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.
Adams (April 13th, 1923 September 25th, 2005) was an American
actor, comedian and director. In his five decades on television, he
was best known as Maxwell Smart (Agent 86) in the television
situation comedy Get Smart (196570, 1995), which he also
sometimes directed and wrote. Adams won three consecutive Emmy Awards
for his portrayal of Smart (196769). He provided the voices for
the animated series Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales (196366) and
Inspector Gadget (198386) and Inspector Gadget's Field Trip
(1996) as their title character until 1999.
Adams was born Donald James
Yarmy in Manhattan, New York, son of William Yarmy, and his wife,
Consuelo (Deiter). Adams and his brother Richard (who later became
prominent as actor Dick Yarmy) were each raised in the religion of
one parent: Don in the Catholic faith of their mother, and Dick in
the Jewish faith of their father. Both Adams father and brother would
make appearances on Get Smart. His older sister, Gloria Burton would
write a few episodes and of cource his cousin, Robert Karvelas played Larabee.
Dropping out of New York
City's DeWitt Clinton High School, Adams worked as a theater usher.
During World War II, he joined the United States Marine Corps, at the
age of 16, by lying about his age. Adams participated in the Battle
of Guadalcanal in the Pacific Theater of Operations. His combat
service was short-lived; he was shot and contracted blackwater fever,
a serious complication of malaria, known for a 90% rate of fatality.
He was evacuated and then hospitalized for more than a year at a Navy
hospital in Wellington, New Zealand. After his recovery, he served as
a Marine drill instructor in the United States.
Following his discharge,
Adams held a series of jobs. During a Canadian television interview,
he said that he had falsified college credentials and an engineering
background to be hired as an engineer designing underground sewers.
His lack of training was not discovered for six months.
later worked as a comic, taking the stage name of Adams after
marrying singer Adelaide (Dell) Efantis, who performed as Adelaide
Adams. They had four daughters, and Adams also worked as a commercial
artist and restaurant cashier to help support his family. When they
divorced, he kept Adams as his stage name because acting auditions
were often held in alphabetical order.
Adams' work on television
began in 1954, when he won on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts with a
stand-up comedy act written by boyhood friend Bill Dana. In addition
to appearing on numerous comedy, variety, and dramatic series, Adams
had a role on the NBC sitcom The Bill Dana Show (196365 below),
as a bumbling hotel detective named Byron Glick a character
Adams created that was the precursor to the role he would play as
"Maxwell Smart" on Get Smart. His famous "clippy"
voice characterization was an exaggeration of the speaking style of
actor William Powell. The hotel manager on The Bill Dana Show was
played by Jonathan Harris who later did a guest role on Get Smart and
would go on to play Dr. Zachary Smith of the science fiction
television series Lost in Space.
Get Smart creators Mel
Brooks and Buck Henry, prompted by producers Dan Melnick and David
Susskind, wrote Get Smart as the comedic answer to the successful
1960s spy television dramas such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The
Avengers, I Spy and others. They were asked to write a spoof that
combined elements from two of the most popular film series at the
time: the James Bond and Pink Panther (Inspector Clouseau) movies.
Smart had been written for Tom Poston, to be piloted on ABC; when
ABC turned it down, the show was picked up by NBC, which cast Adams
in the role because he was already under contract. Adams was wary of
committing to any show, but once he heard that Mel Brooks, Buck
Henry, and Leonard Stern were involved, he agreed to do it without
even reading a script. When Get Smart debuted in 1965, it was an
immediate hit. Barbara Feldon co-starred as Max's young and
attractive partner, Agent 99. Feldon had a great chemistry with Adams
throughout the show's run, despite a 10-year age difference, and they
became life long friends during and after the run of the show.
In addition to acting,
Adams took an active interest in the production of the show and
directed several episodes. Adams had chosen a low salary combined
with a one-third ownership stake in Get Smart during the show's
production, and received a regular income for many years due to the
show's popularity in reruns. He was nominated for Emmys four seasons
in a row, between 1966 and 1969, for Outstanding Continued
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series. He won
the award three times. The show moved to CBS for its final season,
with ratings declining, as spy series went out of fashion. Get Smart
was canceled in 1970, after 138 episodes.
Adams was happy about the
show's cancellation, since he wanted to move on to other projects.
His efforts after Get Smart were less successful, including the
comedy series The Partners (197172), a game show called Don
Adams' Screen Test (197576) and three attempts to revive the
Get Smart series in the 1980s. Even his movie, The Nude Bomb, was a
box-office failure. Adams had been typecast as Maxwell Smart and was
unable to escape the image, though he did have success doing voice work.
was the voice of the title character in Tennessee Tuxedo and His
Tales (196366), but he was more famous as the voice of
Inspector Gadget in the initial run of that television series
(198386). He even voiced himself in animated form for a guest
shot in an episode of Hanna-Barbera's The New Scooby-Doo Movies,
"The Exterminator," which first aired on CBS October 6th,
1973. He later went on to voice the character of Principal Hickley in
the Disney cartoon, Pepper Ann.
He attempted a
situation-comedy comeback in Canada with Check it Out! in 1985; the
show ran for three years in Canada, but it was not successful in the
United States. He would reprise Maxwell Smart on a new version of Get
Smart for Fox in 1995, which co-starred Barbara Feldon and Andy Dick
as Max and 99's only son. The show was canceled after only seven episodes.
In 2003, Adams joined a Get
Smart tribute at the Museum of Television and Radio. Also appearing
at the convention were surviving stars of Get Smart: Barbara Feldon,
Bernie Kopell and Dick Gautier.
Adams was an avid gambler;
according to his longtime friend Bill Dana, "He could be very
devoted to his family if you reminded him about it, [but] Don's whole
life was focused around gambling." Adams could always be found
at the racetrack or playing cards at the Playboy Mansion (below) with
friends Hugh Hefner, Don Rickles and James Caan, among others.
Adams died on September
25th, 2005 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.
He suffered from lymphoma and a lung infection. Before he died, he
joked about not wanting a mournful funeral, preferring, he said, to
have his friends get together "and bring me back to life."
This was a line he said to Agent 99 in a season two episode of Get Smart.
his eulogists were his decades-long friends Barbara Feldon, Don
Rickles, James Caan and Bill Dana, and his son-in-law, actor Jim
Beaver (Whitney Ellsworth on the HBO Western drama series Deadwood).
Beaver was widower of Adams's actress-daughter Cecily Adams, who died
of lung cancer a year before, at the age of 46. An actress, casting
director, and lyricist Cecily is well known to fans of Star Trek for
portraying Ishka (also known as "Moogie"), mother of the
Ferengi brothers Rom and Quark in the television series Star Trek:
Deep Space Nine. She also appeared in guest roles on a variety of
television series including Just Shoot Me!, Party of Five, with her
father in Check It Out! and Get Smart Again and Murphy Brown. Adams
friend Don Rickles' son Larry was also a writer for a time on Murphy Brown.
Although Adams had
expressed a desire to be buried with military rites at Arlington
National Cemetery, he was instead interred in Hollywood Forever
Cemetery in Hollywood, California. Adams was survived by three of his
four daughters from his first marriage, two children from his second
marriage, and a daughter from his third marriage. He was also
survived by five grandchildren (including Cecily's daughter Madeline
who was born in 2001) and three great-grandchildren. His son, Sean
Adams, died at age 35 of brain tumor in 2006, a year after Don Adams' death.
Cecily April Adams (February 6th, 1958
March 3rd, 2004) was an American actress, casting director,
and lyricist. Adams was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York, the
daughter of comic actor Don Adams and singer Adelaide Efantis. She
attended Beverly Hills High School and the University of California
at Irvine. She acted in high school and college and in 1983 joined
the Hollywood theatre company Theatre West.
Adams is well known in the Neat Stuff
Universe for portraying Ishka (also known as "Moogie"),
mother of the Ferengi brothers Rom and Quark in the television series
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (replacing Andrea Martin of SCTV fame).
Even though she played Armin Shimerman's mother in DS9 (1993) he was
actually only nine years older. She also played Aron Eisenberg's
grandmother in the same series even though she was only eleven years older.
Cecily also appeared in DS9, in What You
Leave Behind, part II. In this second part of the series finale, we
see a long party scene with the extended cast, held at Vic's, where
the series stars appear without their makeup on (as humans)
during the party. Cecily is seen in a red dress sitting at the table
on the right, just as Vic returns to the stage during his song,
"The way you look tonight" and again dancing just behind
Kasidy when Sisko leaves the party.
Cecily appeared in guest roles on a
variety of television series including Just Shoot Me!, Murphy Brown,
and Party of Five, and with her father in his television series Check
It Out!, a Canadian television sitcom, which aired on CTV from
September 1985 to April 1988. The series also aired in the United
States in syndication and on the USA Network. Cecily, along with her
sister Stacey, also appeared in the television movie Get Smart Again,
continuing the Get Smart tradition of including family members on the
show. On the original series Don Adams' cousin Robert
Karvelas played Control agent, Larabee. Adams brother, comedian
Dick Yarmy, also appeared in two episodes as did his father, William
Yarmy, and daughter, Caroline Adams. Adams also wrote two episodes of
Get Smart: "The King Lives" and part two of To Sire
with Love. with his older sister Gloria Burton. In another Star
Trek connection, John de Lancie (Q) played a KAOS mole in Get
Cecily played a lead role in the 1991
independent feature film little secrets. She was also a talented
lyricist and with her collaborator David Burke wrote pop songs as
well as commercial jingles and television theme songs.
Cecily Adams was married to actor/writer
Jim Beaver (Whitney Ellsworth on the HBO Western drama series
Deadwood) in 1989; their daughter Madeline was born in 2001. Adams
died of lung cancer on March 3rd, 2004, at the age of 46, in Los
Angeles, California. Her husband's memoir, Life's That Way, details
her last few months. She was cremated and her ashes scattered at Fern
Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, and at
Franklin Canyon Park in Beverly Hills, California.
Cecilys' half sister Stacey is the
daughter of Don Adams and dancer Dorothy Bracken, Stacey began her
career as an actress. She worked briefly as a casting director in
partnership with Cecily, then branched out into production work. She
worked as an executive assistant to actor/director/producer Ken Olin,
then as a vice president of development at Paramount Television and
the CBS network. Cousin Claudia Yarmy is known for her work on CSI:
Miami (2002), Scorched (2003) and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000).