Writer, actor, producer, director, and all-around funny man Buck Henry passed away January 8, 2020 at the age of 89. He died of a heart attack at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California.
Henry was one of the more prominent screenwriters in Hollywood, and was greatly respected by his fellow Hollywood legends. American comedy screenwriter Larry Charles (best known for his work on the TV series Seinfeld) said that Henry’s work was “a seminal influence on all late 20th century comedy.”
Henry wrote wrote scripts for movies and TV, and appeared on sixteen episodes of Saturday Night Live, hosting ten of them.
Some of the most pivotal films of the latter 20th century were penned by Henry. He co-wrote The Graduate, and co-directed Heaven Can Wait, earning Academy Award nominations for each. He was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Adapted from another Medium for his script of The Owl and the Pussycat. He also directed First Family and wrote The Troublemaker, Catch-22, What’s Up, Doc?, The Day of the Dolphin, Protocol, To Die For, Town & Country, The Humbling, and Babe West. Buck Henry also wrote for That Was the Week that Was and created and wrote for both the short-lived Captain Nice, and was co-creator (with Mel Brooks) of the more enduring Get Smart. His writing and acting career lasted nearly six decades, and was a frequent guest star on various TV shows and a popular guest on talk shows.
If you are old enough to remember Quark as more than a Ferengi businessman on DS9, you may recollect the short-lived SF comedy about the captain of a garbage scow who was prone to misadventures. Buck Henry was the creator of Quark.
As slapstick as it was, Get Smart was one of his more predictive and prophetic works. Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone predicted our modern cell phones – and of course, modern robotics have not yet caught up with the vision of Hymie the Robot.
Buck Henry laid the groundwork for so much of modern television and motion picture writing that his influence leaves an indelible mark on the entire industry. That’s quite a legacy.
Thanks, Buck. We’ll miss you.