Made U.S. laugh on 'Get Smart'
BY DEREK ROSE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Don Adams, the New York-born actor who amused entire generations as the inept Agent 86 in the 1960s TV spy spoof "Get Smart," died Sunday. He was 82.
Adams, who had been in poor health since breaking his hip a year ago, died of a lung infection at a Los Angeles hospital, said his agent, Bruce Tufeld.
As Maxwell Smart, Adams played a bumbling secret agent of CONTROL who somehow always managed to save the day with his beautiful partner, Agent 99, played by Barbara Feldon.
"My first impression of Don was of his tremendous gift for timing, his energy," Feldon said yesterday from her New York apartment. "You would just get swept along by his energy and his focus."
Feldon, 73, said Adams was a "very sensitive man, very sentimental, he even wrote poetry, and he was a very good writer."
Many of the lines on the show became national catch phrases.
"Sorry about that, chief," Max would say as he caused yet another disaster for his boss. "Missed it by that much," "Would you believe?" and "I asked you not to tell me that!" also originated with Adams.
Maxwell Smart had an array of gadgets, including the world's first cell phone - installed in his shoe.
The show debuted on NBC in 1965 before switching to CBS in 1969. It was canceled in 1970 after airing 138 episodes and twice earned Emmys for best comedy. Adams won three Emmys for best comedy actor.
"I've never thought that anything I did was good, including 'Get Smart.' At the time I was dissatisfied with the shows," Adams said in 1980. "Now that I see them in reruns, I find that 70% of them are very funny."
He grew up in New York as Donald James Yarmy, a movie buff who dropped out of school in 1941 to join the Marines. After the war he worked in New York comedy clubs and developed a following that led him to "The Ed Sullivan Show," which in turn won him the NBC contract.
But Adams found he was typecast by his distinctive, clipped voice, and his later TV work was less successful.
Originally published on September 27, 2005