A Portrait of A Spy
From the outset, the only thing remotely smart about Maxwell Smart, aside from
his surname, is his snappy attire. That being the case, how did he get a
job as the top agent for a spy outfit so classified that the CIA doesn't know
about it? Max could have been blessed with a streak of mad luck or the
counter-espionage organization of Control could have nothing to do with
intelligence -much like Mr. Smart.
Much like Control, Agent 86's life is blanketed in obscurity. Exactly what
his formative years were like is probably a mystery greater than Fox Mulder's
quest for the truth. While conspiracy theorists and spin-doctors may
propose the notion that Max was a Control invention -or accident, Mr. Smart did
have a set of parents. The whereabouts of Max's parents were never
disclosed during the series, nor were they ever around for a visit with their
son. It is known that Max sends a certain portion of his paycheck to his
mother and that he holds a degree of disdain towards his father. During a
psychiatric evaluation, Max reveals that all dear old dad ever gave him was a
pair of pants so that he could go to work. Max also had a sibling of sorts
--a brother that liked to lock him up in aa closet. The only relatives ever
to visit him are his Uncle Abner and Aunt Bertha -and neither of them wishes to
Physically and factually, Maxwell Smart embodies ambiguity. The exact date
of his birth has never been revealed except for a tombstone that proclaims he
was born in November of 1930. Even though it has been disclosed that his
zodiac sign is Scorpio, when to send 86 a card is still an iffy
matter. Stable is Smart's dollar-fifty weight, but growing is his height
from 5'9" to 5'11." Adding to Max's mystery element is his
education: he matriculated at a grade school where he studied with his
eyes closed, attended a nameless college, and graduated as a Control Spy School
Bonus Baby. What is known of Smart consists of his minimal
merits --he's the winner of the '65 and '66 Spy of the Year award and he has
appeared in Popular Espionage and True and Impossible Spy Stories Monthly.
Based on varying perceptions of the agent, painting Maxwell Smart's portrait
could prove to be an impossible mission. Smart sees himself as quite the
handsome devil --as does Agent 99. Bubinski the Cab Driver, however, sees
Smart as just pale and weak looking. The Maryland news wire reported,
during Max's run from the law, that he had a mean mouth --and beady eyes.
It seems, though, that the common consensus holds that 86's eyes are indeed
beady. Philosophers -or bored webmasters- may propose that Max's mocha
windows to the soul are just shielded so he can continue to remain in hiding.
The realists, however, would make the claim that Smart could avoid squintyness
by switching from hard to soft contact lenses. Dark eyes do not set Smart
apart from every other spy. A voice so nasal that it could out squeak even
the worst of clarinet players, however, does make 86 a stand out. In fact,
Max squeaks more when his confidence level rises. Not that 86 should not
have confidence --he had enough practice at pride during an Army stint that led
him to Korea. Considering his reputation, though, where his self-esteem
comes from is yet another mystery.
The Personality of Max
at its Finest Hour
In some dictionaries, the Three Stooges are pictured beside the word
"buffoonery." On that level, it
would make equal sense to
position Maxwell Smart next to the term "idiocy." Smart is the
classic archetypical fool and, through countless predicaments, he rarely lives
up to his name. What Smart does have a knack for is screwing things up at
Control so well that other agents often wonder if he's a mole. Max manages
to maim instructors assigned to train him. He destroys computers and other
pricey inventions. On top of all that, the Chief claims that he
"bungles assignment after assignment." He forgets where he hides
clandestine property and cannot describe Kaos agents that cross his path.
He swallows lie pills at the wrong time and inadvertently blows up the IRS
building while trying to protect it. It is safe to assume, with this
record, that Smart is either bucking for a desk job or a pink slip.
Complicating Mr. Smart's ineptness at his duties is the fact that he is indeed
his own worst enemy --as far as motor skills are concerned. 86 walks into
walls, doors, or anything that is standing right in front of him. He trips
up the stairs and falls back down them only to miraculously land on both feet.
Gunplay seems to be the worst of Smart's troubles: he either dumps his
bullets on the floor or fires at his manhood when sticking the firearm in its
holster. Max is a real Larry Lackluster when it's time to bring out the
manners. Drinking is often a problem since he can't check his watch
without dumping the contents of his shot glass in his lap. He also makes a
mess of the Chief's desk by ignoring the ashtray that he always smacks his fist
into. Considering his physical failings, it a surprise Smart is still
alive, but it is no wonder that Kaos agents often quake in his presence.
Max may be quite the schlemiel, but that doesn't mean he has to look it.
He, after all, was singled out as one of the top ten dressed spies. Max's
sixties style quotient comes not from the Nehru Jacketed hipsters, but from the
Hugh Hefner Smoking Jacket Set. Often we see him looking quite dapper
in a tailored suit and tie - like James Bond, but only the Americana version.
As for other personal tastes, in Mr. Smart's turntables can be found
vinyl from Herb Talbot and the Tijuana Tin (think Herb Alpert and the Tijuana
Brass with Kaos influences). Aside from chain-smoking, Smart also enjoys
fine spirits including an evening Gibson. He
also doesn't shy away from literature. He
reads international intrigue novels - but no more than the average American
would. Smart personally lauds Les
Miserables to rival agents whom he wants out of his hair.
Other recreation comes in the form of tennis and getting kicked in the
ankle by a signal happy bridge partner. This
description paints a pretty picture of Control's top agent - that is provided
competence and coordination is not an asset for obtaining style.
Maxwell Smart just loves his job -especially when a gorgeous blonde runs into
his apartment bearing classified information and faints in his arms! Max's
behavior around the ladies of Control, Kaos, and otherwise, is anything but shy.
86 goes as far as to even date the femme fatales he meets, but unfortunately
most of his evenings are spent with lady-killers! After an evening at his
apartment with Kaos envoy, Janet, Max wound up with a case of poisoning and only
24 hours to get rid of it. When Gina, an attractive Kaos defector, dropped
a Kaos black book in Max's apartment, she not only complicated his life, but also
his army buddy's. Flirting with Kaos' Wailing Wanda proved to be a literal
bang when Wanda handcuffed an exploding purse to Max's wrist. Topping off
his romantic follies, Max's relationship with a certain George Robinson was
doomed because she/he/it was not only a Kaos agent but was also... well... a
Max did not limit his pursuits to Kaos -he was an equal opportunity flirt.
Dr. Steel of Control's lab got much of Mr. Smart's attention -even when she had
her clothes on!
often played the game of Kissyface with the women he met on assignment,
including Princess Ingrid, Princess Marta, and Tanya Lupescu to name a few.
Escapades such as these only add to Smart's fallacious belief that he's a ladies
man. In reality, though, nothing ever goes right about any of these
romantic arrangements. Ingrid goes back to partying, Marta goes back to
King Charles, and Tanya scolds Max for all the trouble that America's free press
causes her. What can be determined is that if there are any women truly
falling over Agent 86 of Control, it's mostly likely because his feet were in
their path of travel.
The Max That TV Didn't Show
It is difficult to fathom that a man who was characterized as an egotistical moron could be anything more or less than that balance of personality. Maxwell Smart, however, dared to walk the tightrope. He, without so much as batting an eyelash, threatened to twink absurdity in the nose. The only thing was, the viewer did not see this on TV --unless perhaps they happened to be Freud or Dr Drew.
The Sensible Max
The above statement is, in most schools of comedic thought, an oxymoron or just
a blatant fallacy. 86 possessing any kind of intelligence (other than
espionage) whatsoever is a preposterous thought, but it's not completely bunk.
Smart was obviously smarter than the earnestly senseless Larabee and Kaos
bonehead Shtarker. He was smart enough to concoct a "neck guard"
(with the encouragement of a few over-starched shirts) to protect him from The
Choker. He also had enough forethought to save his and 99's eardrums
from exploding by shutting down the Groovy Guru's getup with a minuscule tuning
fork. In "The Hotline" Kaos presents Smart with an ultimatum:
call Mr. President and ask for 10 million dollars or die. Despite the
Chief's assertions that he and his agents are not worth that exorbitant sum, Max
moves for the phone. What the Chief didn't know was that Smart had a
sneaky plan: he pulls a bluff and tells his captors that the hotline to
the White House only works if the Chief hits a certain high note. At the
orders of Kaos, the Chief sings the note, which breaks one of the baddies'
glasses and allows Max to start breaking faces. Maybe agent 86 is
really only 86 percent bungling moron.
If Mr. 86 were as dumb as he legend seems to claim, then the above statement
would not even be subject to discussion because he would be too ignorant to show
such feelings. However, Smart was, without a doubt, lacking in the
self-security department. At one point Max questions his lack of
The root of all insecurity for Mr. Smart is rested in his relationship with a
certain female agent by the number of 99. Max attempts to play the
"Haven't-a-clue-dummy" in front of 99, but a front is all his
actions are. 86, although, he doesn't admit it until years after meeting
her, is absolutely, positively, enamored of 99. Therefore, he is blinded,
preoccupied, and a trip-over-backwards klutz. Perhaps to prevent his ego from
the thrashing of yet another rejection, Max ignores 99's flirtations.
In fact, he appears to ignore the fact that she is a woman and an
attractive one to boot. Still,
Smart's hard to get act with 99 is only skin deep. He waits patiently for
the opportunity to kiss 99 when she is not looking -or coherent! Here are
a few infamous lip-locking scenarios:
Max attempts to give 99 a kiss in "Mr. Big" until Fang the dog tells
him not to - 99 sides with Fang.
Ah, for the love of paralyzing drugs! Max stabs 99 with his imobilo filled ring
in "Our Man in Leotards." Seeing that she and everyone else in
the room is paralyzed, he seizes the opportunity to sneak in a smooch and then
stabs himself with the drug to make it all "last a little longer."
There really is nothing like a lie pill to enforce the truth. After 99
suspects that Max has ingested one of Dr. Steele's Gay Deceivers, she tests him
by asking him if he wants a kiss.
Either the lie pill was wearing off at that point, or it had little control over
deep and embedded feelings of admiration and amorousness. Max, earlier
that day, had been ogling Dr. Steele in her strip club dressing room, but gave
all that excitement up after choking on a lie pill. To be perfectly blunt,
there is something to be said for true love and all the verbal fibs in the world
could not possibly cover up 86's feelings for 99.
Exactly when Max's lovey-dovey feelings developed is probably something only Cupid could determine. It is quite obvious, through his attempts at playing the knight in shinning armor, that he cares about her a great deal. Perhaps the best illustration of Max's angst-laden love for 99 is found in has marriage proposal. The proposal and revelation of his feelings not only come at the last possible minute, but also are almost halted by Max's own timidity.
Max is also a jealous Max. Fire burns in his eyes at the mere mention that his
partner is guarding playboy Antonio Carlos Carioca. Smart's jealousy hits its explosive peek when 99 decides to
marry casino kingpin and Kaos agent extraordinaire Victor Royal.
Coupled with jealously is insecurity and this notion aptly pans out after
newlyweds 86 and 99 must take King Charles of Caronia in for the night.
Fearing that 99 likes his look-alike better than himself, Max decides to
see just how he rates in comparison to Charles.
In the process, Max nearly breaks up his marriage and has 99 believing she
inadvertently committed adultery. What
does come from this is a rare glimpse into Smart's insecure self and a true
confession: he was just jealous.
Of all the best buddies in the world, Maxwell Smart is the poster child
of this category. Aside from paling
around with 99, Max is so nice to a Kaos robot that it actually defects and
joins Control. Max even risks his
job and life to save Hymie, the mechanical man in question, from being torn
apart by Control as well as from a more powerful Kaos robot. Max's other friends are Control and the good old U.S. of A.
Max would do anything for the two of them - even if "blasting" other
countries appears to be the only way to diplomacy.
Probably the only thing Max doesn't get along with is the evil and
sadistic ideals of Kaos and other corrupt entities.
Out of every personality niche in Smart is one thread that strings
together all of Max: his wish that all evildoers would use their talents and
abilities for niceness instead of evil.
How to Get Out of Retirement Without Really Trying
In mid 1970, at the dawn of a new decade, Control closed its doors, shut down
the phone booth, and, after millions of food poisoning cases, the Control Deli
locked up. Max, 99, the Chief, and the rest of the crew were out of work.
This new backdrop of unemployment opens the field for that inevitable question
of: What next?
The next sign of anything remotely Smart was in 1980 when one Maxwell Smart was
working for a spy network called PITS (Provisional Intelligence Tactical
Service). If this was the one and only 86, then it would be
safe to believe that life was indeed the pits! The agency our hero was
working under was just as inept as Control --only this agency had a few crusty
skeletons in its closet. Agents 22, 34, and
36 had replaced 99, and Agent 86 was acting out of character. Max may have
played with his shoephone, tripped about, and ousted Kaos, but he was not Smart.
The only thing smart about this Maxwell was his mouth.
Almost ten years after a Maxwell Smart doppelganger was found working and
womanizing for PITS, the real Mr. and Mrs. Smart stood up. In 1989
the United States Intelligence Agency needed someone seasoned in dealing with
Kaos and decided, after much reluctance, that Smart was the man for the job.
Fortunately for the rest of the still Cold War-enveloped world, 99 came too.
Reactivated, 86 was the same spy he was 25 years earlier. He could still
drive his superiors nuts with his love of abiding by the rulebook and he still
enjoyed a drawn out fight scene. His shoe phone was replaced with a
Cashmere Computer Jacket and the Cone of Silence was moved to a position of the
highest realm: right above the Smarts' bed. Max was where he was
expected to be: saving the day while stumbling through his missions
The Smartian moments between 1989 and early 1995 have not been publicly
disclosed. However, it is no secret that by 1995, Maxwell Smart had become
Control's Chief. 99 had been elected to congress and their
son Zack, who was oddly never named until 1995, was working for his dad as a
research nerd. Quite the opposite of his nameless runaway twin sister,
nebbish Zack was fortunate enough to be promoted to full-fledged spy. If there is any legacy to Maxwell Smart, it is that spying and bungling
does indeed run in the Smart family.
COPYRIGHT © 1999-2023 BY AMANDA HAVERSTICK.