Article from: "Don Adams of Get
Smart!" Robert de Roos TV Guide, October
A Secret Agent Should Be
Sincere, Trustworthy, Intrepid, Cheerful. To which Don Adams as Maxwell Smart adds--
Stupid & Funny
Get Smart! (NBC Saturday nights) set out to be the funniest show on television this year, and if it makes it --which seems likely--much of the credit must go to Don Adams.
For those who cry, "Who's Don Adams?," Don Adams replies:
"I am probably the most-exposed comedian on TV. I was a regular on The Perry Como Show for a year and a half, a regular guest on the Paar and Sullivan shows and worked a year on The Bill Dana Show.
"The result is that everybody knows my routines--they stop me on the street and recite them to me--but no one knows my name. If they do call me by name, they say, 'Hi there, Glick.'"
"Glick" was Don Adams' role as the retarded house detective on the Dana show, and "Glick" in various disguises has been in many an Adams routine--as a baseball umpire, defense attorney and many others.
It's Smart vs. KAOS
In Get Smart! Don Adams plays Maxwell Smart, Secret Agent 86, the terror of an uncommendable lot of scoundrels who work for KAOS, a gang out to destroy all that is good and beautiful, including the U.S. of A.
These rouges are equipped with the latest scientific destructors--invisible rays, retrogressor guns, laughing gas and high-calorie heat rays. Against these supersophisticated sinners, Maxwell Smart, a man who can lose his head while all about him are keeping theirs and blaming it on him, has not lost a round. He brings to his task a burning desire to go beyond the call of duty. He is sincere, trustworthy, intrepid, brave and cheerful --to an almost unbearable degree. And he is very funny.
He is supported in his work by Barbara Feldon, a girl who is Secret Agent 99--"My friends call me '90'" --and K-13, also known as "Fang," a shaggy, flat-footed, inept spy dog.
If there is a difference between the humor of Get Smart! and other shows, it lies in a simple thing: Everyone is trying very hard for live laughs.
"Don's not just an actor who is facile with comedy lines--not just a film comic," says Jay Sandrich, the producer. "He has learned through the years what an audience reacts to and he brings this to the show."
Says Buck Henry, the story editor, "Don has a horror of the laugh machine. He wants to get rid of it and refuses to believe he is fighting a losing battle."
Don Adams was born Donald James Yarmy in New York City in 1927. He changed his name when he became a comedian. "I'm a little sorry I did it now," he says. He was a Marine Pfc. during World War II. "I didn't get any higher because I spent two and a half years in hospitals," he says. "I got blackwater fever on Guadalcanal. Almost everyone dies of blackwater fever. I blew up like a balloon.
"They put a death watch on me but I told the guy he was wasting his time because I wasn't going to die. I did a lot of praying then. In about three days, the swelling went down and I was all right. The doctors said things like, 'Miracle'."
After the war, Don became a commercial artist. "I was never very happy at that and not very good at it," he says. But he was married and had a growing family to support. He stuck to commercial art as long as he could and then took on other jobs.
"I was married awfully young and I felt trapped," he says. "I wanted to be a comedian and I felt my life was being wasted. There was another thing. My wife had been divorced and all the time we were married we were out of the church. It wasn't until we were divorced that we became good Catholics again."
In the early 50's, Don and a friend put together a comedy act. "We had about 15 really good impressions but we overwhelmed the audience with 50 or 60 so they got the idea the whole thing was pretty good."
The act lasted about a year and then Adams left the business. "I did cartographic and engineering drawings," he recalls. "If some of the bridges in Washington D.C., bulge, I'm responsible. I didn't know anything about engineering drawings."
In 1954, on an impulse, he bulled his way into audition for the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts program, was accepted and won the contest. From that day, Adams has been a comedian--appearing in night clubs and many television spots. He knows his role: "I'm no messiah," he says. "I don't want to change the thinking of the world. My purpose is to make people laugh."
He never drives over 50
He is sentimental, superstitious (a salt thrower, an avoider of ladders and black cats), cautious ("I never drive over 50 miles an hour") and absent-minded ("My secretary leaves notes in my car, on my desk and pinned to my coat and I still forget to do things").
"I am a quick study--I can memorize a script in an hour--but I can't remember a name three seconds," he says. "I've even forgotten my wife's name on occasion."
For his information, his wife's name is Dorothy Bracken Adams and she used to be a dancer. Don met her in summer stock and they 1) have been married five years and 2) have a daughter, Stacy Noel, born in June.
Actually, Adams does not memorize his part as Maxwell Smart. "The scripts change all the time--right up to the last minute," he says. "I just memorize five or six lines and then we shoot the scene." He is watchful of the character of Smart. "Glick was a cartoon character," he says. "Smart is real, more dedicated, more intense and more concerned with his job."
Which could be said of Don Adams.
"I'm in a kind of thoughtful time right now," he says. "I am facing a tremendous success--or a failure. 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."
Buck Henry, who writes, added: "Don wants to be a writer and I've offered to take over the show for a few weeks and let him sit at a typewriter. I might not know how to act but I could at least show the whites of my eyes. He can't--with those little deep-set raisins he calls eyes.
"Actually," Buck Henry continued, "Don's only about an inch from being a leading man. He's just a little short and a little too slight and he has that curious look around his eyes--otherwise he would be a leading man." All true: Don is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 150 pounds. He has very dark brown eyes and very black hair.
"I can't stand the way I look," Adams says. "You have to accept the fact that you are not Cary Grant and then you're all right."
Don does not drink and he is intolerant of people who drink too much. "It comes from the years in night clubs when drunks broke up the act," he says. Still, Don misses the stimulus of an audience these days.
"Put me in front of an audience and I am secure," he says. "This is a little different--a different craft.
"I try hard to keep the spontaneity and it's hard because we shoot and reshoot the scenes. I think that takes a little off the performance."
The Get Smart! company is relaxed and compatible. There is every reason it should be. As Barbara Feldon says, "It's just like a lot of kids in a toy store--no wonder we have fun."