In 1942, he fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal, but contracted the near-fatal Blackwater Fever. He was hospitalised in New Zealand for over a year, and then reassigned as a drill instructor in the Corps.
In 1945, after rejoining civil life, he started working as a stand-up comic, and even married singer, Adelaide Adams. He took her last name so as to be able to be the first few candidates called out for alphabetical auditions.
He supported his family by taking up cashier and commercial artist jobs.
In 1954, with the help of his childhood friend, Bill Dana, he got his break on television, when he was declared the winner on ‘Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts’. This helped him secure a guest appearance on ‘The Tonight Show.’
Throughout the late 1950s, he achieved success in the variety TV genre and made several appearances on ‘The Steve Allen Show’.
From 1961-63, and became a series regular on ‘The Perry Como Show’.
From 1963-65, he took on the role of ‘Byron Glick’, a blundering detective, on the sitcom ‘The Bill Dana Show’. Around the same time, he ventured into voiceover work by lending his voice to the titular character in the animated series ‘Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales’.
In 1965, he got his career-making role in the sitcom ‘Get Smart’ as the inept special agent ‘Maxwell Smart’ of a fictional counter-intelligence agency. Aired during the Cold War era, audiences could relate to it and enjoyed his ridiculous gags, contraptions and disguises, winning him and the series several awards.
From 1967-70, he acted, produced and directed several episodes of ‘Get Smart’.
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After the end of ‘Get Smart’, he was typecast as the ‘Maxwell Smart’ character and struggled to get other types of roles.
In 1971, he directed and co-starred in the comedy series ‘The Partners’, but it ended after only twenty episodes. He also did a television film ‘Confessions of a Top Crime Buster’ that year.
Thereafter, he ventured into directing television commercials, where he was very successful. For his 1970s commercial for ‘Aurora Skittle Pool’, he won a ‘Clio Award’ for his direction.
In the early 1970s, he lent his voice as a celebrity guest in an episode of ‘The New Scooby-Doo Movies’ created by legendary animation duo Hanna-Barbera.
In 1975, he returned to mainstream television by hosting his own show ‘Don Adams' Screen Test’, but the show was cancelled after one season.
From 1976-79, he did a few television films like ‘Three Times Daley’ and ‘The Love Boat’ and television series like ‘The Fantastic Journey’ and ‘Fantasy Island’.
In 1980, he acted in the big-screen movie ‘The Nude Bomb’, but it was not very successful. He was also the narrator for a television film ‘Murder Can Hurt You!’ that year.
In 1982, he did a series of television commercials for a retail chain ‘Savemart’ for which he reprised his ‘Maxwell Smart’ character. He also did radio commercials for ‘Chief Auto Parts’ during that period.
From 1983-85, he gave his voice to the eponymous character of the TV show ‘Inspector Gadget’, which became his most memorable voiceover work.
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From 1985-88, he did a hit comedy series for Canadian television titled ‘Check It Out!’ where he was the store manager dealing with bumbling employees.
From 1989, he became ‘Maxwell Smart’ once again in a television film ‘Get Smart, Again!’
In 1992, he was part of the Christmas special television movie ‘Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas’.
In 1995, he launched a sequel to ‘Get Smart’, but it lasted for only seven episodes.
From 1995-1997, he voiced the character of ‘Gadget Boy’ in the ‘Inspector Gadget’ spinoff ‘Gadget Boy & Heather’ and ‘Gadget Boy's Adventures in History’. He also resurrected his ‘Inspector Gadget’ role in the series ‘Inspector Gadget's Field Trip’ during this time.
From 1998-1999, the last years of his career were dedicated to voiceover work for animated series like ‘Pepper Ann’ and a character in the Hollywood film ‘Inspector Gadget’.
Though his acting roles dried up towards the end of his career, he continued to make money through his stand-up comic acts in nightclubs and royalties received from reruns of his show ‘Get Smart’.
In 2003, he made his last public appearance at a gathering of the ‘Get Smart’ cast and crew at a restaurant in Los Angeles.
Family & Personal Life
Don Adams was married thrice, first to Adelaide Efantis (Adelaide Adams), then Dorothy Bracken, and lastly to Judy Luciano.
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He had seven children from his various marriages - Carolyn, Christine, Cathy, Cecily, Stacey, Sean, and Beige.
His daughter, Cecily, passed away from lung cancer a year before his death, and his son, Sean, died from a brain tumor a year after his death.
He enjoyed gambling, painting and poetry in his spare time.
On September 25, 2005, he passed away in the presence of his family at ‘Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’ in Los Angeles, California, from a lung infection while battling lymphoma and recuperating from a broken hip.
He is buried alongside Hollywood greats at the ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery’.