Would the real shark please stand up?

Maxwell Smart takes to the pool table in "The Dead Spy Scrawls." Squint and you can see Mr. Spock over his shoulder.

Maxwell Smart takes to the pool table in “The Dead Spy Scrawls.” Squint and you can see Mr. Spock over his shoulder.

Episode 18
The Dead Spy Scrawls (original air date: 1-22-66)
Cast:  Shark – Jack Lambert, Stryker – Leonard Nimoy, Professor Parker – Milton Selzer, Informer – Don Brodie, Willie Marconi – Harry Bartell, Vendor – Roy Engel, Agent 46 – Clive Wayne, woman in bus terminal – Rose Michtom, pool parlor groupie/bus terminal guy – Robert Karvelas, man at pool parlor – Hans Moebus
Director:  Gary Nelson
Writers: Stan Burns and Mike Marmer
Producer:  Jay Sandrich
Filming Location: Paramount Studios, Hollywood

Synopsis: Max and 99 are tasked with finding an “Electronic Brain” Kaos is using to intercept Control’s secret messages. The device is operated by The Shark, expert pool player and proprietor of Mother’s Family Pool Hall.

The one moment we see Leonard Nimoy in the same frame as Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.

The one moment we see Leonard Nimoy in the same frame as Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.

My thoughts:
The Dead Spy Scrawls is a “what’s not to love” episode.

This is the episode where Leonard Nimoy has a part as a Kaos agent. That’s about all you need to know. Well, actually there’s more to it than that. We’ll get to Nimoy in a bit. Something more important must be discussed first.

The crux of this episode is pool — a plot device many a TV show finds itself revolving

Leonard Nimoy as a Kaos assassin? This seems illogical.

Leonard Nimoy as a Kaos assassin? This seems illogical.

around. Given this is Get Smart, we would certainly expect our star character, the all-thumbs Maxwell Smart, to be a disaster at this game — and he is. He destroys pool cues, tears the felt on the pool table and injures his instructor. It’s painful to watch – especially if you’ve ever had to re-felt a pool table.

Here’s the catch, Don Adams was actually an expert pool player. This is evident in Max’s pool game with the Shark. Be sure to look for the trick shot Adams makes at the end before the table opens to reveal the electronic brain. The scene also gives a nice homage to Adams with the “Three Fingers Yarmy” reference. Adams would go on to make a guest appearance on Celebrity Billiards with Minnesota Fats.

Now back to Leonard Nimoy. He makes a not-exactly-pre-Spock appearance as Stryker, an assassin that eliminates his targets with a bullet-firing briefcase. He’s in a handful of scenes in this episode, but other than killing Agent 46, whacking the informer, shooting at Max and being berated by the Shark, that’s about all we get. There’s one scene in the whole episode where we get to see Adams, Feldon and Nimoy in the same frame. While Star Trek wouldn’t air until the fall of 1966, Nimoy had already donned his Vulcan ears for The Cage — the first Star Trek pilot which was filmed in late 1964 and early 1965.

Agent 46's dying declaration.

Agent 46’s dying declaration.

The episode opens with Max and 99 seeking out Agent 46 in a bus station – they need to provide him with $2,000. He initially communicates via the silent signal system. Max confuses the signals for ones in the spy baseball handbook. By the time they determine that 46 is signaling a blue alert (extreme emergency condition) he ends up shot by Stryker. He then leaves his dying declaration scrawled in wet cement.

Stryker returns to the Shark’s Kaos front – Mother’s Family Pool Hall. Its marketing phrase is “The family that plays together, stays together.” After being chastised for interrupting the Shark’s game, Stryker proceeds to report that he eliminated 46 and plans to do the same to 86. The two then intercept a message from Control using Kaos’ electronic brain. The device is neatly tucked inside the Shark’s pool table and can only be opened when the proper sequence of balls land in the correct pockets.

Back at Control, Parker explains 46’s markings in cement are code from The Dead Spy Scrawls, a message system used by dying Control agents. The scrawl in question translates to PI for “Paid Informer” as well as a Washington, D.C. phone number, which Max traces back to to the informer 46 was supposed to meet. The Informer agrees to sell his information to the tune of $2,000.

Max, who is being tailed by Stryker, treks back to the bus station where he confuses a vendor for his contact and ends up with a $500 pack of gum. The informer then makes his presence known – only to be shot by Stryker. Max is at least able to get three words from the informer before he dies: Shark, pool, mother. The Chief connects the dots that the Shark is their man.

Max manages to convince the Chief to let him infiltrate the pool parlor. The Chief reluctantly agrees, but lines up pool lessons with pool expert Willie Marconi. This does not turn out well — especially for Marconi. As for Max’s buffoonery, well, at least that’s on point.

All hope for the mission, however, is not lost. Just before the Chief can pinch the bridge

The Dead Spy Scrawls - decoded.

The Dead Spy Scrawls – decoded.

of his nose in frustration, Parker and 99 arrive to save the day. Max is outfitted with a Pool Cue Gun and a Remote Control Cue Ball. 99 gets to operate a Lipstick Remote that controls the cue ball.

The episode buttons up exactly how we’d expect. Decked out in a flashy jacket Max, with 99 posing as his girlfriend, show up at the pool hall and challenges the Shark to a game — little do they know Kaos is about to intercept a Control message so the Shark has to be goaded into playing. The scene shows some absurd shots as well as a few legitimate ones. The Shark is none too happy that Max’s trick shot (or should I say Don’s) opens the up the electronic brain. A fight ensues. Stryker ends up shot and the Shark gets a knot on his head.

By the way, Max would still like that $13,000 he’s owed from the pool game.

Watch for:
• Aunt Rose appears in the bus terminal.
• Robert Karvelas is noticeable as one of the Shark’s pool groupies. He also shows up in the bus terminal, but you may have do a double take and squint to catch him.

The Shark accesses the Electronic Brain. Kaos went to a lot of effort to hack Control.

The Shark accesses the Electronic Brain. Kaos went to a lot of effort to hack Control.

Footnotes:
• The episode’s title refers to the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of manuscripts discovered in 1946-47, 1956 and 2017 in the Qumran Caves near the Dead Sea.

• Three Fingers Yarmy, who Max mentions, is a nod to Don Adams’ real last name. Yarmy is also mentioned in the third season episode “Don’t Look Back” and, if you count it as Smart-lore, the name is one of the Easter eggs in the 2008 feature film.

• The character Willie Marconi is a nod to professional pool player Willie Mosconi, who, between 1941 and 1957, won the World Straight Pool Championship 15 times.

• Jack Lambert appeared in a load of westerns, usually playing a tough guy – most notably as compulsive killer Steve “The Claw” Michel in the film Dick Tracy’s Dilemma. He appeared in multiple episodes of Gunsmoke, Daniel Boone and Wagon Train

• Leonard Nimoy is best known as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock and as Paris in Mission: Impossible. Post Star Trek TOS, Nimoy hosted In Search Of. He would later go on to host other similar shows – Ancient Mysteries and History’s Mysteries. He had a reoccurring role as Dr. William Bell in the TV series Fringe. Nimoy has quite the TV résumé pre-Star Trek, having appeared in Dragnet, Sea Hunt, Wagon Train, The Virginian and Gunsmoke. He also appeared in a 1964 episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., “The Project Strigas Affair” with future Star Trek co-star William Shatner.

• Don Brodie also appeared in the first season episode “The Day Smart Turned

Be careful not to confuse the Silent Signal System for the hand gestures in the Control Baseball Handbook.

Be careful not to confuse the Silent Signal System for the hand gestures in the Control Baseball Handbook.

Chicken.” His character rented Max that creepy chicken suit. He began appearing in movies starting in the 1930s and his TV series appearances ranged from the 1950s to the 1980s.

• In addition to a career as a character actor, Harry Bartell was also a radio announcer. He made TV appearances in Gunsmoke, The Wild Wild West, Dragnet and The Partners. He also appeared in the second season episode “Cutback at Control” as Dietrich.

• Roy Engel had a reoccurring role in The Wild Wild West as President Ulysses S. Grant. He appeared in numerous TV shows including Maverick, Have Gun – Will Travel, My Favorite Martian, The Andy Griffith Show, Lassie, Bonanza and Mission: Impossible.

• Both Get Smart appearances by Hans Moebus, as with a lot of the parts he had, are uncredited. In “The Dead Spy Scrawls” he’s seen in Mother’s Family Pool Hall. He also appears in “Back to the Old Drawing Board.” He can also be seen in Bonanza Gunsmoke, Ironside, Bewitched, Mission: Impossible and Batman. He is known for Psycho, Gone with the Wind and North by Northwest.

Glick meter: We get an “And Loving it” as well as a “Would You Believe” which references Steubenville, Ohio. Poor Max is kind of a disaster in this episode.

Oh Max meter: There really isn’t any flirting going on between 99 and 86. Sorry about that.

Control Agents: Agent 46, Professor Parker

Kaos Agents: Shark, Stryker

Gadgets: Remote Control Cue Ball, Lipstick Remote, Pool Cue Gun, Micro Camera, gun briefcase, Electronic Brain (hidden in a pool table).

Episode Locations: Mother’s Family Pool Hall, bus terminal.

The old trick shot in the 60s TV sitcom trick.

The old trick shot in the 60s TV sitcom trick.

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.

Kisses for Kaos: The old jealous spy trick

On the job: 99 has a date night with a Kaos agent. Max offers his assistance - and disapproval.

On the job: 99 has a date night with a Kaos agent. Max offers his assistance – and disapproval.

Episode 17
Kisses for KAOS (original air date: 1-15-66)
Cast:  Savage — Michael Dante, Mondo — John Abbot, Parker — Milton Selzer, Policeman —  Ray Kellogg, Gallery Patron —  Rose Michtom
Director:  Gary Nelson
Writers:  Stan Burns and Mike Marmer
Producer:  Jay Sandrich
Filming Location: Paramount Studios, Hollywood

Synopsis:
99 masquerades as a socialite and Max as her chauffeur in order to stop creepy Kaos art dealer/chemist Rex Savage from hanging his exploding paintings in the Pentagon.

This Kaos agent's gloves? They won't be coming off.

This Kaos agent’s gloves? They won’t be coming off.

My Thoughts:
The episode opens with Max posing as a gardener and 99 as a nurse watching a fake

Exploding consulates? That may require extra paperwork.

Exploding consulates? That may require extra paperwork.

baby. Max busies himself recording the activities of a foreign consulate when said consulate blows up. He manages to turn up one piece of evidence from the scene of the explosion – a portion of a painting from a gallery owned by Rex Savage. The Chief reveals that pieces of paintings from Savage’s gallery have been found at previous explosions – an embassy and a police station.

The problem is, Savage is a ghost to Control’s records – no photo or finger prints. 99, using the alias Melissa Westbrook, is tasked with posing as a wealthy society girl in order to make contact with Savage. Max tags along as her chauffeur.

In the meantime, Savage, a chemist, and his artist partner Mondo have been mulling their plan to add an exploding painting to the Pentagon.

99 manages to charm Savage during her visit to the gallery, but the gadgets she and Max are outfitted with fail. She’s supposed to gather his fingerprints with a special pencil – but Savage always wears gloves. She then decides to met with Savage alone in the local lover’s lane in hopes he will eventually take his gloves off. Max, whose jealousy is prominently on display in this episode, wholeheartedly disapproves.

The night out, however, proves unsuccessful. While cuddling, 99 complains about Savage’s gloves – his response is to put a softer glove over the other glove. Max, in the meantime gets thrown in the clink for violating 387B of the penal code – sitting in a chauffeur’s uniform next to a rubber dummy. The rubber dummy lobby, by the way, has been trying to get this law repealed.

Cop: What kind of weirdo are you?
Max: I don’t know, just a plain, normal everyday weirdo.

Forget the fax machine - Control sends memos by hurling a rock through a window.

Forget the fax machine – Control sends memos by hurling a rock through a window.

99, however, manages to score an intimate supper with Savage after finding out that he only takes his gloves off when eating or bathing. Carlson supplies Max and 99 with a few devices for the dinner: The Soup Bowl Camera, Bread Roll Print and Fruit Recorder.

With the exception of Max’s jealousy (and his use of a gong) dinner and the devices work out smoothly – until Mondo barges in the apartment and reveals to Savage that he’s been courting a Control agent.

Max and 99 are hauled off to Savage’s gallery where 99 is instructed to paint a shirtless Max (yes, shirtless) to death with exploding paint. 99, however, stops Savage and Mondo in their tracks by dumping a can of explosive paint on the floor. Of course, this also stops Max and 99 from escaping.

The episode closes with Max having repainted his apartment – only he used Savage’s paint. Well, at least he covered the furniture.

The episode is a veritable gadget toy box. Here’s a run down of some of the gadgets and other fun items:

• Inter office top secret relay – forget those pneumatic tubes of the good old days, those

Outgoing rocks from Control's Inter office top secret relay. Did one come crashing through your picture window? No worries - just plunk it in a mailbox. Control's address is on it.

Outgoing rocks from Control’s Inter office top secret relay. Did one come crashing through your picture window? No worries – just plunk it in a mailbox. Control’s address is on it.

office instant messaging systems of the last decade or two or even texting – Control sends inter office memos via a rock through the window. If you find one, don’t worry – just return it by plunking it in any mailbox. Control’s address is printed on the rock.
• Pencil Painter – A pencil scientifically treated to obtain a suspect’s finger prints – as long as that person isn’t a smooth talking man that likes wearing gloves.
• Chauffeur’s Cap Camera – Best used for still photography.
• Steering Wheel Phone – Installed in Max’s car and in need of adjustments – every time a driver turns the corner, the phone dials the operator.
• Soup Bowl Camera – A camera in the bowl takes selfies while the person eats. The flash is absorbed by the soup.
• Bread Roll Print – The rolls gather fingerprints.
• Fruit Recorder – This bowl of fruit records conversations – just don’t eat the banana.
• Inflato Girl – It’s exactly what it says it is. How they got away with it in this episode is beyond me.
• Even Kaos has its own ammunition: A painting of a camera that is actually a camera and Savage’s collection of paints that go boom.

For those that have the TimeLife DVDs, there is an audio commentary by Barbara Feldon for this episode. She talks at length about being taller than Don Adams as discusses a conflict that occurred early on with the show’s advertiser.

This episode is fine, though for some reason it never particularly wowed me. However, watching this one via the DVDs provides the opportunity to pick up on minute details that would be overlooked otherwise – specifically the facial expressions coming from Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.

There are some things you can't explain. The Inflato Girl is one of them.

There are some things you can’t explain. The Inflato Girl is one of them.

Watch for:
Aunt Rose makes an appearance.

Footnotes:
• A former pro-baseball player, Michael Dante appeared in numerous TV westerns including Cheyenne, Maverick, Bonanza and Death Valley Days. He appeared as Maab in the Star Trek episode “Friday’s Child.”

• John Abbott’s career in TV and film spanned all the way back to the 30s, with his most notable roles being in The Jungle Book and Gigi. He had an uncredited role as Mason in Jane Eyre, staring Orson Wells and Joan Fontaine. He also appeared in The Partners and Star Trek.

• Ray Kellogg appeared in a number of TV series including Perry Mason, The Real McCoys and The Dick Van Dyke Show. He was usually seen playing a bartender or a law enforcement official.

Glick meter: Max gives us a Would You Believe for our troubles in this one: 25 Control agents quickly turns into a vicious street cleaner and a toothless police dog.

Oh Max meter: When 99 suggests setting up a date to get Savage’s photo and finger prints, she’s noticeably surprised (and delighted) to detect Max’s jealousy.

99: If I could just get him alone
Max (offended): What do you mean alone? …I don’t think you should be alone with him.
99 (smiling): Max, you sound like you’re jealous.
Max: Jealous. Now that’s ridiculous 99. It’s just that, that man might turn out to be a dangerous kisser -er killer.

Control Agents: Professor Parker returns.

Kaos Agents: Savage and Mondo.

Gadgets: Secret Message Leaves, Pencil Painter, Cap Camera, Camera Painting, Steering Wheel Phone, Soup Bowl Camera, Bread Roll Print, Fruit Recorder, Explosive Paint, Vibration Explosive Paint and Nitro-Floor Paint. It’s up to you whether you consider the Inflato-Girl a gadget. *eye roll*

Episode Locations: Max’s apartment and Rex Savage’s Art Gallery. I could include that consulate, although that’s not much of a location anymore.

When you repurpose paint from a Kaos agent, make sure it's not the exploding kind before you paint your apartment.

When you repurpose paint from a Kaos agent, make sure it’s not the exploding kind before you paint your apartment.

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.

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