Actor. He is best remembered for his role of 'Agent Maxwell Smart' in the hit 1960s television comedy, "Get Smart" (1965 to 1970), for which he won three Emmy Awards. He was also the voice of television cartoon characters "Tennessee Tuxedo" and "Inspector Gadget." Born Donald James Yarmy, in New York City, of Hungarian and Irish descent, during World War II, he served in the United States Marine Corps, and was the only member of his platoon to survive the Battle for Guadalcanal. While on Guadalcanal, he contracted malaria, and nearly died of blackwater fever, being evacuated back to the United States in 1943, where he spent the remainder of the war recovering. Discharged from the military at the end of the war, he worked as a comic and mimic. He took the stage name of Adams from his first wife, singer Adelaide Adams, because he got tired of being called last during alphabetical auditions. He won an Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts contest in 1954, with a standup comedy routine, and began to work in television, appearing on a number of comedy, variety, and drama series. But it was his role of 'Agent 86, Maxwell Smart', in the parody of the spy films of the times that won him audience appeal. He would state that his clipped voice was based upon the speaking style of actor William Powell. After the series "Get Smart" was ended, he worked in less successful comedies, such as "The Partners" (1971), and in one movie that reprised the Maxwell Smart character, "The Nude Bomb" (1980), as well as guest appearances on other shows, including "The Love Boat", "Fantasy Island" and "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour". Two later attempts, in 1989 and 1995, to reprise his 'Maxwell Smart' role on television ended in failure, although he did find some success with his voice characterization of cartoon character, 'Inspector Gadget'. His success in directing "Get Smart" let to a career as a director of commercials, and in 1971, he won a Clio Award for outstanding commercial direction. He briefly played on the Canadian Broadcasting System, in "Check It Out" as a manager of a grocery store filled with inept employees and unusual customers. He was married three times, and had seven children. He died in Los Angeles, California, from pulmonary infection, having been ill for some time.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson
Beloved husband, father and grandfather.
Proudly served his country in WWII
in the United States Marine Corps.
Comedian, poet, philosopher, movie buff
and never late for poet time. A tough but
sensitive man with a sentimental heart
and a passionate soul.
He touched our hearts on Maxwell Smart's
secret agent 86 in the 1960's classic TV
series "Get Smart" and filled the
world with laughter that will
forever be remembered.