The Graduate screenwriter, Get Smart co-creator Buck Henry dies at 89

The legendary screenwriter, director and actor left his mark on Hollywood for over five decades.

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
2 min read

Dustin Hoffman and Buck Henry in 1967's The Graduate.

United Artists

Buck Henry, screenwriter of The Graduate and co-creator of the Get Smart TV series, died on Wednesday of a heart attack at Cedars-Sinai Health Center in Los Angeles, his wife Irene told The Washington Post. He was 89 years old.

Henry began his TV writing career working for various TV shows such as The New Steve Allen Show, The Garry Moore Show, and Captain Nice. 

He received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for The Graduate, which he co-wrote with Calder Willingham. The 1967 film, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, also earned director Mike Nichol an Oscar. Henry and Willingham were nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

Henry co-created the 1969 spy spoof Get Smart for NBC with Mel Brooks. He also wrote screenplays for a number of movies, including What's Up, Doc?, Is There Sex After Death? and The Owl and The Pussycat

In addition to his writing credits, Henry directed Heaven Can Wait, which scored him another Oscar nomination in 1978.

If that wasn't impressive enough, Henry was also a performer. His acting credits include roles in Taking Off (1971), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Eating Raoul (1982) and The Player (1992). Most recently, he played Liz Lemon's father on 30 Rock in 2010, and appeared in multiple episodes of Hot in Cleveland as Betty White's boyfriend in 2011.

Henry hosted Saturday Night Live 10 times. He was notable for playing Mr. Dantley, a character who could understand John Belushi's Samurai sandwich chef and his fake Japanese. 

Celebrities and fans shared memories of Henry on social media after news of his death broke. 

"Buck Henry was hilarious and brilliant and made us laugh more times than we even know," Judd Apatow wrote on his Instagram on Wednesday. "I was lucky enough to be on a panel with him at  SXSW  and he was so funny. He said, 'I don't like to write with people because if they aren't as funny as me I hate them and if they are funnier than me I hate them.' He wrote The Graduate and To Die For and co created Get Smart and was a riot hosting SNL back when they would let a writer host SNL. One of the greats."

"R.I.P. Buck Henry -- our most fearless screenwriter. Buck was also a big personality & a performer... he gave screenwriting a face. Growing up I could turn on Saturday Night Live (which Buck hosted 10 times) and point to the funniest, smartest guy and say -- that's a screenwriter," Dolemite is My Name writer and producer Larry Karaszewski tweeted