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Also Known As: Red Button, Aaron Chwatt, Cpl. Red Buttons Died: July 13, 2006
Born: February 5, 1919 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Bronx, New York Profession: actor, comedian, singer, bellhop

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Feisty, diminutive, red-haired comedian who regularly played very serious dramatic roles in features. A veteran of New York burlesque and the Catskills comedy circuit, Buttons appeared as a pilot in training in the moral-boosting stage drama "Winged Victory", and recreated the role soon thereafter in the 1944 film version. He played on Broadway after WWII and enjoyed tremendous popularity during the first season of TV's "The Red Buttons Show" (1952-55). Part variety show, part sitcom, the program gave full vent to Buttons' manic, fast-talking, knockabout style. One of Buttons' oft-repeated gestures, placing his hands together in a desperate, somewhat prayerful manner, was on regular display in the show, and children everywhere mimicked the "Ho Ho! He He! Ha Ha! Strange things are happening!" theme song. His gallery of characters, meanwhile, including the Sad Sack; the Kupke Kid, a child; Rocky, a boxer; and the bumbling Keeglefarven, played up the at-once argumentative and long-suffering aspects of his persona. When the show's popularity abruptly faded, Buttons' career stalled, but like Frank Sinatra, another compact, multi-talented performer who was called a has-been, Buttons also revived his...

Feisty, diminutive, red-haired comedian who regularly played very serious dramatic roles in features. A veteran of New York burlesque and the Catskills comedy circuit, Buttons appeared as a pilot in training in the moral-boosting stage drama "Winged Victory", and recreated the role soon thereafter in the 1944 film version. He played on Broadway after WWII and enjoyed tremendous popularity during the first season of TV's "The Red Buttons Show" (1952-55). Part variety show, part sitcom, the program gave full vent to Buttons' manic, fast-talking, knockabout style. One of Buttons' oft-repeated gestures, placing his hands together in a desperate, somewhat prayerful manner, was on regular display in the show, and children everywhere mimicked the "Ho Ho! He He! Ha Ha! Strange things are happening!" theme song. His gallery of characters, meanwhile, including the Sad Sack; the Kupke Kid, a child; Rocky, a boxer; and the bumbling Keeglefarven, played up the at-once argumentative and long-suffering aspects of his persona. When the show's popularity abruptly faded, Buttons' career stalled, but like Frank Sinatra, another compact, multi-talented performer who was called a has-been, Buttons also revived his career with a very dramatic performance which copped him a supporting actor Oscar. As a soldier whose interracial romance with a Japanese woman leads to bigotry-induced tragedy in "Sayonara" (1957), Buttons began a very successful career as a character actor in features. While not eschewing comedy (the rowdy adventure "Hatari!" 1962, the underrated "Movie Movie" 1978, "18 Again" 1988), some of Buttons' best work has been in drama. His smart, supportive agent was the best thing about the trashy if watchable Hollywood biopic, "Harlow" (1965) and he was very moving as a desperate dance marathoner in the striking "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" (1969). Buttons also did well as one of the endangered passengers in the surprisingly good disaster epic, "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972). Some of Buttons' most visible work in more recent years, though, has been on TV. The deliberately abrasive edge Buttons brings to his manic characters was prominent in the cranky messenger who plagued the cast of "Knot's Landing" for the 1987 season. He was also often show-stoppingly hilarious stomping onto the dais of Dean Martin's celebrity roasts (1972-77; and occasional 80s specials) to harangue the honoree with wild cries of "Some of the most famous people in history never got a dinner!".

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Story of Us, The (1999) Arnie
2.
 It Could Happen to You (1994) Zakuto
3.
 Ambulance, The (1991) Elias
4.
 18 Again! (1988) Charlie
5.
 Reunion at Fairborough (1985) Jiggs Quealy
6.
 Side Show (1981) Harry Hubbell
7.
 Leave 'Em Laughing (1981) Roland Green
8.
 When Time Ran Out (1980) Francis Fendly
9.
 C.H.O.M.P.S. (1979) Bracken
10.
 Movie Movie (1978) Jinks Murphy ("Baxter'S Beauties Of 1933"); Peanuts ("Dynamite Hands")
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1931:
Won an amateur night entertainment contest at age 12 (date approximate)
1935:
Worked as a combination bellhop and singer at a tavern in the Bronx at age 16; supposedly acquired the nickname "Red Buttons" because of his uniform
:
Performed in the Catskills at resorts along the famous "Borscht Belt"; also played in burlesque at Minsky's, among other places
1942:
Made Broadway acting debut in a supporting role in "Vickie"
:
Served during WWII; acted onstage in "Winged Victory"
1944:
Made feature film debut in "Winged Victory"
:
Acted on Broadway after WWII in "Barefoot Boy with Cheek"
1952:
Starred in the CBS sketch comedy and variety show, "The Red Buttons Show"
:
"The Red Buttons Show" moved to NBC; format revamped into more of a sitcom style
1966:
Starred in the title role of the ABC sitcom, "The Double Life of Henry Phyfe"; also performed title theme along with series co-star Fred Clark
:
Was a regular on the NBC comic tribute series, "Dean Martin's Celebrity Roast"
1985:
Played the White Rabbit on the CBS musical miniseries, "Alice in Wonderland"
1987:
Played recurring role of Al Baker on the CBS primetime soap, "Knot's Landing"
1988:
Returned to feature films after an eight-year absence in "18 Again!"
1994:
Appeared in the feature "It Could Happen to You"
1999:
Made cameo appearance in the Rob Reiner-directed comedy-drama "The Story of Us"
2002:
Had regular role on the Showtime series "Street Time"
2005:
Emmy nominated guest-starring role on the drama series "ER" (NBC)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Evander Childs High School: Bronx , New York -

Notes

Buttons serves as a Scribe Emeritus for the Friars Club

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Helayne McNorton. Married on December 8, 1949; divorced in 1963.
wife:
Alicia Buttons. Married on January 27, 1964; separated; arrested in August 1999 and charged with possession of marijuana and crack cocaine; died in March 2001.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Michael Chwatt.
mother:
Sophie Chwatt.
daughter:
Amy Buttons. Married Sean Morgress in summer 1999.

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