Buck Henry, Who Helped Create ‘Get Smart’ and Adapt ‘The Graduate,’ Dies at 89

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Then, in 1959, he joined forces with a friend, Alan Abel, who had created a hoax organization, the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, which was dedicated to putting pants — or at least undershorts — on dogs, horses and cows as a response to society’s evident moral decline.

[Read the obituary for Alan Abel here.]

Mr. Henry became the public face of SINA, as the organization was known, playing the role of its president, G. Clifford Prout, giving interviews to newspapers and magazines and appearing on television, where he would argue that zoos should be closed down until the animals could be properly attired.

The hoax wasn’t entirely unmasked until 1965, but until then many people — millions, perhaps — had been hoodwinked. Among them was Walter Cronkite, who featured a segment on SINA in August 1962 on the “CBS Evening News.” He never forgave Mr. Henry after learning that it had been a joke.

In the early 1960s Mr. Henry performed with the Premise, an Off Broadway improvisational troupe. With Theodore J. Flicker, a fellow troupe member, he wrote his first movie, “The Troublemaker” (1964), a lampoon of city bureaucracy about a man trying to open a coffee house. He also landed a handful of television jobs, writing for Steve Allen and Garry Moore and for the satirical news program “That Was the Week That Was,” on which he also appeared.

The producer Daniel Melnick put Mr. Henry together with Mr. Brooks to create the spoof of spy movies that became “Get Smart.” It was an idea born out of commerce, a high-concept melding of big hits — “Goldfinger” meets “The Pink Panther.”

“I go to his office one day, and he says ‘I want to give you guys an idea,’” Mr. Henry recalled of Mr. Melnick. “‘Here’s the thing. What are the two biggest movies in the world today? James Bond and Inspector Clouseau. Get my point?’”


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