Henry, Buck 1930–
Henry, Buck 1930-
Full name, Buck Henry Zuckerman; born December 9, 1930, in New York, NY; son of Paul Zuckerman (a stockbroker and former air force general) and Ruth Taylor (an actress); married Sally (a secretary). Education: Attended Harvard Military Academy and Choate School; Dartmouth College, B.A., English, 1952.
Agent—International Creative Management, 10250 Constellation Way, 9th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90067.
Writer, director, producer, story editor, television series creator, and actor. Performed with the Premise Improvisational Theatre Company, New York City, 1961-62. Military service: U.S. Army, 7th Army Repertory Company, 1952-54; served as helicopter mechanic.
Writers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, Actors' Equity Association, Directors Guild of America, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Emmy Award nomination, outstanding writing achievement in comedy, 1966, Emmy Award (with Leonard Stern), outstanding writing achievement in comedy, 1967, both for Get Smart!; Academy Award nomination, best writing—screenplay based on material from another medium, Screen Award, best written American comedy, Writers Guild of America, Golden Globe Award nomination, best screenplay, New York Film Critics Award, Film Award, best screenplay, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1969, all awards and nominations shared with Calder Willingham, for The Graduate; Screen Award nomination, best drama adapted from another medium, Writers Guild of America, 1971, for Catch-22; Screen Award nomination, best comedy adapted from another medium, Writers Guild of America, 1971, for The Owl and the Pussycat; Screen Award (with David Newman and Robert Benton), best comedy written directly for the screen, Writers Guild of America, 1973, for What's Up, Doc?; Academy Award nomination (with Warren Beatty), best director, Saturn Award nomination (with Beatty), Academy of Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Films, best director, 1979, both for Heaven Can Wait; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, best television episode, Mystery Writers of America, 1986, for "Wake Me When I'm Dead," Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Volpi Cup (with others), best ensemble cast, Venice Film Festival, 1994, for Short Cuts; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, best motion picture, 1996, for To Die For; Obie Award (with others), for The Premise.
(English version) Voice, Die Brucke (also known as The Bridge), 1949.
T. R. Kingston, The Troublemaker, Janus, 1964.
Hotel clerk, The Graduate, Embassy, 1967.
Stockade commandant, The Secret War of Harry Frigg, Universal, 1968.
(Uncredited) Mental patient, Candy (also known as Candy e il suo pazzo mondo), 1968.
Lieutenant Colonel Korn, Catch-22, Filmways, 1970.
Man looking through Doubleday's bookstore, The Owl and the Pussycat, Columbia, 1970.
Larry Tyne, Taking Off, Universal, 1971.
Dr. Manos, Is There Sex After Death? (also known as Is There Love After Death), 1971.
Oliver Farnsworth, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Cinema V, 1976.
The escort, Heaven Can Wait, Paramount, 1978.
Art Kopple, Old Boyfriends, Avco-Embassy, 1979.
Bernie Cates, The Absent-Minded Waiter (short), 1979.
Strong Medicine, 1979.
Father Sandstone/TV anchorman, First Family, Warner Bros., 1980.
Jack Dawn, Gloria, Columbia, 1980.
Mr. Leech, Eating Raoul, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1982.
Preston, "Rigoletto," Aria, Virgin Vision, 1987.
Lloyd Stool, Rude Awakening, Orion, 1989.
Charlie Stevens, Dark Before Dawn, 1989.
Father Serafim, Tune in Tomorrow … (also known as Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter), 1990.
Dick Stanley, Defending Your Life, Warner Bros., 1991.
Cecil, The Linguini Incident, 1991.
The priest, Shakespeare's Plan 10 From Outer Space, 1991.
Himself, The Player, 1992.
Lewis Louis, The Lounge People, 1992.
Himself, The Graduate at 25 (documentary), 1992.
Himself, Luck, Trust & Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver County (documentary; also known as Luck, Trust and Ketchup), 1993.
Dr. Dreyfus, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1993.
Gordon Johnson, Short Cuts, 1993.
Elliott Snyder, Grumpy Old Men, 1993.
Mr. H. Finlaysson, To Die For, 1995.
Himself, Shotgun Freeway: Drives Through Lost L.A., 1995.
Dr. Leuter, The Real Blonde, Paramount, 1997.
Mr. Goldman, 1999 (also known as Girls & Boys), R.A. M.M. Entertainment, 1998.
Phillip Dagrom, I'm Losing You, Sterling Home Entertainment, 1998.
Host, The Story of X (documentary; also known as Playboy: The Story of X), 1998.
George Postlewait, The Man Who Counted, 1998.
Fred T. Barry, Breakfast of Champions, Buena Vista, 1999.
Himself, "Psycho" Path (documentary), 1999.
Charles Van Allsburg, Curtain Call, 1999.
Himself, Famous (also known as Lisa Picard Is Famous), 2000.
Town and Country, New Line Cinema, 2001.
(Uncredited) Himself, Serendipity, Miramax, 2001.
Lonnie Bosco, The Last Shot, Buena Vista, 2004.
I Miss Sonia Henie (also known as Nedostaje mi Sonja Henie), 1971.
(With Warren Beatty) Heaven Can Wait, Paramount, 1978.
First Family, Warner Bros., 1980.
Television Appearances; Series:
The Steve Allen Show, ABC, 1961.
That Was the Week That Was, NBC, 1964-65.
The New Show, NBC, 1984.
Rotating host, The Late Show, 1986.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
A Girl Thing, 2001.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Smitty, Keep the Change, 1992.
Clay Fielder, Mastergate, 1992.
Television producer, Harrison Bergeron (also known as Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron"), Showtime, 1995.
Charles Van Allsburg, Curtain Call, Starz!, 1999.
Television Appearances; Specials:
A Last Laugh at the '60s, ABC, 1970.
The George Segal Show, NBC, 1974.
Host, That Was the Year That Was, 1976.
Playboy's 25th Anniversary Celebration, 1979.
Director, "Hunger Chic," Trying Times, KCET, 1989.
Saturday Night Live 15th Anniversary, 1989.
Narrator, The Secret Life of 118 Green Street, 1990.
Master of ceremonies, Independent Spirit Awards, 1991.
The Republic Pictures Story, 1991.
John Dean, Saturday Night Live: Presidential Bash, 1992.
Indecision '92: The Democratic National Convention, 1992.
Laughing Matters, Showtime, 1993.
Himself, Luck, Trust & Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver Country (documentary; also known as Luck, Trust & Ketchup), Bravo, 1993.
AFI's 100 Years, 100 Laughs: America's Funniest Movies, CBS, 2000.
Presenter and honorary co-chairperson, The 200 IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards (also known as The 15th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards), Independent Film Channel and Bravo, 2000.
Inside TV Land: Get Smart, TV Land, 2001.
(Uncredited), Reel Radicals: The Sixties Revolution in Film, AMC, 2002.
101 Most Unforgettable SNL Moments, E! Entertainment Television, 2004.
The 100 Most Memorable TV Moments, TV Land, 2004.
Live from New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live (also known as SNL: The First 5 Years), NBC, 2005.
AFI's 100 Years, 100 "Movie Quotes": The Greatest Lines from American Film, CBS, 2005.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Felix, The Owl and the Pussycat, 1970.
Dignitary, Quark, 1977.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Guest host, The Dick Cavett Show, 1970.
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (also known as The Best of Carson), NBC, multiple episodes, 1973-76.
Host, Saturday Night Live (also known as SNL), NBC, multiple episodes, 1976-80.
Host, That Was the Year That Was, NBC, 1976.
The New Show, 1984.
Walter Lang, "Wake Me When I'm Dead," Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 1985.
Foster Glenn, "Across the Bridge," Falcon Crest, CBS, 1987.
Foster Glenn, "Twist and Shout," Falcon Crest, CBS, 1987.
Foster Glenn, "Rescue Me," Falcon Crest, CBS, 1987.
Victor Rudman, "My Dinner with Einstein," Murphy Brown, CBS, 1989.
The man on TV, "Hunger Chic," Trying Times, 1989.
Reporter (Reagan), Edge, 1991.
George, "Beauty Rest," Tales from the Crypt (also known as HBO's "Tales from the Crypt"), HBO, 1992.
Great Railway Journeys III, PBS, 1996.
Voice of Dadbert, "The Gift," Dilbert, UPN, 1999.
"Dustin Hoffman," Bravo Profiles, Bravo, 2002.
"Don Adams: Would You Believe?," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 2004.
Leonard, "Partners," Will & Grace, NBC, 2005.
Movies That Shook the World, AMC, 2005.
Also appeared as himself, "The Films of Robert Altman," The Directors, Encore; "The Films of Milos Forman," The Directors, Encore.
Television Work; Series:
Creator (with Mel Brooks) and story editor, Get Smart!, NBC, 1965-69.
Creator and executive producer, Captain Nice, NBC, 1967.
Creator, When Things Were Rotten, 1975.
Television Work; Movies:
Characters creator, Get Smart, Again!, 1989.
Television Work; Specials:
Director, "Hunger Chic," Trying Times, KCET, 1989.
Television Work; Pilots:
Producer and creator, Quark, NBC, 1977.
Television Director; Episodic:
"Hunger Chic," Trying Times, 1989.
Bernardine, New York City, 1952.
Fortress of Glass, Circle in the Square, New York City, 1952.
The Premise (improvisation), off-Broadway, 1961-62.
Artie, House of Blue Leaves, Pasadena Playhouse, Pasadena, CA, 1987.
Wylie, Kingfish, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Los Angeles, 1988, then Public Theatre, New York City, 1988.
Emil, Three Viewings, Manhattan Theatre Club, New York City, 1995.
Marc, Art, Royale Theatre, New York City, 2000.
David Crampton, Morning's at Seven, Lyceum Theatre, New York City, 2002.
Also appeared in The Moth, New York City.
(Stage debut) A Day son, Life with Father, U.S. cities, 1948.
No Time for Sergeants, U.S. cities, 1956.
Spoken Word Albums:
LotusLand, ITW Industries, 1993.
Himself, The Best of John Belushi, 1985.
Himself, Steve Martin Live, 1986.
(With Theodore J. Flicker) The Troublemaker, Janus, 1964.
(With Calder Willingham) The Graduate (adapted from Charles Webb's novel of the same title), Embassy, 1967.
Candy (adapted from Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg's novel of the same title; also known as Candy e il suo pazzo mondo), Cinerama, 1968.
Catch-22 (adapted from Joseph Heller's novel of the same title), 1970.
The Owl and the Pussycat (adapted from a play by Bill Manhoff), Columbia, 1970.
Taking Off, Universal, 1971.
Is There Sex After Death? (also known as Is There Love After Death), 1971.
(With David Newman and Robert Benton) What's Up, Doc?, Warner Bros., 1972.
The Day of the Dolphin (based on the novel by Robert Merle), Avco-Embassy, 1973.
First Family, Warner Bros., 1980.
Protocol, Warner Bros., 1984.
I Love N.Y., 1987.
To Die For, 1995.
Town and Country, New Line Cinema, 2001.
That Was the Year That Was, 1976.
(Special material) The 74th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2002.
Quark, NBC, 1978.
The Garry Moore Show, 1958-67.
The Steve Allen Show, ABC, 1961.
(With Bob Howard) The Bean Show, CBS, 1964.
That Was the Week That Was, NBC, 1964-65.
Get Smart!, NBC, 1965-69.
Captain Nice, NBC, 1967.
The New Show, NBC, 1984.
"Wake Me When I'm Dead," Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 1985.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 26: American Screenwriters, Gale, 1984.
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 4: Writers and Production Artists, St. James Press, 1996.
American Film, December, 1980.
Cineaste, winter, 2001, p. 4.
Focus on Film, summer, 1972.
Life, June 12, 1970.
New York Times Magazine, July 19, 1970.
Writer and Actor. Nationality: American. Born: Buck Henry Zuckerman in New York City, 9 December 1930; son of the actress Ruth Taylor. Education: Attended Harvard Military Academy; Choate School; Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, graduated. Military Service: U.S. Army (in 7th Army Repertory Company), 1952–54. Career: Stage and TV actor in New York; writer for Steve Allen and Garry Moore TV shows, Hollywood; 1963—first film as writer, The Troublemaker; 1964–65—writer and performer, ThatWas the Week that Was; 1965–70—writer, TV series Get Smart; 1970s—appeared regularly on Saturday Night Live. Awards: British Academy Award and Writers Guild Award, for The Graduate, 1968. Agent: William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.
Films as Writer:
The Troublemaker (Flicker) (+ ro)
The Graduate (Nichols) (+ ro); Candy (Marquand)
Catch-22 (Nichols) (+ ro); The Owl and the Pussycat (Ross)
What's Up, Doc? (Bogdanovich)
The Day of the Dolphin (Nichols)
First Family (+ d, ro)
To Die For (Van Sant) (+ ro)
Town and Country (Chelsom) (co)
Films as Actor:
Taking Off (Forman) (as Larry Tyne); Is There Sex after Death(J. & A. Abel)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (Roeg) (as Oliver Farnsworth)
Old Boyfriends (Tewkesbury) (as Art Kopple); Heaven CanWait (Beatty) (as the Escort, + co-d)
The Absent-Minded Waiter (Gottlieb—short)
Gloria (Cassavetes) (as Jack Dawn)
Eating Raoul (Bartel) (as Mr. Leech)
Aria (Temple) (as Mr. Preston)
Rude Awakening (Russo) (as Lloyd)
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (Tune in Tomorrow) (Amiel)(as Fr. Serafim)
Defending Your Life (Albert Brooks) (as Dick Stanley)
The Player (Altman); The Linguini Incident (R. Shepard)(as Cecil)
Short Cuts (Altman) (as Gordon Johnson); Grumpy Old Men(Petrie) (as Elliott Snyder); Even Cowgirls Get the Blues(Van Sant)
The Real Blonde (DiCillo) (as Dr. Leuter)
The Story of X (doc for Video) (as Host); 1999 (Davis) (as Mr.Goldman); I'm Losing You (Wagner) (as Philip Dragom)
Curtain Call (Yates) (as Charles Van Allsburg); Breakfast ofChampions (Rudolph) (as Fred T. Barry)
Famous (as himself)
By HENRY: articles—
Films Illustrated (London), May 1976.
Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1976.
Film Comment, September 1993.
Fade In (Beverly Hills), vol. 1, no. 2, 1995.
Scenario (Rockville), vol. 2, no. 2, Summer 1996.
On HENRY: articles—
Focus on Film (London), Summer 1972.
American Film (Washington, D.C.), December 1980.
Film Comment (New York), September-October 1993.
* * *
Buck Henry is probably better known as an actor and comedian than as a screenwriter. In his screenplays, Henry shows an intellectual and often biting satirical wit. He takes on the contemporary human condition and allows the viewer to see and often laugh at the incongruities of life. His characters, however silly they act at times, are vulnerable and therefore human.
Henry began his career writing for television, including The Steve Allen Show, That Was the Week that Was, and numerous television comedians. He and Mel Brooks created the popular comedy spy spoof Get Smart, which ran on television for five years. Henry was story editor and won an Emmy Award for the series. The hero, Maxwell Smart, was a bumbling spy who, although seemingly naive and unaware of the forces at work around him, battled the evil organization K.A.O.S. and triumphed. The idea of an innocent person gaining wisdom and triumphing over chaos—"getting smart"—is a frame of reference that can be applied to Buck Henry's wildly satiric and often bittersweet screenplays. Many major film characters learn from their experiences, but in a Henry script the characters are often so unaware and confused that the gaining of insight is truly monumental.
His first film script, The Troublemaker, which he wrote with director Theodore Flicker, is about an honest country fellow who comes to New York to open a coffeehouse but first must pay off officials for licenses. The film stars actors from the improvisational group The Premise, which Henry joined in 1960. Although the satire is funny, the film lacks a tight structure due to the many improvisations.
Henry's next script, based on the novel by Charles Webb, was The Graduate, which he wrote with Calder Willingham. This film was the first of three Henry would write for director Mike Nichols, who undoubtedly did the finest interpretations of Henry's material. The Graduate is the story of Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) who, although a whiz at college in both studies and athletics, appears zombielike to his parents and their friends, who have different values. Wonderfully satiric lines carry the innocent Benjamin through his affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) until he gains real knowledge and decides on his own set of values. Having fallen in love with Mrs. Robinson's daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross), he overcomes all odds and rescues her at the church just before she weds a medical student. In the bittersweet ending, Benjamin and Elaine, finally together on a bus, say nothing to each other while Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" is heard on the soundtrack. The implied question is whether Benjamin and Elaine can really escape becoming like their parents. Few American films have enjoyed the immediate financial and critical success of The Graduate. It was a watershed film for those young people who were concerned about the values of a materialistic, plastic society.
Henry's next script was Candy, directed by Christian Marquand. Again, loss of innocence is a theme. The heroine (Ewa Aulin) is a teenager who encounters various odd characters in her search for wisdom. The novel was a parody of pornographic novels, which sadly did not translate well to the screen.
His next screenplay, his second for director Mike Nichols, was an adaptation of Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22. The innocent in this film is Yossarian (Alan Arkin), a bombardier in World War II, who perceives war and his military life as insane. The film becomes Yossarian's dream (actually a series of dream sequences) during which, as in psychoanalysis, more and more is revealed. Yossarian eventually gains insight and is able to make a decision about what to do. The lines are wonderfully funny, yet behind the humor is also the revelation of the horror of war itself. The circular construction of the script is brilliant.
Henry's next script, The Owl and the Pussycat, was adapted from a play by Bill Manhoff and directed by Herbert Ross. The film is about trying to get in touch with reality. An innocent aspiring writer-book salesman, Felix Sherman (George Segal) meets aspiring actress-hooker (Barbra Streisand) and through a series of comic situations, both learn that it is important to be themselves, to be real. A similar structure can be found in Henry's next work for director Peter Bogdanovich, What's Up, Doc? Henry did the final rewrite on Robert Benton and David Newman's screenplay, developed from a story by Bogdanovich. In this tribute to screwball comedies of the 1930s, unconventional student Judy Maxwell (Barbra Streisand) liberates conventional professor Dr. Howard Bannister (Ryan O'Neal) from a closed, boring life. The innocent professor, through a series of comic situations, comes to an understanding of both love and freedom.
In his third script for Mike Nichols, The Day of the Dolphin, Henry turns from comedy to drama. This time the innocents are two dolphins, Alpha and Beta, who are taught to speak English by marine biologist Dr. Jake Terrell (George C. Scott). Terrell himself is innocent too, as he does not consider all the implications of his work until the dolphins are stolen by men who plan to use them to blow up the yacht of the president of the United States. The dolphins escape and the attempted assassination is foiled. But the tremendously sad and difficult ending, where Terrell tells the dolphins to return to the sea and speak to no one again, and where he waits, wiser yet doomed, for the assassins to return to destroy him and all the evidence, made this film difficult for audiences who may have wanted a happy "Lassie"-type animal picture.
In 1978, Henry and Warren Beatty directed Heaven Can Wait, a remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941). Although Henry is not given writing credit, he probably contributed to the script by Beatty and Elaine May, which is about a football player, prematurely killed, who returns in a murdered millionaire's body. The innocent football player, Joe Pendleton (Beatty), gains wisdom quickly enough, and in hilarious scenes runs the millionaire's company ethically, harasses the murderers relentlessly, and finds true love.
Henry then wrote and directed First Family, about wacky U.S. President Manfred Link (Bob Newhart), his alcoholic wife (Madeline Kahn), nymphomaniac daughter (Gilda Radner), and various nutty staff members. President Link is trying to establish diplomatic relations (a link?) with the emerging African nation Upper Gorm, and this provides a showcase for many wild verbal and visual gags. In First Family, Henry satirizes high government officials of the United States and the mythical African country, but offers no solutions to their antics.
Henry does offer a solution in his next film, the second for director Herbert Ross, Protocol. Basing his script on a story by Charles Shyer, Nancy Meyers, and Harvey Miller, Henry makes the point that the people are responsible if their leaders are bunglers and that the people need to get involved in every phase of political life, from voting to holding elective office. The film satirizes not only politics but also contemporary media. It continues Henry's theme of an innocent gaining wisdom. An uncorrupted Washington cocktail waitress, Sunny Davis (Goldie Hawn), saves an emir from assassination. Immediately she becomes the darling of the media and also of the emir, who wants her as his bride. Seeing the opportunity to exchange her for a military base in the emir's mythical Middle Eastern country, members of the government make her a protocol officer to cover up their real motivation. Davis becomes aware of the plan, and through some very funny situations not only sets matters right but also finally runs for political office herself. She will now help make the system better. The film contains a positive message as well as being very funny. After Protocol, Henry continued to be very versatile. He acted in films and on the stage, wrote articles, and did other related work.
In 1995, he wrote the script for To Die For, based on the book by Joyce Maynard (a work of fiction suggested by a real murder) and directed by Gus Van Sant. In this complex, important, and satiric look at celebrity status, television, and contemporary society, there are many humorous moments, but underlying theme is true horror. The main character, Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman), like a "stone," has no feelings for others. She is captivated by television and will do anything to promote her rising career as a television news star, including manipulating a high school student and his friends to murder her husband, Larry Maretto (Matt Dillon), whom she sees as standing in her way. The form of the film is appropriate for the content. The narrative is fused with television techniques and imagery, and scenes are often fragmented and not necessarily in order. For example, there are television-like interviews, including one with Larry's sister Janice (Illeana Douglas) talking directly into the camera, with cuts to scenes illustrating her comments. And when Suzanne makes a videotape of her students, there are cuts from this to images on the tape itself. Continuing Henry's theme of people losing innocence and gaining wisdom, most people around Suzanne do "wise up" to her. But for some, including, ironically, Suzanne herself, wisdom comes too late, or not at all.
Buck Henry remains one of America's leading satirical screenwriters. Through his wit and insight, the viewer gains wisdom. He is an example of an "auteur" screenwriter, as his scripts all seem to be variations on a theme—his characters "get smart."
—H. Wayne Schuth
HENRY, BUCK (Zuckerman ; 1930– ), U.S. screenwriter and actor. Born in New York, Henry began his career at age 16 in the cast of the long-running Broadway production Life with Father. Henry saw military service with the army during the Korean War and afterwards found work writing jokes for the Steve Allen and Garry Moore television shows. Although he gained national attention as a writer/performer on the tv satire That Was the Week That Was (1964–65), his first big success was as co-writer with Mel Brooks of the hit comedy series Get Smart (1965–70). Henry became a member of the screenwriters' elite when he shared credit for the script of the feature film The Graduate (1967), and subsequently wrote the screenplays for such films as Candy (1968), Catch-22 (1970), The Owl and the Pussycat (1970), Is There Sex after Death? (1971), What's Up, Doc? (1972), The Day of the Dolphin (1973), Protocol (1984), To Die For (1995), and Town and Country (2001).
In 1978 he co-produced and co-directed Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty, and in 1980 he directed First Family, which he also wrote. As an actor, Henry appeared in many of his films, as well as making cameo appearances in a long string of other movies. Films in which he played a significant role include Taking Off (1971), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), The Absent-Minded Waiter (1977), Strong Medicine (1979), and Curtain Call (1999).
[Jonathan Licht /
Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]