Buck Henry, Who Helped Create ‘Get Smart’ and Adapt ‘The Graduate,’ Dies at 89
An unassuming screenwriter and actor, Mr. Henry thought up quirky characters with Mel Brooks and inhabited many more on “Saturday Night Live.”
Buck Henry, a writer and actor who exerted an often overlooked but potent influence on television and movie comedy — creating the loopy prime-time spy spoof “Get Smart” with Mel Brooks, writing the script for Mike Nichols’s landmark social satire “The Graduate” and teaming up with John Belushi in the famous samurai sketches on “Saturday Night Live” — died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 89.
His wife, Irene Ramp, said his death, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was caused by a heart attack.
As a personality and a performer, Mr. Henry had a mild and unassuming aspect that was usually in contrast with the pungently satirical or broadly slapstick material he appeared in — and often wrote. Others in the room always seemed to make more noise.
Indeed, for almost 50 years he was a Zelig-like figure in American comedy, a ubiquitous if underrecognized presence not only in grand successes but also in grand failures. He wrote the screenplays for “Catch-22” (1970), an earnest but unwieldy adaptation, directed by Mr. Nichols, of Joseph Heller’s corrosively comic antiwar novel; and for “Candy” (1968), which turned a novel by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg — a riotous sendup of “Candide” set during the sexual revolution — into a leaden and star-studded bomb. (Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Walter Matthau and Ringo Starr all appeared as vamping lechers.)