could forget the classic lines such as “would you believe?” and “sorry about that Chief” and the inimitable “missed it… by that much.” These lines rivaled those of Sergeant Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes where actor John Banner was apt to say very frequently “I know nothing!” They were indeed marvelously funny years of television.
In a recent television interview, just before his death, Don Adams described how total strangers would recognize him in public, quickly take off a shoe and offer it to him saying things like “it’s for you Max,” referring, of course, to his “shoe phone” antics. The shoe phone always had a habit of ringing at the most inopportune time. Such was the lasting and endearing effect he had on fans all over the world.
Married and divorced three times, Adams had seven children, five grand-children and three great-grand-children.
Don Adams has left a wonderful legacy to the world. It is so much richer for him having lived. He brought so much laughter and joy to millions of people. He still does.
I hope you have enjoyed this short romp down memory lane. Vale Don Adams.