Victor Buono

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Victor Buono
BWbuono.gif
Born Victor Charles Buono
(1938-02-03)February 3, 1938
San Diego, California, U.S.
Died January 1, 1982(1982-01-01) (aged 43)
Apple Valley, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
Years active 1959-1981

Victor Charles Buono (February 3, 1938 – January 1, 1982) was an American actor and comic most famous for playing the villain King Tut on the television series Batman. He was a busy actor from his late teens until his death at age 43, and with his large size and sonorous voice, he made a career of playing men much older than himself.

Early life and career[edit]

Buono was born in San Diego, California, the son of Myrtle Belle (née Keller; 1909–1979) and Victor Francis Buono (1907–1981).[1] His maternal grandmother, Myrtle Glied (1886–1969), was a Vaudeville performer on the Orpheum Circuit. When he was a boy, she taught him songs and recitations and encouraged him to perform for visitors. Even though the young Buono enjoyed the polite applause of those captive audiences, he aspired to be a doctor. When he was sixteen, Father John Aherne, OSA, of St. Augustine High School in San Diego cast him as Papa Barrett in the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street. Buono appeared in three plays a year during high school, including Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp and Shakespearean dramas play "Hamlet." Buono played the role of King Claudius.

He started appearing on local radio and television stations, and at the age of eighteen joined the Globe Theater Players in San Diego. The director had confidence in Buono and cast him in Volpone, A Midsummer Night's Dream and other Globe presentations. He received good notices for his various Shakespearean roles and in modern plays such as The Man Who Came to Dinner and Witness for the Prosecution.

In the summer of 1959, a talent scout from Warner Bros. saw the heavy-set Buono play Falstaff at the Globe and took him to Hollywood for a screen test.[2] Buono made his first network TV appearance playing the bearded poet Bongo Benny in an episode of 77 Sunset Strip. Over the next few years, he played menacing heavies in nearly every Grade "A" private eye series on TV and also appearing on The Untouchables. After appearing in a few uncredited film roles, he was cast by director Robert Aldrich in the psychological horror movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). The film starred Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and Buono played the part of the ne'er-do-well musical accompanist, Edwin Flagg, a performance that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Noteworthy film roles[edit]

Shortly after What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Buono appeared in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) as Big Sam Hollis, the father of Bette Davis, who played the title role. The film was also directed by Aldrich. In the Biblical epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Buono portrayed the High Priest Sorak.

He also appeared in 4 for Texas (1963), Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), The Silencers (1966), Who's Minding the Mint? (1967), Target: Harry (1969), Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and The Mad Butcher (1972).

Television roles[edit]

Though, Buono had a vast body of work in movies, he also had extensive television appearances to his credit, one was in the recurring role of Count Manzeppi in CBS's The Wild Wild West. He also played unrelated characters in that series' premiere episode and in the second and final Wild Wild West reunion movie, More Wild Wild West (1980).

Buono was cast to play villains of various ethnic origins on many television programs between 1960 and 1970. He was cast twice in 1960 in the episodes, "Blind Marriage" and "The Earl of Durango," of the ABC western series, The Rebel, starring Nick Adams. In 1962, he played Melanthos Moon, a San Francisco art and antique dealer who hijacks a supply of the paper used for United States currency, in an episode of ABC's The Untouchables, titled Mr. Moon. In a 1963 episode titled The Gang War, he played Pamise Surigao, a liquor smuggler competing with the Chicago mob.

In the episode "Firebug" (January 27, 1963) of the CBS anthology series, GE True, hosted by Jack Webb, Buono plays a barber in Los Angeles, who is by night a pyromaniac. In the story line, the United States Forest Service believes one arsonist is causing a series of fires in California. The episode also stars Keith Andes and Arch Johnson.[3]

Buono appeared in four episodes of CBS's legal drama Perry Mason. In season 5, 1962, he portrayed Alexander Glovatsky, a small-town sculptor, in "The Case of the Absent Artist". In season 7, 1964, he played murderer John (Jack) Sylvester Fossette in the episode "The Case of the Simple Simon". In season 8, 1965 he played murderer Nathon Fallon in "The Case of the Grinning Gorilla." In season 9, 1966, he appeared in the only color episode, "The Case of the Twice Told Twist" as Ben Huggins, the ring leader of a car stripping ring.

Buono played King Tut on the series Batman. King Tut was a timid Yale history professor who, after being hit in the head with a brick at a peace rally, donned the persona of the Egyptian royal. When he suffered another blow to the head, the villain returned to his meek demeanor. The role, which proved to be the most frequently featured original villain in the series, was one of Buono's favorites considering he was delighted at being able to overact without restraint.[4] He played another villain in a 1967 unsold TV pilot film based on the Dick Tracy comic strip.

Buono made a guest appearance as Hannibal Day in the Get Smart episode Moonlighting Becomes You, originally airing January 2, 1970, and appeared three times as Dr. Blaine in the ABC sitcom Harrigan and Son, starring Pat O'Brien and Roger Perry as a father-and-son team of lawyers. He appeared in a segment of NBC's Night Gallery titled "Satisfaction Guaranteed." He also appeared in a 1973 episode of Hawaii Five-O (episode 15). He made two memorable appearances on ABC's The Odd Couple, once in the episode "The Exorcists" and again in "The Rent Strike," where he portrayed Mr. Lovelace. In 1976 he appeared in the NBC situation comedy The Practice, portraying Bernard in the episode "Jules and the Bum." He also made nine appearances in the NBC series Man from Atlantis (1977).

Comedy record albums and comic poetry[edit]

In the early 1970s, Buono released several comedy record albums, which poked fun at his large stature, and a book of comic poetry called It Could Be Verse.[5] During guest appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, he frequently recited his poetry. The most popular of his poems was Fat Man's Prayer, a work often erroneously attributed to Dom DeLuise. It included many widely quoted couplets such as:

We are what we eat, said a wise old man,
And Lord, if that's true, I'm a garbage can!

At oleomargarine I'll never mutter,
For the road to hell is spread with butter.

And cake is cursed, and cream is awful,
And Satan is hiding in every waffle.

Give me this day my daily slice—

But cut it thin and toast it twice.[6]

Later career[edit]

In the late 1970s and in 1980, Buono played the millionaire father of memory-impaired Reverend Jim Ignatowski on Taxi. Buono died before the end of the series and another actor briefly assumed the role. The character was eventually killed off, followed by an episode where Jim learns to cope with his father's death.

In 1980, Buono appeared in the TV movie Murder Can Hurt You as Chief Ironbottom, a parody of the title character from Ironside. His later roles were more of pompous intellectuals and shady con men, although he also played straight roles. In the miniseries Backstairs at the White House (1979), he portrayed President William Howard Taft.

Death[edit]

Buono was found dead at his home in Apple Valley, California, on January 1, 1982; he died of a sudden heart attack.[7][8] He is entombed with his mother Myrtle in Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, but his name is not inscribed on the crypt.

Personal life[edit]

Buono liked to read and write, and one of his main hobbies was Shakespeare. "The more you study him," he said, "the greater he grows."[2] He was also highly regarded as a gourmet chef.[9]

In regard to relationships (and the implicit questioning of his sexuality), Buono is quoted as saying, "I've heard or read about actors being asked the immortal question, 'Why have you never married?' They answer with the immortal excuse, 'I just haven't found the right girl.' Because I'm on the hefty side, no one's asked me yet. If they do, that's the answer I'll give. After all, if it was good enough for Monty Clift or Sal Mineo..."[10] Buono was unusual among gay performers of his era by openly living together with same-sex partners,[11] although he was not flamboyant about his lifestyle and referred to himself as a "conscientious objector" in the "morality revolution" of the 1960s.[11]

Despite his weight, Victor Buono was known to be a playboy according to the commentary on the DVD edition of Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Selected filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1961 Guns of Navarone, TheThe Guns of Navarone Greek cleric at wedding plaza Uncredited
1962 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Edwin Flagg
1963 4 for Texas Harvey Burden
1963 My Six Loves Gatecrasher Uncredited
1964 Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte Big Sam Hollis
1964 Robin and the 7 Hoods Deputy Sheriff Alvin Potts
1964 Strangler, TheThe Strangler Leo Kroll
1965 Young Dillinger Professor Hoffman
1966 Silencers, TheThe Silencers Tung-Tze
1969 Big Daddy A. Lincoln Beauregard Alternative title: Paradise Road
1969 Boot Hill Honey Fisher
1970 Beneath the Planet of the Apes Adiposo / Fat man
1971 The Mad Butcher Otto Lehman
1971 The Man with Icy Eyes John Hammond
1972 Wrath of God, TheThe Wrath of God Jennings
1973 Arnold The Minister
1974 Moonchild The Maitre'd
1977 Man from Atlantis (TV movie) Mr. Schubert
1978 The Evil The Devil Cameo appearance
1978 Chinese Caper, TheThe Chinese Caper Everett Maddox Alternative title: China Heat
1980 Man with Bogart's Face, TheThe Man with Bogart's Face Commodore Anastas Alternative title: Sam Marlow, Private Eye
1980 Target...Earth? Homer the Archivist
1981 Flight of Dragons, TheThe Flight of Dragons Aragh Voice; Alternative title: Flight of the Dragon
Television
Year 1958 Title {the rebel Role Notes
1958 Sea Hunt Seminard 1 episode
1960 Bourbon Street Beat Joe Leslie 1 episode
Surfside 6 Mr. Beamish 1 episode
1961 Everglades, TheThe Everglades Wikkament 1 episode
1962 New Breed, TheThe New Breed Manrique 1 episode
1962 Perry Mason Forsette 1 episode
1962 Perry Mason Alexander Glovatsky 1 episode
1963 GE True Charles Colvin 1 episode
1965 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Dr. Tabor Ulrich 1 episode
1965 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre General Leo Chareet 3 episodes
1966 Man from U.N.C.L.E., TheThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. Colonel Hubris 1 episode
1966 Batman King Tut 8 episodes
1966 I Spy Karafatma 1 episode
1967 Girl from U.N.C.L.E., TheThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Sir Cecil Seabrook 1 episode
1967 T.H.E. Cat General Burek 1 episode
1967 Daniel Boone Milo Quaife 1 episode
1968 Wild Wild West, TheThe Wild Wild West Count Mario Vincenzo Robespierre Manzeppi 2 episodes
1969 Flying Nun, TheThe Flying Nun Marko "The Magnificent" Antonio 1 episode
1969 Here's Lucy Mr. Vermillion 1 episode
1969 It Takes a Thief Mr. Kent 1 episode
1970 Get Smart Hannibal Day 1 episode
1970 O'Hara, U.S. Treasury Al Connors 1 episode
1973 Mannix Hamilton Starr 1 episode
1973 Hawaii Five-O Eric Damien 1 episode
1973 and 1975 The Odd Couple Dr. Clove/Hugo Lovelace 2 episodes
1976 Ellery Queen Dr. Friedland 1 episode
1976 Tony Randall Show, TheThe Tony Randall Show Judge Bernard Gluck 1 episode
1976 Alice Mr. James 1 episode
1977 Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, TheThe Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries Seth Taylor 1 episode
1979 Supertrain Misto 1 episode
1979 Man from Atlantis Dr. Schubert 9 episodes
1980 Taxi James Caldwell 1 episode
1980 Fantasy Island Dr. Albert Z. Fell 1 episode
1980–1981 Vega$ "Diamond" Jim 4 episodes
1981 Here's Boomer Dr. Frankenstein 1 episode

Award nominations[edit]

Year Award Result Category Film or series
1962 Academy Award Nominated Best Supporting Actor What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actor What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Laurel Awards Top New Male Personality
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References[edit]

  1. ^ "Victor Buono". nndb.com. Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  2. ^ a b "Biography-Victor Buono". wildwildwest.org from 1965 Press Package. Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  3. ^ "GE True". Classic Television Archive. Retrieved March 1, 2013. 
  4. ^ "King Tut - Victor Buono". Bat-Mania. 
  5. ^ Pitts, Michael R. (2002). Horror Film Stars. McFarland. p. 44. ISBN 0-7864-1052-3. 
  6. ^ Ann, Shari; Spangler (January 1, 2002). Don't Stop Laughing Now!. Zondervan. p. 121. ISBN 0-310-23996-6. 
  7. ^ "Milestones". Time. 1982-01-18. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  8. ^ sodahead.com
  9. ^ Thise, Mark (2008). Hollywood Winners & Losers A to Z. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 23. ISBN 0-87910-351-5. 
  10. ^ Donnelley, Paul (June 1, 2003). 2, ed. Fade To Black: A Book Of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. pp. 219–220. ISBN 0-7119-9512-5. 
  11. ^ a b Mann, William J. (2001). Behind the screen: how gays and lesbians shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969. New York: Viking. pp. 340–348. ISBN 0670030171. 

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