Buck Henry

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Buck Henry
Henry in 1978
Henry Zuckerman

(1930-12-09)December 9, 1930
New York City, U.S.
DiedJanuary 8, 2020(2020-01-08) (aged 89)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
EducationDartmouth College
  • Actor
  • screenwriter
  • director
Years active1946–2015
  • Sally Zuckerman
  • Irene Ramp[1]

Buck Henry (born Henry Zuckerman;[1] December 9, 1930 – January 8, 2020) was an American actor, screenwriter, and director. Henry's contributions to film included his work as a co-writer for Mike Nichols's The Graduate (1967) for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He also appeared in Nichols' Catch-22 (1970), Herbert Ross' The Owl and the Pussycat (1970), and Peter Bogdanovich's What's Up, Doc? (1972). In 1978, he co-directed Heaven Can Wait (1978) with Warren Beatty receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director. He later appeared in Albert Brooks' Defending Your Life (1991), and the Robert Altman films The Player (1992) and Short Cuts (1993).

His long career began on television with work on shows with Steve Allen in The New Steve Allen Show (1961). He co-created Get Smart (1965–1970) with Mel Brooks for which he received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. He also served as a multiple-time host of Saturday Night Live. Henry is a member of SNL's Five Timer's Club having hosted 10 times from 1976 to 1980. He later guest-starred in such popular shows as Murphy Brown, Hot in Cleveland, Will & Grace, and 30 Rock.

Early life[edit]

Henry was born in New York City as Henry Zuckerman. His mother was Ruth Taylor (January 13, 1905 – April 12, 1984), a silent film actress, star of the original version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and his father was Paul Steinberg Zuckerman (April 15, 1899 – December 3, 1965), an Air Force brigadier general and stockbroker.[2][3][4] Though the young Zuckerman was nicknamed 'Buck' from childhood, he did not officially change his name to Buck Henry until the 1970s; both his birth name and nickname came from his grandfather.[1] Henry was from a Jewish background.[5]

Henry attended The Choate School, at the time an all-boys institution (now Choate Rosemary Hall). At 15 years old, he made his professional acting debut in a Broadway production of Life with Father, which later toured theaters in Brooklyn, Long Island, and the Bronx. Henry earned a bachelor's degree in English literature and a senior fellowship in writing at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he wrote for the university humor magazine, the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern,[6] and met movie director Bob Rafelson.

Following graduation, he enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. He served in West Germany first as a helicopter mechanic[7] and then transferred to Special Services, where he toured with the Seventh Army Repertory Company, performing in a play he both wrote and directed.[6]


Acting and writing[edit]

Henry joined the improvisational comedy group the Premise, whose ranks included George Segal and Theodore J. Flicker,[7] performing in the West Village in Manhattan. This helped lead him into a television career.[6]

From 1959 to 1962, as part of an elaborate hoax by comedian Alan Abel, he made public appearances as G. Clifford Prout, the quietly outraged president of the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals,[8] who presented his point of view on talk shows.[9] The character of Prout wished to clothe all animals in order to prevent their 'indecency', using slogans such as "A nude horse is a rude horse". Henry played the character with deadpan sincerity. He was often presented as an eccentric, but was otherwise taken seriously by the broadcasters who interviewed him. "Prout" received many letters of support from TV viewers, and even some unsolicited monetary donations, all of which were invariably returned, as neither Henry nor Abel (who had no intention of following through on the Society's stated aims) wanted to be accused of raising money fraudulently.[10][11]

Henry became a cast member on The New Steve Allen Show (1961) and the US version of That Was the Week That Was (1964–1965).[1]

He was a co-creator and writer for the secret agent comedy television series Get Smart (1965–1970), with comedian Mel Brooks.[6] The show lasted for five seasons and 138 episodes and won numerous Emmy Awards. Two TV projects created by Henry had short runs: Captain Nice (1967) with William Daniels as a reluctant superhero, and Quark (1978), with Richard Benjamin in command of a garbage scow in outer space.[1]

Henry shared an Oscar nomination with Calder Willingham for their screenplay for The Graduate (1967), in which he also appeared in a supporting role as a hotel concierge. Henry's cameo in The Player (1992) had him (playing himself) pitching a 25-years-later sequel to The Graduate, which Henry later claimed led to real-life interest in such a project from some studios.[12]

His many other screen writing credits included the sex farce Candy (1968), the romantic comedies The Owl and the Pussycat (1970) and What's Up, Doc? (1972), the satire Catch-22 (1970), the thriller The Day of the Dolphin (1973), the comedy Protocol (1984), and the dark crime dramedy To Die For (1995).[6] In several of these, such as Candy and Catch-22, he also appeared as an actor.[6] In 1997, Henry was the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award.[citation needed]

Overall he appeared in more than 40 films, including a lead role in Taking Off (1971) and supporting roles in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Gloria (1980), Eating Raoul (1982), Aria (1987), Tune in Tomorrow (1990), Defending Your Life (1991), Short Cuts (1993), and Grumpy Old Men (1993).[6]

Henry in 1990

He co-directed Heaven Can Wait (1978),[13] the remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, with the movie's star Warren Beatty and appeared in the film as an officious angel, reprising the character originally played by Edward Everett Horton.[citation needed] Henry received a second shared Oscar nomination, this time for Best Director.[14]

Later in his career, Henry became known for guest-starring and recurring roles on television. He appeared in an episode of Murphy Brown ("My Dinner With Einstein", 1989) as Dr. Victor Rudman, a fractal scientist who dated Murphy. He appeared on the television show Will & Grace in 2005.[15] In 2007, he made two guest appearances on The Daily Show as a contributor, billed as the show's "Senior Senior Correspondent".[citation needed] He has also appeared as Liz Lemon's father, Dick Lemon, in the 30 Rock episodes "Ludachristmas" (December 13, 2007) and "Gentleman's Intermission" (November 4, 2010).[1] In 2011, he appeared in a multi-episode arc of Hot in Cleveland as Elka's groom.[1]

His Broadway credits included the 2002 revival of Morning's at Seven. Off-Broadway in July 2009, he starred opposite Holland Taylor in Mother, a play by Lisa Ebersole.[16]

Saturday Night Live[edit]

Henry hosted NBC's Saturday Night Live ten times between 1976 and 1980, making him the show's most frequent host during its initial five-year run.[1] It became a tradition during these years for Henry to host the final show of each season, beginning with the 1976–1977 season. Henry's frequent host record was broken when Steve Martin made his 11th appearance as host of the show on the finale episode of the 1988–1989 season.[17] During the episode of October 30, 1976, Henry was injured in the forehead by John Belushi's katana in the samurai sketch.[1] Henry's head began to bleed and he was forced to wear a large bandage on his forehead for the rest of the show. As a gag, the members of the SNL cast each wore a bandage on their foreheads as well.

Recurring characters on SNL

Celebrity impersonations on SNL


Henry died of a heart attack at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on January 8, 2020, at age 89.[14][7]



Source: Turner Classic Movies[6]

Year Title Role Notes
1959 The Bridge Voice, English version
1964 The Troublemaker T.R. Kingston Also writer
1967 The Graduate Room Clerk Also writer
1968 The Secret War of Harry Frigg Stockade Commandant
1968 Candy Mental Patient Also writer
1970 Catch-22 Lieutenant Colonel Korn Also writer
1970 The Owl and the Pussycat Bookstore Man Also writer
1971 Taking Off Larry Tyne
1971 Is There Sex After Death? Dr. Louise Manos
1973 The Day of the Dolphin Women's Club Man Also writer
1976 The Man Who Fell to Earth Oliver Farnsworth
1977 The Absent-Minded Waiter Bernie Cates Short
1978 Heaven Can Wait The Escort Also writer / director
1979 Old Boyfriends Art Kopple
1980 Gloria Jack Dawn
1980 First Family Father Sandstone
TV Anchorman
Also writer / director
1981 Strong Medicine
1982 Eating Raoul Mr. Leech
1987 Aria Preston (segment "Rigoletto")
1989 Rude Awakening Lloyd Stool
1990 Tune in Tomorrow Father Serafim
1991 Defending Your Life Dick Stanley
1991 The Linguini Incident Cecil
1991 Shakespeare's Plan 12 from Outer Space The Priest
1992 The Player Himself
1992 The Lounge People Lewis Louis
1993 Short Cuts Gordon Johnson
1993 Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Dr. Dreyfus
1993 Grumpy Old Men Snyder
1995 To Die For H. Finlaysson Also writer
1997 The Real Blonde Dr. Leuter
1998 1999 Mr. Goldman
1998 I'm Losing You Phillip Dagrom
1998 Curtain Call Charles Van Allsburg
1998 The Man Who Counted George Postlewait Short
1999 Breakfast of Champions Fred T. Barry
2000 Lisa Picard is Famous Himself
2001 Town & Country Suttler Also writer
2001 Serendipity Himself Uncredited
2004 The Last Shot Lonnie Bosco
2011 A Bird of the Air Duncan Weber
2013 Streetcar Sheriff Short
2015 Kiss Kiss Fingerbang Cat Owner Short


Source: IMDb[26]

Year Title Role Notes
1961 The New Steve Allen Show Regular 5 episodes
1964–1965 That Was the Week That Was Himself 2 episodes
1975 The Owl and the Pussycat Felix Sherman TV pilot
1976–1989 Saturday Night Live Host / Himself 17 episodes
1976 That Was the Year That Was – 1976 News Reporter TV movie
1978 Quark Dignitary Uncredited, 1 episode
1984 The New Show Regular 9 episodes
1985 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Walter Lang 1 episode
1987–1988 Falcon Crest Foster Glenn 3 episodes
1989 Murphy Brown Victor Rudman Episode: "My Dinner With Einstein"
1989 Trying Times Man on TV 1 episode
1992 Keep the Change Smitty TV movie
1992 Tales from the Crypt George 1 episode
1992 Eek! The Cat Cupid Voice, 1 episode
1992 Mastergate Clay Fielder TV movie
1995 Harrison Bergeron TV Producer TV movie
1999 Dilbert Dadbert Voice, 1 episode
2005 Will & Grace Leonard 1 episode
2007 The Daily Show Contributor 2 episodes
2007–2010 30 Rock Dick Lemon 2 episodes
2011 Hot in Cleveland Fred 3 episodes
2012 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Mr. Morton 1 episode
2012 Casting By Himself Documentary, HBO
2013 Franklin & Bash Judge Henry Dinsdale 2 episodes
2013 Mel Brooks: Make A Noise Himself Documentary, PBS

Writing credits[edit]


Source: Turner Classic Movies[6]


Directing credits[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Academy Awards

Year Award Nominated work Result
1968 Best Adapted Screenplay The Graduate Nominated
1978 Best Director Heaven Can Wait Nominated

Golden Globe Awards

Year Award Nominated work Result
1967 Best Screenplay The Graduate Nominated
1993 Special Award for Ensemble (non-competitive) Short Cuts Recipient

Primetime Emmy Awards

Year Award Nominated work Result
1965 Outstanding Achievements in Entertainment – Writers That Was the Week That Was Nominated
1966 Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series Get Smart Nominated
1967 Won

Other Awards

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1967 New York Film Critics Circle Best Screenplay The Graduate Nominated [27]
1968 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Comedy Won
1969 British Academy Film Awards Best Screenplay Won
1971 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Adapted Drama Film Catch-22 Nominated
Best Adapted Comedy Film The Owl and the Pussycat Nominated
1973 Best Original Comedy What's Up, Doc? Won
1979 Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Direction – Film Heaven Can Wait Nominated
1993 Venice Film Festival Special Volpi Cup for Best Ensemble Short Cuts Recipient


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Weber, Bruce (January 9, 2020). "Buck Henry, Who Helped Create 'Get Smart' and Adapt 'The Graduate,' Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  2. ^ "Buck Henry Biography". Filmreference.com. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
  3. ^ "That Old Feeling: Sweet Smells". Time. March 21, 2002. Archived from the original on March 28, 2002. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
  4. ^ "Paul S. Zuckerman, Broker Here, Was 66". The New York Times. December 4, 1965. p. 31. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
  5. ^ "Jews in the News: Carrie Fisher, Norman Lear and Stephen Tobolowsky". Tampa Jewish Federation. January 9, 2017. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Overview for Buck Henry". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Barnes, Mike (January 8, 2020). "Buck Henry, Fun-Loving Screenwriter and Actor, Dies at 89". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  8. ^ "One Man's Mission To Clothe Nude Animals For Decency's Sake". Ripley's Believe It or Not!. May 29, 2019. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  9. ^ Crockett, Zachary (March 16, 2016). "The Hoaxster Who Revealed Sad Truths About America". Priceonomics. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  10. ^ Sheridan, Tim (April 29, 2004). "Naked Animals and Sacred Cows: Buck Henry: The Unabridged Interview". stopsmilingonline.com. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  11. ^ "Buck Henry (RIP) & The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (SINAUS)". The WOW Report. January 9, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  12. ^ Myers, Scott (October 27, 2016). "Great Scene: "The Player"". Medium. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  13. ^ Newman, Scott (January 9, 2020). "Buck Henry, Screenwriter And Actor Famous For 'The Graduate' And TV Comedy, Dies At 89". NPR. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  14. ^ a b Pedersen, Erik (January 8, 2020). "Buck Henry Dies: 'The Graduate' Writer, 'Get Smart' Co-Creator & Early 'SNL' Favorite Was 89". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  15. ^ "NEW YORK FILM ACADEMY GUEST SPEAKERS - BUCK HENRY". New York Film Academy. Retrieved July 10, 2022.
  16. ^ Gans, Andrew (May 11, 2009). "Buck Henry and Holland Taylor Cast in Lisa Ebersole's play, Mother". Playbill. Archived from the original on May 15, 2009. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
  17. ^ As of 2017, Alec Baldwin is the most frequent male host in SNL history with 17 episodes beginning in 1990.
  18. ^ "SNL Archives (Howard)".
  19. ^ "SNL Archives (Marshall DiLaMuca)".
  20. ^ "SNL Archives (Mr. Dantley)".
  21. ^ "Al Franken And Uncle Roy". The American Conservative. November 16, 2017.
  22. ^ "Saturday Night Live: 15 Most Controversial Sketches Of All Time". ScreenRant. May 9, 2017. Archived from the original on October 8, 2019. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  23. ^ "SNL Archives (Charles Lindbergh)".
  24. ^ "SNL Archives (John Dean)".
  25. ^ "SNL Archives (Ron Nessen)".
  26. ^ "Buck Henry". IMDb.
  27. ^ "Buck Henry". IMDb.

External links[edit]