Buck Henry

Active - 1964 - 2014  |   Born - Dec 9, 1930 in New York, New York, United States  |   Died - Jan 8, 2020   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Buck Henry's meek and mild, ordinary guy demeanor belies a razor-sharp dry, wry wit that he aptly applies to his screenplays, the roles he portrays, and the projects he directs. Born Buck Henry Zuckerman to a successful Wall Street broker (who was once an Air Force general) and actress Ruth Taylor, Henry launched his career as an actor at age 16, plying a small role in the Broadway version of Life With Father. During the Korean War, Henry served with the Seventh Army Repertory Company touring Germany performing in a musical comedy that he wrote and directed. During the '50s, Henry became somewhat famous for perpetrating the famous SINA hoax -- the acronym stands for the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals -- that made Henry a popular figure on talk shows where he would claim that naked animals were the cause of humanity's moral decay. In 1960, Henry worked briefly in an improvisational troupe before moving to the West Coast to write for the popular television satire That Was the Week That Was with hosts Steve Allen and Garry Moore. He and fellow comic Mel Brooks collaborated in 1964 to create the pilot for the successful spy spoof Get Smart. That year Henry also collaborated on the screenplay and starred in The Troublemaker, but it was not until Henry's second collaborative screenplay for The Graduate (1967) -- he also played a small role -- that he became one of Hollywood's most in-demand screenwriters.

In 1973, he and Warren Beatty were Oscar nominated for their joint effort Heaven Can Wait, a remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941). In the film, Henry played the small but crucial role of the heavenly escort who goofs and brings a football player to heaven too soon. Henry was a periodic host on the NBC comedy series Saturday Night Live during the '70s. Through the '80s and '90s, Henry continued to occasionally write screenplays and play supporting roles in feature films.

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  • Was drafted after college and spent several years touring Germany.
  • Co-created the TV show Get Smart with Mel Brooks.
  • Met his wife Sally when she worked as Mike Nichols' secretary.
  • The first person to host Saturday Night Live five times. 
  • Co-directed 1978's Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty, becoming the second duo to be nominated for Best Director in Oscar history.