Red Buttons


Actor, Comedian
Red Buttons

About

Also Known As
Red Button, Aaron Chwatt, Cpl. Red Buttons
Birth Place
Bronx, New York
Born
February 05, 1919
Died
July 13, 2006

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 popularit...

Photos & Videos

The Poseidon Adventure - Movie Posters
Your Cheatin' Heart - Pressbook
Sayonara - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

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

Notes

Buttons serves as a Scribe Emeritus for the Friars Club

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 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!"

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Story of Us (1999)
It Could Happen to You (1994)
The Ambulance (1991)
18 Again! (1988)
Reunion at Fairborough (1985)
Leave 'Em Laughing (1981)
Side Show (1981)
Harry Hubbell
When Time Ran Out (1980)
C.H.O.M.P.S. (1979)
Bracken
Movie Movie (1978)
The Users (1978)
Vega$ (1978)
Tommy Cirko
Viva Knievel! (1977)
Pete's Dragon (1977)
Hoagy
Telethon (1977)
Louis Armstrong -- Chicago Style (1976)
Gable and Lombard (1976)
The New, Original Wonder Woman (1975)
Ashley Norman
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
[James] Martin
Who Killed Mary Whats'ername? (1971)
Mickey Isadore
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)
The sailor
Stagecoach (1966)
Mr. Peacock
Up From the Beach (1965)
P.f.c. Harry Devine
Harlow (1965)
Arthur Landau
Your Cheatin' Heart (1964)
Shorty Younger
A Ticklish Affair (1963)
Simon Shelley
Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962)
Donald O'Shay
Gay Purr-ee (1962)
Robespierre
Hatari! (1962)
Pockets
The Longest Day (1962)
Private Steele
One, Two, Three (1961)
MP sergeant
The Big Circus (1959)
Randy Sherman
Imitation General (1958)
Corp. Chan Derby
Sayonara (1957)
[Airman] Joe Kelly
Footlight Varieties (1951)
13 Rue Madeleine (1947)
Dispatcher
Winged Victory (1944)
Whitey, "Andrews sister"

Cast (Special)

100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time (2004)
Playboy's 50th Anniversary Special (2003)
20th Century Fox: The Blockbuster Years (2000)
Let Me In, I Hear Laughter: A Salute to the Friars (1999)
Gypsy Rose Lee: Naked Ambition (1999)
The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998)
Performer
R.L. Stine's Ghosts of Fear Street (1998)
M-A-S-H, Tootsie & God: A Tribute to Larry Gelbart (1998)
Phil Silvers: Top Banana (1997)
Las Vegas (1996)
The 49th Annual Tony Awards (1995)
Presenter
Itzhak Perlman: In the Fiddler's House (1995)
The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen (1995)
Interviewee
The 10th Annual Television Academy Hall of Fame (1994)
Performer
Tom Arnold: The Naked Truth 2 (1992)
George Burns' 95th Birthday Party (1991)
1990 Ace Awards-11th Annual (1990)
Performer
Jackie Gleason: The Great One (1988)
Las Vegas: An All Star 75th Anniversary (1987)
The 1st Annual American Comedy Awards (1987)
Performer
George Burns' 90th Birthday Special (1986)
NBC's 60th Anniversary Celebration (1986)
The 38th Annual Emmy Awards (1986)
Performer
Funny (1986)
The World's Funniest Commercial Goofs (1985)
The Night of 100 Stars II (1985)
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (1984)
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (1984)
Guest
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's Super Birthday Special (1984)
George Burns Celebrates 80 Years in Show Business (1983)
The Sunshine Boys (1977)
Willie Clark
Flannery and Quilt (1976)
Luke Flannery
Alexander (1973)
Alexander Foster
George M! (1970)
Sam Harris
Murder At NBC (1966)
Hansel and Gretel (1958)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Alice in Wonderland (1985)
The Dream Merchants (1980)
Power (1980)
Rudolph & Frosty's Christmas in July (1979)
Voice

Life Events

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

1942

Made Broadway acting debut in a supporting role in "Vickie"

1944

Made feature film debut in "Winged Victory"

1952

Starred in the CBS sketch comedy and variety show, "The Red Buttons Show"

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

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)

Photo Collections

The Poseidon Adventure - Movie Posters
The Poseidon Adventure - Movie Posters
Your Cheatin' Heart - Pressbook
Here is the campaign book (pressbook) for Your Cheatin' Heart (1964). Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.
Sayonara - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet movie poster for Sayonara (1957), starring Marlon Brando and Red Buttons. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Badlanders - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of The Badlanders (1958), starring Alan Ladd and Ernest Borgnine.

Videos

Movie Clip

Longest Day, The (1962) - Why'd He Have To Mention Fort Bragg? In an airplane hangar in England converted to barracks, we’ve just met Red Buttons as American G.I. Steele and Richard Beymer as Schultz, having something of a personal reckoning, observed by buddy Martini (Sal Mineo), awaiting D-Day, in producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s The Longest Day. 1962.
Sayonara (1957) - The Air Force Is Not Responsible Airman Kelly (Red Buttons) marries native Japanese Katsumi (Miyoshi Umeki), witnessed by Gruver (Marlon Brando), who had initially disapproved, and officiated by the consul (Harlan Wade) in post-war Japan, in Sayonara, 1957, from James Michener's novel.
Poseidon Adventure, The (1972) - Six Hundred Pound Swordfish Priest Gene Hackman leads survivors toward the hull of the flipped ocean liner, Roddy McDowall the injured waiter, Shelley Winters and Jack Albertson the retirees, Pamela Sue Martin a frightened teen, Carol Lynley the lounge singer, Ernest Borgnine the surly cop, Stella Stevens his increasingly disrobed wife, in The Poseidon Adventure, 1972.
Gay Purr-ee (1962) - Mewsette Following the credits, Morey Amsterdam narrates as we meet star Judy Garland voicing heroine Mewsette, Robert Goulet her suitor Jaune-Tom, his song by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and Red Buttons the sidekick Robespierre, in Warner Bros. Gay Purr-ee, 1962.
Imitation General (1958) - Combat Fatigue Cut off from his own unit, shell-shocked Sellers (Dean Jones) appears and mistakes Sgt. Savage (Glenn Ford) for the recently-deceased General, sparking an idea that Cpl. Derby (Red Buttons) tries to discourage, in Imitation General, 1958.
Poseidon Adventure, The (1972) - Get Off Your Knees! Introducing cruisers, Ernest Borgnine is loud cop Rogo, Stella Stevens his seasick wife, bachelor Martin (Red Buttons) greeted by retirees Manny and Belle (Shelley Winters, Jack Albertson), top-billed Gene Hackman the collar-free priest, Arthur O’Connell his colleague, in The Poseidon Adventure. 1972.
Imitation General (1958) - You Know The French France 1944, cut off from their company, Gen. Lane (Kent Smith), Sgt. Savage (Glenn Ford) and Cpl. Derby (Red Buttons) meet native Simone (Tania Elg), early in Imitation General, 1958, directed by George Marshall.

Trailer

Family

Michael Chwatt
Father
Sophie Chwatt
Mother
Amy Buttons
Daughter
Married Sean Morgress in summer 1999.

Companions

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

Bibliography

Notes

Buttons serves as a Scribe Emeritus for the Friars Club