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Don Adams Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (36) | Personal Quotes (10) | Salary (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 13 April 1923New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death 25 September 2005Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (pulmonary infection)
Birth NameDonald James Yarmy
Height 5' 9" (1.75 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Don Adams was born in New York, to a father of Hungarian Jewish descent, and a mother of German and Irish ancestry. He had a sister, Gloria, and a brother, Dick Yarmy. He served in the U.S. Marines in World War II and contracted malaria during the fighting on Guadalcanal island. After the war he began a career as a stand-up comic. He married singer Adelaide Adams and adopted her last name as his stage surname. He had seven children altogether, (four with his first wife, two with his second): Caroline Adams, Christine, Catherine, Cecily Adams, Stacey Adams, Sean, Beige. His television career began when he won the Ted Mack & the Original Amateur Hour (1948) talent contest. His most famous role, of course, is as bumbling, incompetent, clueless yet endearing secret agent Maxwell Smart in the classic sitcom/spy spoof Get Smart (1965), although he also had a career as a television director and a Broadway and theatrical dramatic actor.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: A. Nonymous

American comic actor and comedian who gained worldwide fame and three Emmy Awards starring as Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, in the classic television comedy Get Smart (1965).

Born Donald James Yarmy on April 13, 1923 [correct, despite frequently reported erroneous dates] in New York City, his father was of Hungarian Jewish descent, and his mother had German and Irish ancestry. Adams prepared for a career as a commercial artist. He joined the U.S. Marines in the early days of World War II. He saw combat in the invasion of Guadalcanal and was the only survivor of his platoon. He contracted blackwater fever and nearly died, remaining hospitalized for more than a year. After his recovery he served as a drill instructor.

Following the war, he embarked on a career as an impressionist and stand-up comedian, appearing in small clubs in Florida and Washington D.C. He married singer Adelaide Adams and took her professional last name as his own stage name. In 1954, his stand-up act, written with his boyhood friend Bill Dana, landed him a contestant spot on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (1948), which he won. This led to scores of appearances on comedy and variety series such as The Steve Allen Plymouth Show (1956) and Ed Sullivan's The Ed Sullivan Show (1948), and ultimately to a regular job on Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall (1948). He also played in stock and in 1962 starred with Anthony Perkins in the Broadway play "Harold".

Divorced and remarried (to dancer Dorothy Bracken ), Adams in 1963 reunited with Bill Dana on The Bill Dana Show (1963), playing inept hotel detective Byron Glick, a forerunner to his most famous characterization. NBC placed Adams under contract and gave him the starring role in the Mel Brooks and Buck Henry spy spoof Get Smart (1965). As the bumbling yet intrepid secret agent Maxwell Smart, Adams was an instant success. With his alluring straight-woman partner Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), Adams became a comic icon of the 1960s, popularizing dozens of catch-phrases that still resound today: "Would you believe?", "Missed it by THAT much!", "...and LOVING it!" and "Sorry about that, Chief."

Adams reveled in the show and its popularity, and particularly enjoyed writing and directing several episodes. Get Smart (1965) ran for five seasons and brought Adams wealth, awards, and worldwide fame. At the same time, he continued to achieve recognition as one of the funniest and most popular stand-up comedians of his generation.

Adams returned in a new series in 1971, The Partners (1971), which, though slightly more serious than Get Smart, still had him playing a bumbling law-enforcement officer. This time he starred with Rupert Crosse, the two playing a pair of none-too-bright detectives. The show lasted one season. Except for the intriguing but unsuccessful Don Adams' Screen Test (1975) (a contest show in which Adams directed famous stars and amateurs in scenes from classic movies), he did not return to series television for fourteen years.

Instead he guest-starred on sitcoms, variety shows, and occasional TV movies. He played Las Vegas showrooms and nightclubs, though he grew increasingly reluctant to perform before live audiences. With the distinctive voice of his on-screen persona, he had long been active in voice-over work. Even during the Get Smart period he had been popular among children as the title voice of the animated Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales (1963), and later was even more popular in his title role as Inspector Gadget (1983).

Divorced again, he married a third time in 1977 (to Judy Luciano). During this period, Adams starred in and directed a number of commercials, winning a CLIO Award for directing. In 1980, he reluctantly returned to the Maxwell Smart character in a feature film, The Nude Bomb (1980), which he hated. He also brought the character briefly back to television in the 1989 TV movie Get Smart, Again! (1989).

In 1985, he returned to series television in a Canadian sitcom, Check It Out (1985), in which he played the manager of a supermarket. The show was popular enough to run for three seasons on American TV, but it mainly provided a paycheck for Adams and a co-starring role for a pre-NYPD Blue (1993) Gordon Clapp.

In later years, he hoped for a chance at serious roles, of which he had done many in his early years in summer stock. But the opportunity never arrived. A role was actually written for him by his son-in-law Jim Beaver for the revived Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985) in 1986, but the producers feared he could not subsume his comedic persona, and the role went to Martin Landau.

Instead, he returned to the role that had made him world famous, in a third revival of Maxwell Smart. The 1995 series version of Get Smart (1995) featured Adams as Smart, now promoted to Chief of the secret agency CONTROL. Barbara Feldon also returned as his wife and colleague, but instead of the couple who had made television history, the show focused on the bumbling spy efforts of their son Zach Smart. Only seven episodes aired before the new show was cancelled.

Adams spent the remainder of his career doing commercials and voice work, mostly in new Inspector Gadget productions. In 1999, he made a cameo voice appearance in the live-action Inspector Gadget (1999) feature film starring Matthew Broderick as Gadget.

Like his brother, the late comic actor Dick Yarmy, Adams was an inveterate horse-player. His leisure time was largely spent either at racetracks or in card games at the Playboy Mansion, and with pals such as Hugh M. Hefner, James Caan, and Don Rickles. Divorced for the third time, he lived alone in a luxury apartment in Century City. He was a devoted history buff, and was an amateur expert on the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler. He was a talented poet and painter.

His health declined in later years with the onset of bone lymphoma, but took a precipitous turn for the worse following the death in 2004 of his daughter, actress-casting director Cecily Adams. He died from a lung infection at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills on September 25, 2005. Two of his former wives and three of his children, as well as other family members, were with him when he died.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (3)

Judy Luciano (10 June 1977 - 1990) (divorced) (1 child)
Dorothy Bracken (1960 - 1976) (divorced) (2 children)
Adelaide Efantis Adams (12 October 1947 - 1960) (divorced) (4 children)

Trade Mark (2)

His "Maxwell Smart" catchphrases "Would you believe...?", "Sorry About that, Chief.", "And...loving it." and "Missed it by THAT much."
His British, gravelly voice.

Trivia (36)

Cousin of Robert Karvelas
In 1999 he started to play Maxwell Smart once again, this time in a successful series of Canadian TV commercials for the "Buck-a-Call" long-distance service.
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith; pg. 4-5. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
Father of Cecily Adams and Stacey Adams.
Father-in-law of Jim Beaver.
Claims he changed his last name from Yarmy to Adams because he was tired of having to go last at auditions, which, he said (inaccurately), usually went in alphabetical order. In reality, he took his stage name from his first wife, singer Adelaide Adams, with whom he shared a bill on the nightclub circuit.
Served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, and took part in the landings and battle at Guadalcanal, where he contracted malaria.
Was a close friend of "Playboy" publisher Hugh M. Hefner, and spent one night each week with Hefner (and other friends) playing cards.
His father was of Hungarian Jewish descent. His mother had German and Irish ancestry.
His TV writing partner in 1954 was comedian Bill Dana. Dana used Adams on his own TV show, The Bill Dana Show (1963) from 1963 to 1965, by incorporating one of Adams' stand-up characters, inept house detective Byron Glick.
Had stopped performing in the postwar years and became a commercial artist because he had trouble finding stand-up work. In 1954, on a fluke, he auditioned and became a winner on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (1948). This led to TV appearances with Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan, among others, and stardom.
Instead of taking a large paycheck per episode ($12,500 per week) of Get Smart (1965), Adams decided to take a smaller salary and 33% share. It paid off in spades--the show has been running in syndication for decades.
His clipped Maxwell Smart voice came from a much exaggerated takeoff on William Powell's "The Thin Man." He used to get laughs using the exact same voice years earlier on the stand-up circuit in different character set pieces - a baseball umpire, a football coach, a defense attorney.
As the inept Agent 86 on Get Smart (1965) Adams used to have a script assistant read his part to him once or twice just before a scene, instead of learning his lines.
Uninterested in doing the James Bond spoof Get Smart (1965) series at first, he got on board after learning that Mel Brooks and Buck Henry were involved with the pilot script. Tom Poston was the first name being considered for the role, but Adams, under contract to NBC at the time, was promoted for the job by the network.
Won three Emmys for bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart in Get Smart (1965) and the show itself won two awards for "Best Comedy," but he was severely typecast after this and never did find another proper showcase to display his comic range.
One of the first (if not the first) stand up comedian to have his own sitcom.
Did not like the (badly timed) laugh track in Get Smart (1965).
Buried at the beautifully restored Hollywood Forever Cemetery located at 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, California, USA. Plot 8, Northeast pond.
Shares birthday with Ron Perlman.
In 1984, played as himself in Miller Lite Beer commercials, poking fun at his Maxwell Smart fame.
His Agent 86 catchphrase, "Would you believe...?", became the slogan for commercials for the White Castle hamburger chain in 1992, in which he also acted.
His two best known roles -- Maxwell Smart and Inspector Gadget -- were both James Bond parodies. Get Smart (1965) parodied the secret agent stories, while Inspector Gadget featured the unseen villain The Claw, who is shown as an arm stroking his cat, an obvious reference to Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
One of his duties while serving in the Marine Corps was a drill instructor.
Best remembered by the public for his starring role as "Maxwell Smart/Agent 86" on Get Smart (1965).
Was in a comedy team called The Young Brothers with Jay Lawrence.
Was only 2 inches shorter than ex-Get Smart (1965) co-star, Barbara Feldon. In order for make it appear that Adams was taller than her, he'd either stand on a small platform or Feldon would stoop down.
According to former Get Smart (1965), co-star, Barbara Feldon, Adams had an amazing memory that allowed him to take an unusual approach to filming.
Was good friends with Don Rickles, Bernie Kopell, James Caan and Hugh M. Hefner.
Daughter Cecily Adams died in 2004, and son Sean Adams died in 2006.
When the pilot of Get Smart (1965) was shooting for CBS, the producers wanted Tom Poston for the role of Maxwell Smart, but when they sold it to NBC, Adams was already under contract with the network, hence, he was immediately cast in the role.
Before he was a comedian/actor, he worked as a theater usher.
Dropped out from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1941 (which was his senior year).
Remained good friends with Barbara Feldon during and after Get Smart (1965).
Older brother of Dick Yarmy.
Brother-in-law of Alice Borden.

Personal Quotes (10)

[interview with Robert DeRossi, 10/27/65] I don't want to change the thinking of the world. My purpose is to make people laugh . . . It would be hypocritical if I said I don't want recognition, but I've never wanted it terribly. I think I'm being honest when I say I'd rather turn my talents, whatever they are, to writing and directing.
In restaurants, [people] send over shoes. I'm so tired of it. I keep getting shoes.
I hate performing. I don't care about being thought funny; I never did. Sometimes I wonder how I got into comedy at all. I did movie star impressions as a kid in high school. Somehow they just got out of hand.
[on Get Smart (1965)] The first few episodes I saw angered me so much I felt like throwing the TV through a window. I couldn't stand the laugh track... I didn't think so when I was making them, but some of those episodes are funny, funny shows. Some are classics. I actually laugh out loud at them now.
I'm no longer independently wealthy. I guess it's the result of too many wives, too many kids and too much alimony. I've been paying alimony since I was 14 and child support since 15. That's a joke, but not by much.
I like getting married, but I don't like being married.
[on his trademark clipped voice] It was Bill (Bill Dana) who was primarily responsible for me using that voice. Right from the beginning, he said, 'You should do all your routines in that voice.' And I said, 'But I can't stand that voice.' And he said, 'But it's funny. It makes people laugh.' And I'm, like, 'But I hate it...' For whatever reason, the delivery or whatever it is, that voice makes any situation funnier.
[on Jim Carrey] I'm not turned on by a comedian who bends over, spreads his cheeks and speaks out of his rear end.
I watched Seinfeld (1989) and didn't know what the show was about. It was about nothing!
[on Get Smart (1995) and Andy Dick] I knew it wouldn't work but they offered me a lot of money. I knew after the pilot that this kid couldn't carry the show.

Salary (2)

Get Smart (1965) $4,000/week + %
Inspector Gadget (1983) $3,500/episode

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