Excerpt from: Alan Rafkin – Cue the Bunny on the Rainbow
Rafkin's book can be purchased at Barns and Noble
I also directed a number of Get Smart episodes. The first assignment I had on the series was to shoot a scene on a lake with mist around it. In those days, we did most of the exteriors on the back lot of the CBS Radford studio, and that’s where we were to shoot the lake. Our call that morning was at some ungodly hour like five or six, because that’s when the mist would look best over the lake (and we wouldn’t have to add any phony mist to embellish the scene). Although we were supposed to start shooting at six-thirty or seven o’clock, Don Adams, our secret agent Maxwell Smart, showed up for work at noon.
He walked on the set and said, “Okay, which one of you is the director?” I was sitting in the back on my director’s chair, and I raised my hand. He walked over and told me he had been playing cards all night with Hugh Hefner. “I’m ready now,” he said. “Let’s get going.” Don acted like we were now holding him up, and he gave no apologies for his tardiness and the fact that he’d cost the production company tens of thousands of dollars.
However, he was more than the star of Get Smart. Don was the show’s leader, and he set the tone each day. If he showed up in a good mood, it would be a nice day. If he showed up in a lousy mood, it could be a long and tedious day. He was kind of a bully in that he picked on people who couldn’t fight back. He was particularly unpleasant to a female script supervisor and to his stand-in, who was his cousin. Those were givens. But with the rest of us, his attitude could change with the wind.
Once in a while, usually on a Friday afternoon, we would be shooting and Don would get a phone call on the set. When he hung up the phone, inevitably he would say he had to go to Las Vegas. This happened several times and I was told that it was because of gambling debts. He owed somebody in Vegas money, so when a headliner like Sammy Davis, Jr., canceled a show due to illness or whatever, Don had to fill in without any notice. He was at somebody’s beck and call, and the arrangement apparently wasn’t open to discussion.
Many people over the years have asked me about Barbara Feldon, who played Agent 99 on Get Smart. I’m pleased to report she was a lady from her to her toes. Not only was she bright and professional, but also a good sport and I think the anchor of the show.
One of the other great things I remember about Get Smart was the actor who played the Chief, Edward Platt. He had been a character actor in movies for years and was well respected and well liked. I recall there were weeks when we couldn’t get the show shot in the allotted three and a half days. So, once a month we would take an entire day and shoot several episodes’ worth of the Chief’s long speeches to Maxwell Smart. As tedious as this was, Platt never complained. He was a real trooper.
Rafkin, Alan. Cue the Bunny on the Rainbow, Tales from TV’s Most Prolific Sitcom Director. Syracuse University Press; Syracuse, NY. 1998. Pages 50-51.
A Tip O' the Hat to Talia Myres for transcribing and providing this piece! Thanks Talia! J
In one of the greater ironies of life, while Mr. Rafkin may appear less than pleased with the work ethic of Mr. Adams, he happened to be a friend of Dick Yarmy. What does that have to do with anything? Dick was Don's younger brother and, aside from appearing in minor roles in a load of sitcoms which included Get Smart, he did stand-up. When Dick was diagnosed with throat cancer, his friends rallied around him by taking him out to dinner each Tuesday night for an evening of jokes and funny stories. The group became known as Yarmy's Army and has continued to meet even after Dick's death. Members, aside from Mr. Rafkin and Mr. Adams, include Don Knotts, Shelly Berman, and a load of others.