Today is the birthday of Don Adams (Donald Yarmy, 1923-2005). It’s inevitable that I’ll write about the television perfection that was Get Smart. I just watched an episode a couple of weeks ago without having seen one in many, many years, and was floored at how impeccable his timing and delivery were. Every comic take was THE one, done just the way it should be done. Because of typecasting we are apt to think of him as sort of a joke, but he’d won three Emmys in a row for his performance in that character, and also wrote and/or directed several episode. What a retarded way to run an industry, that he never gets to do that again after 1970.
At any rate, that’s not what we’re talking about today! Eventually Adams gave in, and succumbed to his association with Maxwell Smart, reviving him for television commercials and public appearances, just as Bob Denver did with Gilligan, Al Lewis did as Grandpa, and so forth. But in the mid 1970s he was still in his heroic “breaking away” phase. This is when his syndicated game show Don Adams Screen Test, which ran for 26 episodes from 1975 to 1976. I loved this show; I probably saw every single one. The contestants (chosen by audition) were brought in to do a classic scene from an old time Hollywood movie, acting opposite some contemporary or former star. To make the show more entertaining, the star frequently acted up and fooled around so there would be many takes. These recreated scenes were usually my first encounter with many of the iconic scenes from classic old Hollywood movies. In the attached scene, James Caan as Tarzan all but thwarts a cocktail waitress’s attempts to play Jane.
Please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc