Barbara Feldon

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Barbara Feldon
Barbara Feldon Get Smart 1966.jpg
Feldon as Agent 99 in television sitcom Get Smart, in 1965
Barbara Anne Hall

(1933-03-12) March 12, 1933 (age 86)
EducationCarnegie Mellon University (BFA)
OccupationActress, model, television host, writer
Years active1957–present
Lucien Verdoux-Feldon
(m. 1958; div. 1967)
Partner(s)Burt Nodella (1968–1979)

Barbara Feldon (born March 12, 1933) is an American character actress who works mostly in the theatre, but is primarily known for her roles on television. Her most prominent role was that of Agent 99 on the 1960s sitcom Get Smart. She also worked as a model.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Feldon was born Barbara Anne Hall in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Pittsburgh.[3] She graduated from Bethel Park High School and trained at Pittsburgh Playhouse.[4] In 1955, she graduated from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) as a bachelor of arts in drama. She was initiated into the Delta Xi Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma. In 1957, she won the grand prize on The $64,000 Question in the category of William Shakespeare.[5][6]


Feldon studied acting at HB Studio.[7] Following working as a model, Feldon's break came in the form of a popular and much parodied television commercial for "Top Brass", a hair pomade for men by Revlon. Lounging languidly on an animal-print rug, she purred at the camera, addressing the male viewers as "tigers".[8]

This led to small roles in television series. In the 1960s, she made appearances on Twelve O'Clock High (season one, episode 24: "End of the Line"), Lorne Greene's Griff, Flipper (season one, episodes 12 and 13: the two-parter "The Lady and the Dolphin") and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (in "The Never-Never Affair").[9] In 1964, she appeared with Simon Oakland in the episode "Try to Find a Spy" of CBS's short-lived drama Mr. Broadway.[9]

One substantial guest-starring role was opposite George C. Scott in the TV drama East Side/West Side (season one, episode 19). It was produced by Talent Associates, which was also developing a TV comedy called Get Smart with two prominent writers, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry.[10]

Feldon was cast in this new show, as "Agent 99". She starred opposite comedian Don Adams, who portrayed Maxwell Smart, Secret Agent 86.[9] She played the role for the duration of the show's production from 1965 until 1970, and was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1968 and 1969.[11]

The character was unusual for the era, showing a capable woman in a stressful career.[12] Feldon noted, "A lot of women said 99 was a role model for them, because she was smart and always got the right answer." Feldon almost lost her role as 99 because the sponsor of Get Smart was a deodorant soap and she had done a deodorant commercial for Revlon.[13] Feldon was also notably taller than Adams, her male co-star, another rarity for the time.[14]

Feldon made guest appearances five times on The Dean Martin Show from 1968 to 1972, singing and dancing, as well as performing in comedy skits. She also appeared on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. After her starring TV role, she guest-starred in several 1970s television series, including The Name of the Game and McMillan & Wife.[9]

Her TV movies include Let's Switch! (1975) with Barbara Eden, and the cult-classic thriller A Vacation in Hell (1979) with Maureen McCormick and Priscilla Barnes.[9]

Feldon's feature films included Fitzwilly (1967), Smile (1975), and No Deposit, No Return (1976).[9] Her last film to date is 2006's Last Request, a comedy with Danny Aiello and Joe Piscopo.

Feldon reprised her role as "Agent 99" in the made-for-television film Get Smart, Again! (1989) and a short-lived television series also titled Get Smart in 1995. She wrote and provided audio commentaries and introductions for the DVD release of the original Get Smart series in 2006, but did not take part in the 2008 film adaptation that starred Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart. Feldon guest-starred as a former TV spy star on a 1993 episode (season one, episode 20) of Mad About You, as Diane "Spy Girl" Caldwell.

For one year, she was a co-host, with Bob Eubanks, of the annual January 1 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

Feldon's distinctive voice has been heard in numerous TV and radio commercials, as well as film and TV documentaries. She has occasionally acted in off-Broadway plays, but said she is "no longer interested in performing." Feldon is an accomplished writer, and is still actively creating content. In 2015, she had two editorial pieces featured in Metropolitan Magazine. She wrote a book, Living Alone and Loving It, in 2003.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Feldon has served as the actress's last name since her marriage to Lucien Verdoux-Feldon in 1958. The pair divorced in 1967. In 1968, while living in Los Angeles, she began a relationship with Get Smart producer Burt Nodella. That union lasted 12 years. She does not have any children. Upon ending her relationship, she moved back to New York City where she resides.


  1. ^ Miller, Laura. "At Home With Agent 99". Salon Media Group, Inc. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  2. ^ Rahner, Mark (November 12, 2006). "Classic "Get Smart" on DVD: Q&A with Barbara Feldon, Agent 99". Seattle Times. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  3. ^ The Wall Breaker Interviews Vol. 12: Whatever happened to Barbara Feldon?
  4. ^ Conner, Lynne (2007). Pittsburgh In Stages: Two Hundred Years of Theater. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 152; ISBN 978-0-8229-4330-3. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  5. ^ "$64,000 Question aka $64,000 Challenge".
  6. ^ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette archives July 5, 2013 Retrieved August 11, 2015
  7. ^ HB Studio Alumni
  8. ^ Top Brass commercial on YouTube
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Barbara Feldon". TV Guide. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  10. ^ Battaglio, Stephen David Susskind: A Televised Life page 176 ISBN 0312610513 December 6, 2011
  11. ^ "20th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners : OUTSTANDING CONTINUED PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A COMEDY SERIES – 1968". Emmy Awards. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  12. ^ Cynthia Rose (ed.). "Television and the Feminine Mystique". American Decades Primary Sources. Vol. 7: 1960–1969. Detroit: Gale, pp. 396–399. ©2004. 2005
  13. ^ Lisanti, Tom; Paul, Louis (April 10, 2002). "Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1962–1973". page 127, ISBN 978-0786411948
  14. ^ Clash, Jim. "Barbara Feldon (Agent 99): Why I Did 'Get Smart' In Bare Feet". Forbes. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  15. ^ The Augusta Chronicle 11/5/06

Further reading[edit]

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