Don Adams

Actor, Comedian


Also Known As
Donald James Yarmy
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
April 13, 1923
September 25, 2005
Cause of Death
Lung Infection


Don Adams made America laugh at its Cold War paranoia as the star of the hit sitcom "Get Smart" (NBC/CBS, 1965-1970). Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the series lampooned the high-tech wizardry of NBC's "Man from U.N.C.L.E." (1964-68), finding boundless comic potential in Adams' maladroit secret agent Maxwell Smart. Adams' death in September 2005 robbed the actor of the chance to s...

Family & Companions

Adelaide Enfantis
Singer. Adams adopted her stage name when they married; divorced.
Dorothy Bracken
Dancer. Married in 1960; divorced.
Judy Luciano
Married in 1977; divorced.


Don Adams made America laugh at its Cold War paranoia as the star of the hit sitcom "Get Smart" (NBC/CBS, 1965-1970). Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the series lampooned the high-tech wizardry of NBC's "Man from U.N.C.L.E." (1964-68), finding boundless comic potential in Adams' maladroit secret agent Maxwell Smart. Adams' death in September 2005 robbed the actor of the chance to see his creation revived by Warner Brothers in "Get Smart" (2008). Assuming the mantle and low-tech shoe-phone of Maxwell Smart, rubber-faced Steve Carell turned in a performance that was as much a tribute to Adams as to the original series, opening the door for a new generation of fans to discover one of American television's greatest comic talents.

Don Adams was born Donald James Yarmy on April 13, 1923, in New York City. The second son and middle child of a Hungarian-Jewish restaurant manager and his Irish Roman Catholic wife, he was baptized Catholic by his mother while his older brother had been brought up in their father's faith. More interested in going to see movies than in attending school, Adams was a frequent truant, whose frustrated father eventually packed him off to DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. Nevertheless, Adams dropped out of high school and worked briefly as a theater usher. He was living with family in Pennsylvania at the time of the Japanese Imperial Navy's attack on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Following the cue of his teenage cousins, he swiftly enlisted in the U.S. Marines like many young men at that time. Assigned to the Third Marines in Samoa, Adams was transferred to Guadalcanal for the second major Allied offense against Japan. Taken out of the action early on due to a bout of blackwater fever secondary to malaria, Adams would be his platoon's only survivor after the protracted Battle of Guadalcanal.

After spending a year in a military hospital in New Zealand, he finished his Marine Corps career as a stateside drill instructor. After his military discharge, Adams worked for a time as a commercial artist but his childhood talent for mimicry pulled him toward the life of a performer. He relocated to Miami, FL and formed a brief comedy partnership with Jay Storch, brother of his New York neighbor Larry Storch. Together Adams and Storch toured as The Young Brothers. When the act broke up, Adams continued alone. Married in 1945 to nightclub singer Adelaide Adams, the budding comedian adopted his bride's stage name to become Don Adams for the first time. Fathering four children in quick succession, Adams quit performing and settled in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, where he earned a wage as an engineering draftsman and cartographer. Upon the death of his mother in 1954, Adams returned to New York, where he learned that auditions were being held for Arthur Godfrey's "Talent Scouts" (CBS, 1948-1958). Adams angled himself a spot among the hopefuls and his comic talents impressed the famously prickly Godfrey. Adams' victory on the broadcast led to subsequent appearances on "The Steve Allen Show" (NBC, 1956-1960), "The Ed Sullivan Show" (CBS, 1948-1971) and "The Gary Moore Show" (CBS, 1958-1967).

As a regular performer on "The Perry Como Show" (CBS/NBC, 1948-1966), Adams introduced a recurring character type, a calamity-prone know-it-all whose inherent cluelessness could be adapted to accommodate a wealth of professions, from umpire to hotel detective. Adam's clipped vocal inflections were an adaptation of an earlier impersonation of William Powell, star of the long-running "Thin Man" detective film franchise. He ultimately came to call this character Byron Glick. When his friend Bill Dana, a stand-up comic famous for playing ill-starred immigrant Jose Jiménez, was made the star of NBC's "The Bill Dana Show" (1963-65), Adams was hired as a semi-regular, reprising the Byron Glick character in a dozen episodes. During this time, Adams was also retained by CBS to provide the voice of a wayward cartoon penguin for Total Television's semi-educational "Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales" (1963-1966).

With the cancellation of "The Bill Dana Show," Adams was offered a shot at his own weekly series. The concept for inept secret agent Maxwell Smart was born from the vogue for the James Bond films starring Sean Connery. The profitable series was copied for television as "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." (NBC, 1964-68), a straight-forward espionage drama with satirical touches and an emphasis on gee-wiz gadgetry over onscreen sex and violence. The creators of "Get Smart" (NBC/CBS, 1965-1970), Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, had no small amount of difficulty luring Adams to the series. The actor had tired of his Byron Glick persona and had to be persuaded by friend Dana to resurrect it for his own shot at fame and fortune.

Turned down by ABC, the 1965 pilot for "Get Smart" was picked up instead by NBC. Focusing on the adventures of Adams' bungling but upright and ultimately victorious secret agent No. 86, an operative for the government agency CONTROL and foe of the underworld conclave KAOS, "Get Smart" benefited from a stronger-than-average supporting cast, which included Barbara Feldon as Smart's partner, girlfriend and, later wife Agent 99, and veteran Hollywood actor Edward Platt as Smart's long-suffering bureau chief. The show also featured such guest villains as Bernie Kopell (who recurred as KAOS bigwig Konrad Siegfried), Vincent Price, Julie Newmar, Ted Knight, Pat Paulson and Tom Poston, a one-time candidate for the role of Maxwell Smart. The recipient of multiple Golden Globe and Emmy Awards, "Get Smart" enjoyed a four-season run on NBC before shifting to CBS for its final season.

With the end of his long run as Maxwell Smart, Adams made a number of personal appearances. For friend Hugh Hefner, he appeared in several episodes of the CBS variety series "Playboy After Dark" (1969-1970) while also turning up on "The Andy Williams Show" (NBC, 1969-1971) and "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" (CBS, 1971-74). Another shot at a weekly series came with "The Partners" (NBC, 1971-72), a police sitcom that paired Adams with black actor Rupert Crosse, a last-minute replacement for comedian Godfrey Cambridge, as a pair of luckless plain clothes cops. Although the pilot had tested well and gave NBC hopes for another hit on par with "Get Smart," the series was clobbered in the ratings when scheduled opposite the CBS cash cow "All in the Family." "The Partners" series limped through a single season before being cancelled in September 1972. Adams rebounded as the host of Universal TV's syndicated game show "Don Adams' Screen Test" (1975). Boasting better production values than the average TV competition and employing a better-than-average roster of celebrity guests - including James Caan, Mel Brooks, Bob Newhart and Adams' old "Get Smart" co-star Barbara Feldon - the show ran civilian contestants through a gauntlet of hair, make-up and costuming to provide them with a screen test culled from a scene from a Hollywood classic. Despite the novelty of the show, "Don Adams' Screen Test" was canceled after its first season.

Adams filled the next few years with special guest appearances, providing a voice for Hanna-Barbera's animated sitcom "Wait 'til Your Father Gets Home" (1972-74), acting in the 1976 pilot for ABC's long-running "The Love Boat" (1977-1987) and turning up on "Fantasy Island" (ABC, 1977-1984) as a milquetoast locksmith who yearns to experience life as a World War I flying ace. Adams revived his Maxwell Smart character in "The Return of Maxwell Smart," retitled "The Nude Bomb" (1980) upon its release by Universal. Though the film's producers retained Adams and two writers from the original series, creators Brooks and Henry were never approached to participate, nor was Feldon asked to reprise the character of Agent 99. Despite high hopes for its success, "The Nude Bomb" was a financial and critical disaster that failed even to deliver on the salacious promise of its title.

Failing in his bid for a comeback, Adams returned to television, traveling to Canada to provide the voice for "Inspector Gadget" (1983-85), a crime-solving cyborg with more snap-on accoutrements than a James Bond villain. The cartoon lasted for three seasons but ran in syndication for years. While in Canada, Adams also starred in the supermarket sitcom "Check It Out" (1985-88), as punctilious floor manager Howard Bannister. Agent 86 was revived in more faithful form for the ABC telefilm "Get Smart, Again!" (1989). Pushing 70, Adams was an awkward fit for the Boy Scout-like secret agent, but audiences enjoyed seeing him reteamed with former castmates Feldon, Bernie Kopell, Dick Gautier, and Robert Karvelas, who also happened to be Adams' cousin. A belated follow-up series, "Get Smart" (Fox, 1995), promoted Smart and 99 to executive positions at CONTROL, leaving the comic onus on the narrow shoulders of their offspring, Andy Dick. When the reboot was canceled after seven weeks, Adam returned to his profitable sideline as the animated host of the Canadian travel show "Field Trip Starring Inspector Gadget" (1996). For the feature-length "Inspector Gadget" (1999) starring Matthew Broderick in the title role, Adams contributed a cameo vocal appearance for the film's end credits.

Adams' final performance was as the voice of an autocratic middle school principal on Disney's animated "Pepper Ann" (1997-2000). While undergoing treatment for cancer, he celebrated a poignant 75th birthday as the guest of honor at a celebrity roast, along with a cadre of his former castmates and industry friends. In 2004, the thrice-married, thrice-divorced Adams' daughter Cecily, a Hollywood casting agent, died of lung cancer at the age of 46. That same year, he suffered a broken hip, which left him confined to his Culver City condominium. On Sept. 25, 2005, Adams died at age 82 while undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for a pulmonary infection secondary to bone lymphoma. In 2008, "Get Smart" was given a successful relaunch by Warner Brothers as a vehicle for rubber-faced comedian actor Steve Carell.

By Richard Harland Smith

Life Events


Was a winner on "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" (CBS)


First regular series "Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall" (NBC)


Voiced the cartoon character Tennessee Tuxedo in "Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales" (CBS)


Starred as Maxwell Smart on NBC's "Get Smart"; show moved to CBS for its final season


Co-starred with Rupert Crosse as two bumbling policemen in NBC's "The Partners"


TV-movie debut, voiced himself in Hanna-Barbera's The New Scooby-Doo Movies, "The Exterminator" (CBS)


Hosted the syndicated "Don Adams Screen Test"


Co-starred in feature film "The Skip Tracer"


Reprise role of Maxwell Smart in feature film "The Nude Bomb"


Voiced the title character of "Inspector Gadget" in the syndicated animated series


Starred in the Canadian produced syndicated sitcom "Check It Out!"


Starred in the TV-movie "Get Smart, Again!"


Produced (also wrote and directed) the direct-to-video release "Shreck"


Reprised role of Smart in an updated version of "Get Smart" (FOX)


Lent his voice to the syndicated aminated series "Gadget Boy and Heather"


Voiced Principal Hickley in the ABC cartoon, "Pepper Ann"


Voiced Brain the dog in the end credits for the film version of "Inspector Gadget"


Movie Clip

Antonia’s Line (1995) — (Movie Clip) Open, This Would Be Her Last Day All in one shot, with narration by Lineke Rijxman in the voice of the great-granddaughter of the title character, director Marleen Gorris introduces star Willeke van Ammelrooy, in the somber opening to the international hit absurdist comedy and Best Foreign Language Academy Award-winner, Antonia’s Line, 1995.
10 -- (1979) -- (Movie Clip) You A English Fella? In Puerto Vallarta, after his drunk-drugged decision to pursue the title character (Bo Derek) who’s there on her honeymoon, hung-over big-time Hollywood composer George (Dudley Moore), battling the hot sand, meets attendant J. Victor Lopez, and fellow guests John Chappell and Art Kassul, in Blake Edwards’ hit 10, 1979.
Cocoon (1985) -- (Movie Clip) Peeping Tom Charter boat captain Jack (Steve Guttenberg) feels creepy watching customer Kitty (Tahnee Welch) disrobe, then duly alarmed, her companion Walter (Brian Dennehy) trying to explain, Tyrone Power Jr. and Mike Nomad their silent colleagues, in Ron Howard's Cocoon, 1985.
Looking For Mr. Goodbar (1977) -- (Movie Clip) Your Daughter Has A Beautiful Body Theresa (Diane Keaton) has just been dumped by her married professor boyfriend (Alan Feinstein) then enters into one of her wildest daydreams, Brian Dennehy the doctor, Richard Kiley her dad, then joining her increasingly free-living sister (Tuesday Weld), in writer-director Richard Brooks’ Looking For Mr. Goodbar,1977.
Seven-Ups, The (1973) -- (Movie Clip) We Used To Swim Here Producer-Director Philip D’Antoni, who also produced The French Connection, 1971, brings leading man Roy Scheider (co-star of of that film) as cop Buddy to meet childhood pal Vito (Tony LoBianco, who was also the informant in the previous film), early in The Seven-Ups, 1973.
Seven-Ups, The (1973) -- (Movie Clip) You'll Find It's Quite Unique Producer-director Philip D’Antoni goes all-in for Manhattan, from Grand Central terminal to Park Ave, finding Roy Scheider on what we’ll learn is a police operation, the courier played by ex-detective Sonny Grosso, on-whom Scheider’s character is based, opening the French Connection sort-of follow-up, The Seven-Ups, 1973.
Seven-Ups, The (1973) -- (Movie Clip) We Never Make Mistakes Possibly cops and definitely thugs Moon and Bo (Richard Lynch, Bill Hickman) realize something’s wrong in their ransom pay-off, wind up shooting a colleague of real cops Buddy and Barilli (Roy Scheider, Victor Arnold), beginning the celebrated nine-minute car chase in the Bronx, in The Seven-Ups, 1973.
Seven-Ups, The (1973) -- (Movie Clip) You Want The Wax? Somewhat famous scene in which goons Moon and Bo (Richard Lynch and Bill Hickman, also the stunt co-ordinator), who just finished kidnapping a loan-shark, and who might also be cops, don’t realize they’re being set up, as they visit a Manhattan car wash, in The Seven-Ups, 1973.
Diner (1982) -- (Movie Clip) Opening, Baltimore 1959 Modell (Paul Reiser), Boogie (Mickey Rourke) and Fenwick (Kevin Bacon), along with their temperaments, are introduced at the Christmas dance in the opening scene of Barry Levinson's Diner, 1982.
Going In Style (1979) -- (Movie Clip) Don't Get Any Bright Ideas Slightly nervous now, Brooklyn retirees Joe (George Burns, the head man), Al (Art Carney, taking the bank guard) and Willie (Lee Strasberg, gaining confidence) execute their Manhattan bank stickup, in Going In Style, 1979.
Pearls Of The Deep (1966) -- (Movie Clip) V As In Vodka Jan Nemec directs the second of five stories by writer Bohumil Hrabal, Milos Ctrnacty plays the “journalist,” Frantisek Havel the “singer,” hospitalized together in a piece called The Impostors, in the Czech New Wave anthology Pearls Of The Deep, 1966.
Green Room, The (1978) -- (Movie Clip) Millions Of Deaths After a credit sequence comprised of stylized, grim World War I footage, director Francois Truffaut as journalist and veteran Davenne, supporting a friend (Bernard Humbert) at his wife's funeral, Jean-Pierre Ducos the priest, opening The Green Room, a.k.a. The Vanishing Fiancee', 1978.




Gloria Yarmy
Dick Yarmy
Actor. Born in 1933; died on May 5, 1992 of lung cancer.
Carolyn Adams
Christine Adams
Catherine Adams
Cecily April Adams
Casting director, actor. Born on February 6, 1958; mother, Adelaide Adams; married to actor-writer Jim Beaver.
Stacey Adams
Casting director, actor. Born June 17, 1965; mother, Dorothy Bracken.
Beige Dawn Adams
Born in June 1979; mother, Judy Luciano.
Sean Adams


Adelaide Enfantis
Singer. Adams adopted her stage name when they married; divorced.
Dorothy Bracken
Dancer. Married in 1960; divorced.
Judy Luciano
Married in 1977; divorced.