In this undated file photo, Don Adams is seen in character as Maxwell Smart. (AP Photo)
Don Adams’ career in film and TV lasted five decades, but he remains best known for his work on Get Smart. On what would have been his 89th birthday, find out how smart you are about the man behind Agent 86.
1. Don Adams was born as Donald James Yarmy on April 13, 1923 in New York City. He changed his stage name to Adams:
a) To avoid being confused with famous glockenspiel player Dom Yarmi
b) So that he’d be called first during auditions held in alphabetical order
c) To mirror that of his then wife, singer Adelaide Adams
d) All of the above
2. Adams served in WWII and was one of his platoon’s only survivors of the Battle of Guadalcanal because he had been evacuated with blackwater fever early in the campaign. Following his service in the war, which of the following was NOT a job Don Adams held prior to his showbiz career:
a) U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor
b) Designer of sewers
c) Commercial artist
d) Greeting card executive and salesman
3. TV producers hired writers Mel Brooks and Buck Henry to create a spoof of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the result was Get Smart, which Brooks called “a show about an idiot.” Which of the following was NOT reportedly among the reasons ABC rejected the project?
a) They felt Maxwell Smart needed a loveable dog
b) ABC felt the show was un-American
c) They wanted actor Tom Poston instead of Don Adams to be the star
d) ABC producers thought Maxwell Smart should live with his mother
4. Maxwell Smart and other agents of CONTROL fought against KAOS, an international organization of evil formed in Bucharest, Romania. What does KAOS stand for?
a) Killer Assassins Operating in Secret
b) Konrad Anschluss Openheimer Society
c) Kremlin Allies and Overt Scalliwags
d) None of the above
5. Maxwell Smart employed a number of high-tech gadgets in his fight against evil, the most famous being his legendary shoe phone. Which of the following were also devices featured during the show’s 138-episode run?
a) a miniature laser fitted to a button on his sports jacket
b) a bullet proof, invisible wall inside his apartment
c) a tiny camera hidden inside a bowl of soup
d) a sandwich phone
e) a comb phone
f) a garden hose phone
g) a handkerchief phone
h) all of the above
6. A successful Batman movie made in 1966 prompted other networks to try to create movies from their properties, and Get Smart was slated to be made into a feature film before which of the following bombed and scared studios off the idea:
a) Munsters Go Home!
b) Leave It To Beaver’s 3-D Adventures
c) The Beverly Hillbillies Meet Dracula
d) I Dream of Jeannie – In Space!
7. After Get Smart’s cancellation, Don Adams hosted a game show, acted in commercials, and did voiceover work. Which of the following characters did he voice?
a) Shaggy of Scooby-Doo
b) Bullwinkle of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show
c) Inspector Gadget of Inspector Gadget
d) Professor Keenbean of Richie Rich
e) Lance Link of Lance Link: Secret Chimp
8. Don Adams died on September 25, 2005 of a lung infection. For his funeral arrangements, he requested:
a) To be buried with his shoe phone
b) “Sorry about that, chief,” be etched on his tombstone
c) That no big funeral be held, just a few of his close friends should gather and try to “bring him back to life”
d) None of the above
How smart are you about the man behind Maxwell Smart? Scroll past the video to check your answers below!
1. b or c – Adams often joked that he changed his name to be called first during auditions, though holding auditions in alphabetical order is not a common practice. His first wife, Adelaide Enfantis, performed under the stage name Adelaide Adams. Because her career was more established at the time, he decided to adopt her name as his stage name.
2. d – Adams was never in the greeting card industry, although Agent Maxwell Smart often used that job as his cover. Adams claimed to have once been hired as an engineer designing sewers and held the position for six months before it was discovered he was totally lacking in qualifications. Just after WWII, he did serve as a drill instructor, which we find more than a little amusing.
3. c – ABC suggested all the changes noted above, with the exception of replacing Don Adams with Tom Poston. But it’s a bit a of a trick question – Tom Poston was originally considered for the role, but when ABC passed on Get Smart, producers took the show to NBC, who wanted Don Adams in the role as they already had him under contract.
4. d – Both KAOS and CONTROL were originally intended to be acronyms, but creators Buck Henry and Mel Brooks never got around to figuring out what each letter stood for.
5. h – All of the above. Throughout the show’s five-season run, Maxwell Smart used tiny phones hidden in more than 50 objects, including a phone hidden inside a phone.
6. a – The commercial failure of Munsters Go Home! stopped many films based on late '60s TV shows dead in their tracks. Many of those same shows would later be made into films beginning in the 1990s. Get Smart was first given the big-screen treatment with 1980’s The Nude Bomb, and in 2008 a Get Smart movie was made with Steve Carell as Agent 86.
7. c – Don Adams lamented that his popularity as Maxwell Smart made it difficult for him to find dramatic roles, or even comedic ones that didn’t require him to play deadpan bumbling detective types. That the voice-over work he remains best known for was a cartoon detective who relied, much like Maxwell Smart, on a host of strange gadgets perhaps shows how deeply audiences associated his voice and delivery with a certain type of character.
8. c – Adams joked about his wishes during his 75th birthday roast. It is unknown whether his friends complied with these wishes.
Originally published April 2011