- The Washington Times - Monday, September 26, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Don Adams, the wry-voiced comedian who starred as the fumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart in the 1960s television spoof of James Bond movies, “Get Smart,” has died. He was 82.

Mr. Adams died of a lung infection late Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, friend and former agent Bruce Tufeld said yesterday, adding that the actor broke his hip a year ago and since had been in ill health.

As the inept Agent 86 of the super-secret federal agency CONTROL, Mr. Adams captured TV viewers with his antics in combating the evil agents of KAOS. When his explanations failed to convince the villains or his boss, he tried another tack:

“Would you believe … ?”

It became a national catchphrase.

Smart’s beautiful partner, Agent 99, played by Barbara Feldon, was as brainy as he was dense, and a plot romance led to marriage and the birth of twins later in the series.

“He had this prodigious energy, so as an actor working with him it was like being plugged into an electric current,” Mrs. Feldon said from New York. “He would start and a scene would just take off and you were there for the ride. It was great fun acting with him.”

Mr. Adams was intelligent, she said, a quality that suited the satirical show, created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry.

Mr. Adams never had another showcase to display his comic talent.

“It was a special show that became a cult classic of sorts, and I made a lot of money for it,” he remarked of “Get Smart” in a 1995 interview. “But it also hindered me careerwise because I was typed. The character was so strong, particularly because of that distinctive voice, that nobody could picture me in any other type of role.”

He was born Donald James Yarmy in New York on April 13, 1923, Mr. Tufeld said. The actor’s father was a Hungarian Jew who ran a few small restaurants in the Bronx.

In a 1959 interview, Mr. Adams said he never cared about being funny as a child: “Sometimes I wonder how I got into comedy at all. I did movie star impressions as a kid in high school. Somehow, they just got out of hand.”

In 1941, he dropped out of school to join the Marines. In Guadalcanal, he survived the deadly blackwater fever and was returned to the U.S. to become a drill instructor, acquiring the clipped delivery that served him well as a comedian.

After the war, he worked in New York as a commercial artist by day and stand-up comedian in clubs at night, taking the surname of his first wife, Adelaide Adams. His following grew, and soon he was appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and late-night TV programs. Bill Dana, who had helped him develop comedy routines, cast him as a sidekick on Mr. Dana’s show. That led to the NBC contract and “Get Smart.”

Mr. Adams, who married and divorced three times and had seven children, served as the voice for the popular cartoon series “Inspector Gadget” as well as the voice of Tennessee Tuxedo. In 1980, he appeared as Maxwell Smart in a feature film, “The Nude Bomb,” about a madman whose bomb destroyed people’s clothing.

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