Henry Zuckerman (December 9, 1930 – January 8, 2020), credited as Buck Henry, was an American actor, screenwriter, and director.
He was twice nominated for an Academy Award, in 1968 for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Graduate and in 1979 for Best Director for Heaven Can Wait alongside Warren Beatty. His long career began on television with work on shows with Steve Allen in The New Steve Allen Show (1961). He went on to co-create Get Smart (1965-1970) with Mel Brooks, and hosted Saturday Night Live 10 times from 1976 to 1980. He later guest starred in shows such as Murphy Brown, Will & Grace, and 30 Rock.
Henry was born to a Jewish family in New York City, the son of silent film actress and star of the original Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Ruth Taylor (January 13, 1905 – April 12, 1984) and Paul Steinberg Zuckerman (April 15, 1899 – 1965), a retired Air Force brigadier general and stockbroker.
Henry attended The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) and Dartmouth College, where he met Bob Rafelson, and also worked on the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern humor magazine.
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, who presented his point of view on talk shows. The character of Prout, who wished to clothe all animals in order to prevent their 'indecency', 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.
Henry's dry humor attracted attention in the entertainment community. He became a cast member on TV programs such as The New Steve Allen Show (1961) and That Was The Week That Was (1964–65). He was a co-creator and writer for Get Smart (1965–70), with Mel Brooks. Two of his TV projects had short runs but are fondly remembered by fans: 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. He also appeared in the 1989 "My Dinner With Einstein" episode of Murphy Brown as Dr. Victor Rudman, a fractal scientist who dated Murphy.
He appeared on the television show Will and Grace in 2005. In 2007, he made two guest appearances on The Daily Show as a contributor, billed as the show's "Senior Senior Correspondent". 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). In 2011, he appeared in a multi-episode arc of Hot in Cleveland as Elka's groom.
Saturday Night Live
Henry hosted NBC's Saturday Night Live 10 times between 1976 and 1980, making him the show's most frequent host during its initial five-year run, thus setting a record that held for nearly a decade. This figure does not include the show's second-season Mardi Gras special, for which he was not in fact credited as host, but rather as one of several guest comedy and musical performers. Because he was featured more prominently than any of the other comedy performers who guested on the special episode (which was broadcast live from within the midst of Mardi Gras events in New Orleans), he is sometimes erroneously considered to have been the host of the program. (This role could be more accurately described as having been filled by musical performer Randy Newman).
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 would be broken when Steve Martin made his 11th appearance as host of the show on the finale episode of the 1988-1989 season. During the October 30, 1976, episode, Buck Henry was injured in the forehead by John Belushi's katana in the samurai sketch. 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
- Howard, a sadistic stunt coordinator
- Marshall DiLaMuca, father of Bill Murray's character Todd in The Nerds sketches
- Mr. Dantley, the straight man and frequent customer to Samurai Futaba's (John Belushi) many businesses.
- Uncle Roy, a single, pedophilic babysitter. The skits were written by Rosie Shuster and Anne Beatts, and appeared twice and remain extremely controversial to this day.
Celebrity impersonations on SNL
- Charles Lindbergh
- John Dean
- Ron Nessen
Film and stage career
Henry appeared in more than 40 films including The Graduate, Candy, Catch-22, Taking Off, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Gloria, Eating Raoul, Aria, Tune in Tomorrow, Defending Your Life, The Player, Short Cuts, and Grumpy Old Men. He co-directed Heaven Can Wait, the 1978 remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, and appeared in the film as an officious angel, reprising the character originally played by Edward Everett Horton.
His many writing credits included The Graduate, Candy, The Owl and the Pussycat, What's Up, Doc?, Catch-22, The Day of the Dolphin, Protocol, and To Die For.
Henry shared an Oscar nomination with Calder Willingham for their screenplay for The Graduate (1967). He received a second shared Oscar nomination, this time for Best Director of 1978's Heaven Can Wait, which he co-directed with the movie's star Warren Beatty. In 1997, Henry was the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award.
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.
Henry died from a heart attack at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on January 8, 2020, at age 89.
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