Marking Mr. and Mrs. Smart’s Golden Anniversary

Max and 99 cut the wedding cake - a cake we didn't see in "With Love and Twitches."

Max and 99 cut the wedding cake – a cake we didn’t see in “With Love and Twitches.”

Fifty years ago on Nov. 16, 1968, Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 said their vows in “With Love and Twitches.” NBC hoped the union would boost Get Smart’s ratings. Nuptials, though, would not be enough to save Get Smart. NBC canceled the show at the end of the fourth season. CBS would pick the series up for a final season, but we won’t get into that animal.
During its run, Get Smart netted seven Emmys – three of which were awarded to Don Adams. However, the show never made the top 10 in the Nielsen ratings. Get Smart ranked 12 in the 1965-66 season and 22 in the 1966-67 season. The final three seasons failed to crack the top 30. So, as Max said, it’s not how good you are – it’s where you stand in the ratings.
Weddings attract a lot of attention —  whether we want that or not. In that aspect, while the show’s ratings didn’t climb, the marriage of 86 and 99 still managed to garner a lot of publicity. There were news articles, a TV Guide cover and Don Adams and Barbara Feldon appeared in the Rose Parade wearing their wedding clothes.
It was a quick engagement. Aired during sweeps week, “With Love and Twitches” was the climax of season four’s wedding saga. Many of the episodes in this season were common tropes building up and then reacting to marriage.
These include:
• Snoopy Smart vs. the Red Baron – the “Meeting Mother” episode.
• Closely Watched Planes – the “Announce Your Engagement to Your Boss” episode.
• Diamonds are a Spy’s Best Friend – the “Engagement Ring” episode.
• The Worst Best Man – the “Best Man/Bachelor Party” episode.
• A Tale of Two Tails – the “Wedding Preparation” episode.
• The Return of the Ancient Mariner – “Best Man Part II.”
• The Laser Blazer – the “Husband with the Wandering Eye” episode.
• The Farkas Fracas – the “Invite the Boss Over for Supper” episode.
• Temporarily Out of Control – the “Ruined Honeymoon Part I.”
• Schwartz’s Island – the “Ruined Honeymoon Part II.”
Spy hi-jinks work their way into the plots and it is amusing, but this is where the criticism

What is the Smart bride wearing? The answer is floral head gear.

What is the Smart bride wearing? The answer is floral head gear.

comes in: The show had become sitcomy. Get Smart was less a parody dipping from the absurd and more a vanilla comedy.
In “With Love and Twitches” it’s a classic case of wedding day catastrophe. Hours before he is to be married, Max is duped into drinking Dr. Madre’s (Alan Oppenheimer) drug that contains a map to the Melnick Uranium Mines.
The map is to appear in the form of a rash on his chest. As if that’s not bad enough, he has to stand upright for the next 48 hours in order for it to work. Max asks to postpone the wedding but the Chief and 99 write off his story as a case of wedding day jitters.
Bad becomes worse when Kaos agents manage to hold Max, along with Madre, hostage in his own apartment. 99, in the meantime, is convinced she’s about to be jilted. Thankfully the arrival of his best man, Admiral Hargrade (William Schallert), gives Max a window to work out an escape plan.
The funniest scene is Max trying to put on his tux while standing in a moving  Citroen.  A close second is the pre-ceremony brawl pitting Control agents against Kaos agents which leaves Max and the Chief in tatters.
After all of this, we do not learn 99’s name —  nor does anyone else. The Admiral manages to snore at that precise and critical moment.

No Herbert, you don't get to join in on the brawl. Attending the Smart's wedding were Mace Neufeld and Dorothy Adams.

No Herbert, you don’t get to join in on the brawl. Attending the Smart’s wedding were Mace Neufeld and Dorothy Adams.

The episode has a few notable guest appearances: Don’s wife Dorothy plays 99’s Matron of Honor; Mace Neufeld, Don’s agent, plays her husband; Jay Lawrence, brother of Larry Storch and Don’s stand-up partner, appears as a Kaos agent; and Get Smart writer Arne Sultan is a wedding guest. Agent 99’s floral bridal helmet should have a credit of its own.
Cutting to the chase, is the episode any good? It does its job. It offers a wedding (which the powers that be thought viewers were waiting for) and a lot of silliness. Is it a powerhouse episode like Mr Big, 99 Looses Control or the Emmy winning Ship of Spies? Nope.
I love the romance between Max and 99 (see my previous blog entry), but I really think the show should have held off on having them tie the knot. Too soon, folks.

With Love and Twitches

An impossible episode and a love story

Max and 99's engagement photo.

Max and 99’s engagement photo.

With Maxwell Smart’s marriage proposal to Agent 99 hitting the 50 year mark, it’s worth a look back at “The Impossible Mission.”

Airing Sept. 21, 1968, “The Impossible Mission” served as the fourth season opener. This was the final season Get Smart would air on NBC. The network, hoping that an engagement and wedding would bump up the show’s ratings, had Max and 99 tie the knot during sweeps week. It wasn’t enough.

Despite Don Adams netting a third Emmy and the show winning its own Emmy, NBC canceled it. CBS would pick up the show for a fifth and final season.

There’s something of a love/hate relationship with this episode. Some fans loved the idea of Max finally confessing his love to 99. Others weren’t buying it. I find it to be one of my favorites, but I won’t deny that it has some problems.

Structurally this episode is clunky. Most Get Smart episodes are tight little units. All parts equal the whole. The Impossible Mission, however, is all over the place. It is something of a patchwork of three different parodies. Thankfully, it’s still very funny.

Parody Number One: Mission Impossible

Mission Impossible, which ran from 1966 to 1973, was a hot property and was ripe for

When messages don't self-destruct.

When messages don’t self-destruct.

being spoofed. If you judged this episode by title alone and assumed it was an MI parody, you would be wrong and perhaps disappointed. The episode’s tag starts off as a parody of MI’s tag. Like Jim Phelps, Max seeks out his taped instructions, which are supposed to self-destruct. In classic Get Smart fashion, however, they don’t.

Following the opening credits, the episode continues to mirror MI as Max goes through a file of photos and selects his “team.” His offerings for this mission are Larabee; Alfred E. Neuman; the Mona Lisa; Tiny Tim, which Max tears up; and 99, who Max would rather not have on the mission. 99 isn’t pleased to find herself in the reject pile.

99: You’re not taking me on this assignment, are you, Max?
Max: Eh… no, I’m not.
99: You can’t leave me out of this one, Max! This is the most important case that’s ever been given to Control, this could mean the end of the world.
Max: That’s exactly why I’m not letting you go on this mission. If it’s going to mean the end of the world, I want to make sure that you’re all right.

Thus ends any resemblance to Mission Impossible. A start to finish MI parody at some point in this series would have been fantastic, however, we were not going to get one. At least in season five we were offered a Martin Landau cameo.

Parody Number Two: Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass

Now we get to the plot of this episode: Max must prevent Kaos’ top agent, known as

The Tijuana Tin - not to be confused with the Tijuana Brass. The Kaos agent in the pink hat is Eddie Hice, Don Adams' stunt double.

The Tijuana Tin – not to be confused with the Tijuana Brass. The Kaos agent in the pink hat is Eddie Hice, Don Adams’ stunt double.

The Leader (played by Aron Kincaid), from transmitting Dr. Albert Hellman’s Theory of Hellmanivity out of the U.S. If the theory gets in the hands of Kaos’ headquarters in Europe, the human race will be faced with extinction through Hellmanitis. And the Chief doesn’t have to tell us what that is.

Much time is spent with Max and the Chief exchanging top secret information in a jet at 30,000 feet. The clunky Cone of Silence may have been less time consuming. At least TWA got some product placement.

After meeting with an informer (played by Jamie Farr) in a record shop and infiltrating pop brass band The Tijuana Tin, Max learns that the band’s leader, Herb Talbot, is The Leader. This came as bad news for Max as he owned all of the Tijuana Tin’s albums.
Would you believe this band is a parody of Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass? Well, it’s certainly not a parody of Glen Campbell. The TJB hit its peak in the late 60s at the same time Get Smart was on the air. Bill Dana, who we have to thank for The Voice and the Would You Believe routine, was one of Alpert’s early backers and wrote comic routines that were part of the band’s performances.

Parody Number Three: Charlie Chaplin

Once upon a time Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass did a Whipped Cream video with a

The old Chaplin routine in the spy show trick.

The old Chaplin routine in the spy show trick.

bunch of Charlie Chaplins. Alpert also worked out of the old Chaplin Studios.
That fun trivia, however, still doesn’t justify whatever was going on in this part of the episode.

Max and 99 attempt to evade The Leader and his sidekick (who was played by Adams’ stunt double Eddie Hice) by engaging in some sort of take-off on a Little Tramp/Keystone Cops routine — complete with the piano music. Unfortunately this bit doesn’t even rise to the level of camp. It’s possible this scene may have made sense as a direct parody of the TJB’s TV special, but 50 years down the line it’s kind of over-the-top. The only thing that helps it along is that Adams and Feldon are so darn cute.

The proposal

Max confesses his love to 99.

Max confesses his love to 99.

We know how this part works. Max and 99 are holed up in the back of the TV studio with no way out. Max says he’d marry 99 if they could get out. 99 hatches an escape plan.

Cue the wedding bells.

Now insert the sound of a needle ripping across a record.

I need to get something out of the way first before I talk about this scene and why I love it. There have been viewers who have pointed out that Max didn’t actually propose — 99 just interpreted the following exchange that way:

Max: 99, there’s something I have to tell you.
99: What is it, Max?
Max: Well, we’ve known each other for a long time and well, we’ve been through a lot of things together.
99: Go on, Max.
Max: Well, It’s just that I… well I have to tell you how I really feel about you. I wanted to tell you for a long, long time but I just… well I’ve never been able to find the right words. You see 99, it’s not easy to say… well, it’s not easy to say…
99: To say I love you, Max?
Max: Yes.
99: Well why don’t you let me say it for you: I love you, Max.
Max: No, no, 99, that’s not want I want to say, I wanted to say I love you 99.
99: I’m saying I love you too, Max.
Max: You do?
99: I always have.
….
Max: You know, 99, if we could get out of this trap I’d marry you.
99: You would?
Max: Of course I would.

Technically Max can’t be quoted as asking “Will you marry me?” Semantics. But even 99 had a few seconds of doubt and asked if he meant what he said. Max’s response was to produce the nearest ring he could find —  by tearing apart a microphone. Actions speak louder than words.

Aside from the nit picky detail mentioned above, some fans found the scene to be contrived and out of place. It’s as if someone said, “Quick, edit in that proposal.” Others did not feel it belonged in Get Smart. The thought was that Smart was too obtuse to be attracted to 99. Series creator Buck Henry didn’t like the idea either.

“I would have fought it like a tiger. What conceivable sex life could Max and 99 really have?” said Henry in a 2001 documentary, Inside TV Land: Get Smart. Henry left the series in season three.

Get Smart, though, was just as much a parody of romance as it was a parody of

Max has been hauling this photo around since episode four, "Our Man in Toyland."

Max has been hauling this photo around since episode four, “Our Man in Toyland.”

espionage. 86 and 99 would have their flirtations and go as far as to attempt to kiss — only to have those moments interrupted. This was followed by rounds of jealousy. Much of that came from 99, as displayed in Washington 4, Indians 3 and Too Many Chiefs.
But Max also had his turn at playing the green eyed monster — notably in Kisses for Kaos. He’s also not too thrilled she’s assigned to babysit playboy Antonio Carlos Carioca in “The Only Way to Die.” In “Double Agent” they were supposed to go on a date —  until the Chief assigned Max to become a derelict. In some episodes the two even held hands.

These patterns repeat themselves —  and then we get to the third season episode, “99 Loses Control.” 99 leaves Control and Max behind to marry a casino owner that would turn out to be a Kaos agent. Max follows after her — with a framed picture of the both of them in his suitcase. The photo in question, from the season one episode “Our Man in Toyland,” shows Max kissing 99 on the check.

It would appear that Mr. Smart kept his feelings close to the vest.

“He loved her, but he treated her like a guy – his partner,” said Don Adams in Inside TV Land: Get Smart.

The proposal scene alone is really a sweet one and I find it to be the best in the series. It’s all schmaltz, goo and warm fuzzies. It’s probably the single scene in the series that allowed Don Adams to give more depth to Maxwell Smart.

Throughout the series – even after 86 and 99 tied the knot – Adams kept the character walking down a narrow path of laughable buffoonery. Smart fell into the trope or archetype known as the “fool.” That characterization doesn’t vary until this scene. In a matter of a few lines the veil is dropped and we’re presented with a human – and a fairly sensitive one at that.

The Impossible Mission

Mr. Big: A comedy of continuity gaffes and laughs

Do you see what I see: Something is wrong with this image. Read the blog to find out what it is.

Do you see what I see: Something is wrong with this image. Read the blog to find out what it is.

Being that it’s the 53rd birthday for Get Smart, as the pilot episode “Mr. Big” aired Sept. 18, 1965, it’s time for a look at that episode. This is a bit different from what I’ve previously written on the pilot. Instead of an overview, it’s a glimpse of a few things we probably overlooked.

TV in the past didn’t offer the “extras” viewers are used to seeing today. Outtakes and behind the scenes footage wasn’t at everyone’s fingertips. Shows also weren’t produced with the notion that there would be repeat viewing and over-analysis. An airing of a TV episode was a one-shot deal – unless the show was blessed with syndication.

Of the bloopers included in the Get Smart Time Life DVD set (which have wormed their way to YouTube), most of them were from the later seasons. Don Adams had squirreled them away and his son in law, actor Jim Beaver, would later provide them for the DVDs.

As for the pilot episode, the only outtake floating around is footage of Don Adams being told by his agent, Mace Neufeld, that he was a father. His wife Dorothy had given birth to their daughter Stacey during the filming of the episode. The scene being filmed was from A Secret Agent’s Dilemma, or a Clear Case of Mind Over Mata Hari. The program aired Sept. 6, 1965 and was used as a preview of NBC’s fall lineup.

 

Detective work, a discerning eye and repeat viewing, however, has revealed what was changed as well as biffed in the Get Smart pilot. Now, this isn’t a criticism – it’s like finding Easter eggs. Here are a few (but not all) of the inconsistencies, goofs and changes in Mr. Big:

99’s hair

Agent 99's hair enters into this episode two times before it should.

Agent 99’s hair enters into this episode two times before it should.

This was one continuity error I noticed, probably from the first time I saw this episode. Would you believe the second time? It is glaring, but I always ignored it. One of the most iconic scenes in the pilot (and the series) is when Max and 99 are together in the novelty shop. The Inthermo is activated, Fang saves Max’s life and a Kaos agent gets zapped. 99’s reaction is to take off her chauffeur’s hat and shake out her hair. Max reacts to that by going for a kiss. Fang interrupts.

Obviously the idea was that 99’s hair was supposed to stay tucked up in the hat and Max was supposed to be too distracted to notice she was a female. The scene is both hilarious and absurd and is played with complete earnestness. It’s a fantastic parody of all those smoldering moments of classic film where the guy eyes the girl.

Unfortunately, there’s a booboo. We see 99’s bob sticking out of her hat twice before this scene. The first time, and the most noticeable, is when Max and 99 go out to the parking lot to talk to Zelinka. You can see 99’s hair as the camera shoots from above. The second time her hair appears is after they pull up to the novelty shop and get out of the limo. Most viewers probably didn’t notice this because they were watching Max struggle to get the door to the limo closed. It’s worth a mention 99 was written into the script as a blonde – even though brunette Barbara Feldon had always been eyed for the role of 99.

Wrong scenery

New York City looks a bit like southern California in this scene. This only lasts seconds. Blink and you'll miss it.

New York City looks a bit like southern California in this scene. This only lasts seconds. Blink and you’ll miss it.

This episode is first set in Washington, D.C. and then in New York City. We get some nice stock footage of the U.S. Capitol Building and later the Statue of Liberty. However, we also get the wrong vegetation for the East Coast. As Max and 99 are driving to the city, en route to the novelty shop, palm trees and mountains can be seen in the background.

The old boom mic appearance

More discerning viewers can catch a cameo appearance made by a boom mic. It shows up in the windshield of the limo when Max and 99 are listening to the Kaos radio broadcast. Again, this is not something that would have stuck out because our attention would have gone to 86 and 99.

Misplaced bullet holes

A case of now you them, now you don't. The bullet holes in the door on the left disappear AFTER Max shoots at the Kaos agent.

A case of now you see them, now you don’t. The bullet holes in the door on the left disappear AFTER Max shoots at the Kaos agent.

Like the boom mic, this is something you have to look for. During the melee on the garbage scow, Max gets his hands on a rifle and tries to take out Mr. Big and the Kaos frogmen. He fires away but ends up shooting into the wall and a door before the gun jams up. In the scene before the gunfire, we see a Kaos agent that needs obvious patching to his wet suit and a door full of bullet holes. In the next scene, after everyone dodges bullets and the smoke clears, the door is no longer damaged.

Cut Smart

The bottom of the Get Smart lunch box shows a scene that was intended for Mr. Big, but didn't make the cut. Max fights Kaos with cigarettes rather than the Inflato coat.

The bottom of the Get Smart lunch box shows a scene that was intended for Mr. Big, but didn’t make the cut. Max fights Kaos with cigarettes rather than the Inflato coat.

One scene that got cut/reworked was actually documented – but not in the way you would think. We have collectibles to thank for evidence of this.

On the bottom of the Get Smart lunchbox is a scene that looks like it came from the pilot. In it, we see a chauffeur-suited 99 tied up with Max and Professor Dante. There’s even a glimpse of Fang’s nose. Max is fending off two Kaos frogmen with a blast of smoke from a cigarette. Also, there is a Get Smart trading card that shows Max, 99 and Dante laughing hysterically in the same scene.

These two images came from a scene that was rewritten. In it, Max, 99 and Dante were

This Get Smart trading card shows a scene from Mr. Big that we didn't get to see. Here we see Max and 99 dealing with the effects of laughing gas. It may be worth noting that the person on the left is supposed to be Professor Dante, although he doesn't exactly look like actor Vito Scotti in this shot.

This Get Smart trading card shows a scene from Mr. Big that we didn’t get to see. Here we see Max and 99 dealing with the effects of laughing gas. It may be worth noting that the person on the left is supposed to be Professor Dante, although he doesn’t exactly look like actor Vito Scotti in this shot.

tied up below deck together. Max and Dante start talking but a Kaos agent interrupts and begins intimidating them. Max requests a final cigarette – one of his cigarettes. As the Kaos agent lights the cigarette, a stream of smoke explodes in his face. He starts to laugh and 99 points out that it’s laughing gas. Eventually the rest of the group is overcome with laughing gas. Max manages to summon Fang who rescues them by chewing apart the ropes. This was re-shot with Max’s weapon of choice being the Inflato coat. Only Max, 99 and Fang (who was tied rather than roaming freely) were below deck together – Dante was somewhere else. Ironically, at the beginning of the episode, Max doesn’t want to use the Inflato coat.

This sounded like a funny scene and I wonder why it got changed. The most logical reason is that it probably took too long and they needed to tighten things up.

Now, a theory for those of us that like to overthink things is that it might have conflicted with the characterization of Smart – he wasn’t supposed to be wise to the joke. The surreal idiocy the viewer sees in Mr. Big is Maxwell Smart’s unwavering reality. Mel Brooks pointed this out in Joey Green’s book, The Get Smart Handbook. “I would say the best thing about Maxwell Smart is that he was always wrong and always intense. He never played the joke. He never shared with the audience that he was aware that what he was doing was funny,” said Brooks.

Cone of Silence: When a 60s spy show drops into current events

The Cone of Silence in its inaugural use in 1965. It's still hanging around in 2018 - just check your Twitter feed.

The Cone of Silence in its inaugural use in 1965. It’s still hanging around in 2018 – just check your Twitter feed.

What have I found in the last few weeks when doing a simple internet search of Get Smart? Lots and lots of references to the Cone of Silence —  but not in the way I would expect.

It seems in the last year Get Smart has moved from the entertainment corner of cyberspace to the op ed/political realm. That’s a wild and woolly place to be. I should know since in real life I spend my days putting together opinion pages.

On April 16 the Government Accountability Office issued findings that the EPA violated

The old spy device in a sci fi magazine trick. This cartoon was in the December 2001 edition of Starlog.

The old spy device in a sci fi magazine trick. This cartoon was in the December 2001 edition of Starlog.

federal spending laws when it purchased a sound proof booth for Administrator Scott Pruitt to use for making private phone calls. The price tag on the booth came to the tune of $43,000. Federal law prohibits agencies from spending more than $5,000 on redecorating or remodeling offices. Oops.
With this story, the online commentary soon followed. Pruitt’s booth was quickly compared to the always malfunctioning Cone of Silence on Get Smart. References to the COS were quickly birthed on Facebook, Twitter, the op ed pages of major newspapers and even by a political cartoonist or two.
The comparisons are not going away. I started pulling together research for this blog installment more than a week ago. In that amount of time, the number of memes referencing Pruitt and the COS have proliferated.

There’s the standard meme of a GS screen grab with Max and the Chief under the device with some text referencing Pruitt. Then there are the more creative graphics with Pruitt under the COS himself, taking the place of the Chief. One meme even had Pruitt’s head Photoshopped onto Don Adams’ body and Donald Trump taking the place of Ed Platt. Blasphemy.

The Cone of Silence in action. The Chief sacrifices his desk in the name of security.

The Cone of Silence in action. The Chief sacrifices his desk in the name of security.

This isn’t the first time that Maxwell Smart has been shoved into recent current events and political commentary.

The March 31, 2017 front page of The New York Daily News prominently (like two thirds of the page) featured U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, edited onto a shoephone bearing Maxwell Smart. Nunes serves as chair of the House Intelligence Committee. And yes, this all had to do with his role in the Trump-Russia investigation.

As 99 would say, “Poor Max.”

London's Control HQ uses the Umbrella of Silence. Please refrain from smoking.

London’s Control HQ uses the Umbrella of Silence. Please refrain from smoking.

Previous administrations were not immune to COS references. In 2013 the New York Times reported on Barack Obama’s portable “Zone of Secrecy.” Basically a tent used while meeting with officials in other nations, it could keep conversations private. This drew all kinds of online comparisons to the Cone of Silence.

The COS dropped into the opinion pages back during George W. Bush’s administration. A couple editorial cartoonists featured “Dubya” under the cone with a reference to security leaks. Also, a 1995 Washington Post editorial referenced the COS in a column about President Bill Clinton’s problems with the CIA.

Would you believe someone even lifted a COS image from this website and used it in a March 22 Reddit forum?

One would wonder if and how often this sort of thing occurred during Get Smart’s run.

The term “cone of silence” isn’t just relegated to Get Smart lore. Prior to Get Smart, the term “Cone of Silence” appeared in a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre titled “Barrier of Silence.” A cone of silence was also used in Dune, which was initially serialized in Analog from 1963 to 1965.

Cone of Silence is also a legal term that can be found in the ordinances of a governing body. It is defined as a directive that prohibits oral communication about a specified subject.

Now for something actually fun to talk about: The Cone of Silence’s role on Get Smart.

The cramped Closet of Silence gets some exercise when the COS is broken or on loan to the CIA.

The cramped Closet of Silence gets some exercise when the COS is broken or on loan to the CIA.

Out of 138 episodes the device itself (not counting “alternative cones”) appeared in nine episodes, which include:
Mr. Big (pilot)
Kaos in Control
My Nephew the Spy
Too Many Chiefs
Smart, the Assassin
I’m Only Human
The Whole Tooth And…
A Man Called Smart (Part 1)
A Tale of Two Tails

The routine is usually the same. The Chief or Max have an instance where they need to discuss sensitive information. Rule-oriented Max demands (it’s always a “demand”) the Cone of Silence. The device is begrudgingly lowered by the Chief or one of his administrative assistants. What follows is either the device malfunctioning and/or the Chief and 86 not hearing each other. The Chief has even gotten stuck in the thing and in one episode it destroyed his desk.

In the series, the COS is revealed to have been invented by a Professor Cone. It also costs an exorbitant sum to operate. In one episode, Control tries to combat budget cuts by loaning the device to the CIA.

The COS was actually a product of show creator Buck Henry’s wonderful imagination.

“I have always loved the Cone of Silence because I just loved the idea of this thing that was its own worst enemy,” Henry said in a 2002 Discovery Channel documentary, C.I.A.: Hollywood Spytek. “It was such a clearly dopey, funny, piece of equipment.”

The picture of absurdity - the Portable Cone of Silence.

The picture of absurdity – the Portable Cone of Silence.

There were a few opportunities for alternative cones.

The first was the ridiculous Portable Cone of Silence which was used in Hubert’s Unfinished Symphony. Max takes this with him while he and the Chief are on a mission in a concert hall. The Chief spends much of that time stuck in the thing. The Portable Cone of Silence was one of the accessories that came with the 2002 Sideshow Toys action figures. The toy version is just as annoying as the real version. Good luck assembling it.

The London branch of Control uses the Umbrella of Silence in That Old Gang of Mine. Unlike the American COS, this device can hold four people and everyone can hear each other. It its advisable, however, to refrain from smoking in it.

The Closet of Silence is used in two episodes, Maxwell Smart, Private Eye and Supersonic Boom. Also, the Control Secret Word File is used in lieu of the COS in A Tale of Two Tails.

The COS would eventually end up hanging above Max and 99’s bed in Get Smart Again. In that movie, Max’s demands for secrecy were met with two other impractical procedures: Hover Cover and The Hall of Hush. Also in the movies, The Nude Bomb and Get Smart (2008) had their own incarnations of the cone.

As for the whereabouts of the original COS… it seems to have faded into legend.

I saw what you did there: A Get Smart reference worked its way into the recent editorial page offerings.

I saw what you did there: A Get Smart reference worked its way into the recent editorial page offerings.

Would you believe: Bill Dana’s contribution to Get Smart

Bill Dana as José Jiménez.

Bill Dana as José Jiménez.

Sometimes a mere word – or a few – can create something big. Thus was the case with a joke formula written by comedian and noted screenwriter Bill Dana in the early 1960s.

Dana passed away on June 15 at the age of 92.

Born William Szathmary on Oct. 5, 1924, Dana was best recognized as the thick-accented immigrant character José Jiménez. Dana also had a hand in Get Smart’s success -and in influencing the popular vernacular of the late 1960s. However, his efforts came long before Get Smart or even his own show, The Bill Dana Show, were conceived.

In the early 1950s, Dana had started out as an NBC page and performed in New York nightclubs with partner Gene Wood. After the Wood/Dana partnership ran its course, Dana set his focus on writing material.

Around this time the talent agency representing Dana, NRB Associates, expressed interest in stand-up comedian Don Adams, who had just made an appearance on the Garry Moore Show. They directed Adams to work with Dana, who would write material for him.

Adams was sent to a swank 20th floor duplex apartment on Central Park West. There he found Dana, who was decked out in a smoking jacket. Adams would learn, after Dana’s unemployment check dropped on the floor during the course of the meeting, the posh digs didn’t belong to his new partner. The smoking jacket wasn’t Dana’s either. Dana had been house sitting for Imogene Coca, who was known as Sid Caesar’s partner on Your Show of Shows.

The two would eventually expand on Adams’ depiction of a detective with an exaggerated

The cast of The Bill Dana Show, including Don Adams, Maggie Peterson, Jonathan Harris and Bill Dana.

The cast of The Bill Dana Show, including Don Adams, Maggie Peterson, Jonathan Harris and Bill Dana.

William Powell voice. “The Voice” found its way into other routines – notably as a defense attorney and a football coach.

Adams had some hesitation about using the nails-on-chalkboard voice but Dana encouraged it.

“That character, when you said the words, they just pierced right through you. It was a comedy writer’s dream,” said Dana in a 2001 documentary, Inside TVLand: Get Smart.

“Bill Dana said to me, you know, that voice is funny,” said Adams. “I said, I hate that voice. Bill Dana said, no, no, no, it’s funny. Use it.”

Dana would later defend use of The Voice when producer Sheldon Leonard wanted to “release” Don Adams from The Bill Dana Show.

Their other enduring collaboration, scrawled on a piece of yellow legal paper, was one Dana would later lacquer and frame: The Would You Believe gag.

The routine was a take off on the British in India themed movies of the 1930s, including The Lives of a Bengal Lancer  and Gunga Din, In it, Lieutenant Faversham confronts villain Mohammed Sidney Kahn:

Faversham: Not so fast, smarty Kahn. You think you’ve got me, but I have you surrounded by the entire mounted Seventeenth Bengal Lancers.
Kahn: I don’t believe that.
Faversham: Would you believe the First Bengal Lancers?
Kahn: No.
Faversham: How about Gunga Din on a donkey?

The Voice originally wasn’t used in this gag. Instead, Adams used his Cary Grant impersonation for Faversham’s lines.

Dana and Adams, circa 2001 with the original Would You Believe gag.

Dana and Adams, circa 2001 with the original Would You Believe gag.

The routine replayed itself in other acts, other shows and would find a place on The Bill Dana Show. Get Smart had a solid collection of these over the years. The joke was so strong that it became one of the elements most commonly associated with Get Smart, in addition to the Shoephone, the opening door sequence and Maxwell Smart’s voice. It’s assumed it was always there – even though it wasn’t used in every episode.

Moving forward, Dana took up the reins as a writer on The Steve Allen Show and created his own character for Allen’s Man in the Street segments – José Jiménez. These segments included a pantheon of other comedians: Don Knots, Pat Harrington Jr., Tom Poston and Louis Nye.

Dana’s Jiménez would eventually make the variety show rounds (including a take on the Ed Sullivan Show) and net a few comedy albums.

The character became a hit and in 1961 Dana made several guest appearances on the The Danny Thomas Show with José serving as an elevator operator. Riding the tide of popularity, NBC gave Dana his own show which ran from 1963 to 1965.

José Jiménez and Byron Glick ponder their fate in "Blood for Two Turnips."

José Jiménez and Byron Glick ponder their fate in “Blood for Two Turnips.”

In The Bill Dana Show, José was employed as a bellhop at the swank Park Central Hotel. Much to the annoyance of hotel manger Mr. Phillips (played by Jonathan Harris), José would either find himself in some predicament or engage in a daydream sequence ala shades of Walter Mitty.

Gary Crosby played fellow bellhop Eddie for the first season. Joining the cast later in the series were Don Adams as house detective Byron Glick and Maggie Peterson as Susie the waitress.

The Jiménez/Glick episodes produced some of the funniest bits in the series. However, that was infrequent. Adams appeared in only 15 of the show’s 42 episodes.

Nevertheless, it was the Glick character that would survive. After The Bill Dana Show was canceled, Adams, still under contract with NBC, found a future with Get Smart.
Dana actually appeared in two episodes of Get Smart.

His first stint was a cameo in the third season episode “Super Sonic Boom.” In that episode, Max and 99 are gaslighted in to believing they’ve been smuggled into Argentina. Once they escape Kaos by crawling out of a sewer, Max approaches a man on the street played by Dana and addresses him in Spanish. Dana responds by saying he doesn’t speak Spanish.

Dana’s second appearance, which he was paid SAG minimum for, was in the fifth season episode “Ice Station Siegfried.”

In this episode he fills in for Don Adams, portraying CIA Agent Quigley. In DVD commentary, Dana remarked that the character was José Jiménez without the accent -and longer sideburns.

“Don and I were like brothers. It was just one of those situations where he was under the weather… a lot of personal stuff going on at the same time. He wasn’t feeling well,” said Dana.

Dana was also one of the writers of the The Nude Bomb (1980), which he had a role in as fashion designer Jonathan Levinson Seigle.

As for José Jiménez, his last TV appearance was in a 1966 episode of Batman. The character was laid to rest in 1970 with Dana actually holding a mock funeral for José on Sunset Boulevard. This character really wouldn’t fly today.

This is only snippet of what can be noted about Bill Dana. It’s also worth pointing out that his brother Irving Szathmary composed the Get Smart theme. Dana’s other brother Al Szathmary served as Don Adams’ stand-in on Get Smart.

Bill Dana with Barbara Feldon in Ice Station Siegfried.

Bill Dana with Barbara Feldon in Ice Station Siegfried.

Anatomy of a fansite

Would you believe I still need to load all this stuff?

You’ve probably visited one while surfing the web for some topic that peeked your interest and while you might have found the answer you were looking for, you may wonder what kind of person is on the other end of that information.
I’m referring to fansites and their owners.
I have been busy with extensive site maintenance since early spring – hence why writing about episodes have been pushed to the back burner. While in the midst of website housekeeping, I figured I should talk a little about what goes into maintaining this site. For those just stumbling into this blog, it’s attached to a larger site, www.ilovegetsmart.com
The site is coming upon its 17th birthday. The internet was a different world when this was built – a slower, smaller world. The site still reflects that era – well just a little.
The fansite of 20 years ago was probably one that had visually distracting wallpaper in the background — coupled with a few annoying midi files that played when a page was opened. Maybe there were frames. Maybe there were image maps and roll over text. Sure, it was gaudy but, hey, everyone has their guilty pleasures.

Media - old school. A stack of VHS taps and a few boxes of floppy disks are probably the foundation of any longtime website.

Believe it or not, there were actually a bevy of Get Smart sites back in the late 90s. They focused on aspects of the show ranging from fan fic to photographs. A handful of these sits shot up in the early 2000s during TV Land’s run of Get Smart.
However, over the years a good number of those sites vanished. Many of them went by the wayside with the demise of Geocities, which closed down in 2009. Others likely remained inactive long enough that their service provider pulled the plug. Still, there are a few of us that, despite changing media trends, life, universe and everything, are still hanging around.
In the summer of 1999 I taught myself HTML and started my site over on Geocities, focusing on three different topics: Swing music, The Beatles and what would eventually over take the whole thing — Get Smart. At the time I was — and still am — part of an email-based fan group dedicated to the show. Some of the topics we discussed there and during our weekly chat made their way to my website — like that noted painting of Agent 99 we see in two episodes.
My angle has been to take those sort of topics — like Max’s cars and all of Control’s female agents — and craft fun content.
I have some photos here and there — enough to illustrate things, but this site was not photo heavy for a few reasons. When the site started years ago, there were a couple sites focused entirely photos but I didn’t want mine to look like a copy of those — I wanted maybe more unique things. Technology back then was different. There was very little space to work with and adding and acquiring photos was a process.
Since technology has improved, there is more room for that kind of media, but I still see keeping photos to what they are — except for when there is a new blog post – then I’ll add a few relating to that topic.
Over the years other sites have lifted photos from my site without asking or even referencing the site. Lately I’ve been seeing people building social media sites with images that they’ve grabbed from Google – images that I know belong to other sites. I used to have a page featuring original artwork, but because of this growing trend, I deleted it.

Required reading: Webmasters wanting to create a site with substance had to be ready to do their homework.

If you’ve found a fansite on your favorite show that’s still hanging around, keep in mind it’s a labor of love for that webmaster. There’s no monetary gain from this hobby, and in all likelihood the webmaster is probably operating on a deficit. So, while other girls are into getting blinged out nails at the salon and having fab lunch dates at the local bistro, I’m the weirdo scouring ebay for a new collectible. To each their own.
Now, my world doesn’t entirely revolve around this — as hard as that might be to believe 😉 I have a job and a family to tend to, so opportunities to work on this website can be sporadic. Thankfully my husband humors my nerdity.
Now for a fun fact!
What’s turned out to be the most popular part of my site? Interestingly, the most referenced and visited section is about a gun Max is pictured with — the AR-7. I’ve found that page linked to various message boards over the years and people still come back here to read about that topic.

The guts of a fansite or, in this case, scrapbooking for geeks.

The Old Spy in the Santa Suit Trick

The Old Spy in the Santa Suit Trick. Yes, that's Maxwell Smart hiding behind the beard.

Christmas is here – which is why this blog has found itself in a lull.

In my world, Christmas started up in October when I began preparing for my family’s handmade ornament exchange. From there it spun into digging out the decorations, sorting the decorations, mulling over which decorations to use and where to put them and finally, setting up the decorations. We still need to put the garland on the porch. Maybe we’ll get to that next weekend. 😉

The topic of Christmas naturally takes me to Get Smart. No, really, this is legit considering that, back in the early days of ilovegetsmart.com, I used to get all kinds of emails from people seeking shoephones for Christmas gifts.

Santa actually made a couple appearances in Get Smart.

Agent 86 collects intelligence from Agent 12.

St. Nick’s initial cameo was in the first season episode, Our Man in Toyland.

Santa in this case is Agent 12, one of the agents Control has stationed in Bowers Department Store, which is a Kaos front.

Max has a few moments seated on Agent 12’s lap, discussing enemy courier Leopold. They keep the exchange brief, so they don’t look suspicious. Uh huh. Before Max leaves, Agent 12 offers him a lolly.

Max tries to explain his choice of disguises. 99 tries not to laugh.

The next Santa appearance is in the fourth season episode, a Tale of Two Tales.

When Max learns that 99 is on a mission – and could be in danger – The Chief allows him to tail her. Despite it being August, Max disguises himself as a Santa posted by a donation kettle. 99 initially mistakes him for a Kaos agent -until he tries to rescue her from an actual Kaos agent.

Max later explains, since it was the night of the Control costume party, all the good costumes were taken. At least he wasn’t stuck with a chicken suit.

The topic of Get Smart Santa cameos naturally brings us to Elf on the Shelf.

Max and Red the Elf exchange some top secret Christmas information.

Huh?

Sure it does. Just work with me.

If you have a child in your life, you probably know all about Elf on the Shelf. You may think the concept is cute. You may find it annoying because you forget to hide the darn thing. Or, you see it as an opportunity to resurrect your own toys and collectibles.

We’ve had an elf named Red for the past two Christmases. If I remember to hide him, he ends up in the typical spots: The tree, on a shelf or the mantel. I do take one day for bit of fun where he meets up with Maxwell Smart.

Last year we saw Max and Red have a secret bookshelf meeting to exchange clandestine information. In the process, they positioned themselves in front of all the espionage related literature they could find.

This year they gathered around a small Christmas tree decorated with even smaller GS-themed ornaments. Said tree went to work with me and found a home on my desk. Everyone else in the newsroom either scratched their heads or considered the source.

As for next year’s Elf/GS adventure? Right now I’m just trying to remember where I last hid the little guy.

Merry Christmas!

Red the Elf offers Maxwell Smart some tree decorating advice.

From page to screen: Get Smart marks 50 years

Maxwell Smart answers his shoephone for the first time on Sept. 18, 1965. Would you believe for the second time?

Fifty years ago this week a few of spyfi’s noted 60s TV shows were birthed – I Spy, The Wild Wild West and Get Smart.
It was on Sept. 18, 1965 that viewers may have tuned into NBC and found themselves watching the beginning of a black and white show, which starts off with a tuxedoed man sitting at concert next to his elegantly dressed and perfectly coiffed date. Then a phone rings. People stare. He excuses himself and takes the call in the nearest closet, where it’s revealed that the ringing is coming from a phone in, of all places, his shoe.
We learn from that one-sided conversation this character is a spy. We’re clued in early on that he’s an awkward person, since he can’t help but get stuck in the closet before driving off to his assignment. What we don’t learn is what happened to that woman he left back in the concert hall, but that’s just how Get Smart rolls.

Don Adams and Barbara Feldon in Get Smart's pilot episode.

The seeds to Smart were planted by Dan Melnick, a partner in the New York-based production firm of Talent Associates. The other partner in Talent Associates was David Susskind.
With spies galore on screen, Melnick felt the world was ready for James Bond and the like to be parodied.
Melnick initially approached Mike Nichols to work on the project, but the logistics didn’t work out.
He then contacted his pal Mel Brooks and, following that, brought Buck Henry into the fold. He pitched the idea to ABC, which gave Talent Associates the funds for a screenplay.
“We wrote this take off on spy stories. We figured the people running our country were completely inept and we’d show the world,” Brooks noted in an audio commentary of the pilot.
The group worked out the nuts and bolts of the show, namely that their version of James Bond should be named Maxwell Smart – because he wasn’t smart.

Prior to netting the role of Maxwell Smart, Don Adams played Byron Glick on The Bill Dana Show. The rest of the cast included Maggie Mancuso, Jonathan Harris and Bill Dana.

“We…gave him, as his most sterling quality, a remarkable lack of insight,” said Henry, as stated in The Life and Times of Maxwell Smart.
Since secret agents of the day were all about code numbers, they gave Smart the number 86 – the signal bartenders use to cut off service to drunks.
It took Brooks and Henry three and a half months to write the script – a processes mostly worked out over Henry’s pool table.
“We could have done it in a week, but we loved playing pool,” said Brooks.
Getting Smart from page to screen was a bit of a process, part of which was meeting the desires of the network. At some point in that process ABC suggested adding a dog to the cast – and a mother.
Brooks’ opposition to Max having a mother, in most writings about Get Smart’s back story, has been well stated. He and Henry did relent on the matter of a dog – only they made sure this dog would be the antitheses of Lassie.
ABC’s head of programming, Edgar Scherick, didn’t find the script funny. Some reports have quoted him as calling the script “un-American,” however, he denied that statement. Still, ABC gave Smart a no-go.
“ABC commissioned this pilot. Somebody looked at it and said, no, it’s creepy. It’s not funny. It’s basically un-American,” Henry noted in an audio commentary of the pilot.
Some may respond to that with a well earned, “Seriously?” However, lately I don’t think today’s social conscious is so different. That script revolved around a terrorist plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty. In our post- 9-11 world, Americans may have a hard time immediately grasping that concept as funny. Given how our current culture is so eager to be offended, I’ve also wondered if the idea of a spy satire would have been spiked entirely.
ABC’s good opinion really didn’t matter. Talent Associates, which had brought in Leonard Stern to head its west cost operation, moved on – specifically to NBC.
There were some minor tweaks NBC wanted – and one rather significant change. Earlier in the process, when the team presented the show to ABC, Tom Poston was named to play the lead. NBC, however, had an actor they wanted to play Smart: Don Adams.
Adams was under contract with NBC after the sitcom he had co-starred in, The Bill Dana Show, was canceled. As the story goes, Adams had a year to pick and choose a pilot – and was waiting for a possible Sheldon Leonard produced project. Instead he was asked if he’d consider a script about a bumbling James Bond. He was initially hesitant. When he found out Brooks and Henry were the writers, he agreed to do it without even reading the script.
Adams brought elements from his stand-up routine to the mix, specifically his exaggerated impression of actor William Powell and the “Would you believe” gag, which had been created by writer Bill Dana. While the part wasn’t originally intended for Adams, Henry has described the casting as serendipitous and Brooks called it a wonderful marriage.
“I think the energy behind it all…the jet engine… was Don Adams, who really believed in what he was doing,” said Brooks. “He could work from morning to night and never quit.”

A pre-99 Barbara Feldon pitching Top Brass hair cream.

The part of Smart’s femme fatale, the never-named Agent 99, was written with actress Barbara Feldon in mind. Prior to spots on such shows as The Man From Uncle, Mr. Broadway and the Talent Associates produced series East Side/West Side, Feldon garnered fame for crawling on a tiger skin rug to pitch Top Brass hair cream.
Chosen to play 86 and 99’s boss, The Chief, was character actor and opera singer Ed Platt. One of his most memorable pre-Get Smart roles was as James Dean’s juvenile officer in Rebel Without A Cause. He also had roles in Written on the Wind and Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.
The pilot was not created with a logo or opening. Leonard Stern later added the noted opening and closing sequence with the multiple doors Max walked through. That scene itself has been parodied a number of times and is as iconic as the shoephone.
As for that shoephone, Brooks noted in DVD commentary that he thought a bizarre place for anyone to have a secret telephone was in the heel of a shoe.
“That was the first time a phone went off in an audience,” said Brooks, in reference to the pilot’s opening scene.
Henry said, as stated in DVD commentary, it was ironic that the show started with a phone ringing in an audience.
“Now of course there’s nothing unusual about this,” said Henry. “Then, this was a remarkable instance of strangeness.”
This was actually a simplified glimpse of what went into the premiere of Get Smart. There’s a lot more to digest on the matter and more insights can be found in my reference guide. Also, the DVD box set features two rounds of wonderful audio commentary on the pilot from Mel Brooks and Buck Henry.

It's the old snap your fingers and turn a black and white show into color trick. Prior to Get Smart's first episode, Don Adams hosted NBC's fall preview show, "A Secret Agent's Dilemma, or A Clear Case of Mind Over Mata Hari."

Also premiering on NBC the night of Sept. 18 was another iconic 60s sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie. That show, along with the other shows in NBC’s fall lineup were featured in a TV special, A Secret Agent’s Dilemma, or A Clear Case of Mind Over Mata Hari. Airing Sept. 6, 1965, this was the first appearance of Maxwell Smart on TV.
So what was the world like when Get Smart aired? Perhaps it was as confusing and turbulent as it is today. The country was both in the midst of changing social norms and engaged in a war.
In a nutshell, here’s what kept people glued to the news in the month prior to Get Smart’s premiere:
• The war in Vietnam had escalated and the American ground war was underway. On Sept. 11, 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division of the United States Army arrived in Vietnam. During this period President Lyndon Johnson, signed a law penalizing the burning of draft cards with up to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine.
• The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 was ongoing. The day of Get Smart’s airing, Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin invited the leaders of India and Pakistan to meet in the Soviet Union to negotiate.
• In Iraq, Prime Minister Arif Abd ar-Razzaq’s attempted coup fails.
• Hurricane Betsy hit the New Orleans area with winds reaching 145 mph. There were 76 deaths and $1.42 billion in damage.
In non-scary news:
• Bob Dylan released Highway 61 Revisited, featuring “Like a Rolling Stone.”
• The fourth and final period of the Second Vatican Council opened.
• Gemini 5, with a crew of Gordon Cooper and Pete Conrad, was launched.
September inches us closer to the World Series. Here’s what was going on in sports around this time:
• Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitched a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs.
• On the night Get Smart aired, Mickey Mantle played his 2,000th game at Yankee stadium.
Born in September of 1965 were: President of Syria Bashar al-Assad, boxer Lennox Lewis, actress Marlee Matlin, musician Moby and actor Charlie Sheen.

86 and 99 tune into radio station KAOS for a special broadcast.