Oscar Actors: Buono, Victor–Background, Career, Awards (LGBTQ)

Research in Progress (April 24, 2021)

Victor Bu0no Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No; maternal grandmother vaudeville performer

Social Class/Race:

Sexual Orientation: Gay



Spotted: Warner talent agent

Stage debut: San Diego Globe Theater

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut:

Oscar Awards:

Oscar Nominations: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962; age 25

Other Awards:

Career Span:

Last film:



Death: 43 (heart attack)

Victor Charles Buono (February 3, 1938–January 1, 1982) was an American actor, comic, and briefly recording artist.

He was known for playing the villain King Tut on the television series Batman (1966–1968), and musician Edwin Flagg in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), the latter of which earned him Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.

He was a busy actor from his late teens until his death at age 42.

Screen Image:

With his large size and sonorous voice, he made a career of playing men much older than he was.

Buono was born in San Diego, California, the son of Myrtle Belle (née Keller) and Victor Francis Buono. His maternal grandmother, Myrtle Glied, was a vaudeville performer on the Orpheum Circuit. When he was a boy, she taught him songs and recitations and encouraged him to perform for visitors.

He started appearing on local radio and television stations, and at age 18 joined the Globe Theater Players in San Diego. The director had confidence in Buono and cast him in Volpone, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and others. He received good notices for his Shakespearean roles and in modern plays such as The Man Who Came to Dinner and Witness for the Prosecution.

Spotted by Warner Talent Scout

In the summer of 1959, a talent scout from Warner saw the heavy-set Buono play Falstaff at the Globe and took him to Hollywood for a screen test.

Buono made his first TV appearance playing the bearded poet Bongo Benny in an episode of 77 Sunset Strip. Over the next few years, he played menacing heavies in series on TV and appeared on The Untouchables.

After few uncredited film roles, he was cast by Robert Aldrich in the horror movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). The film starred Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and Buono played the hapless musical accompanist Edwin Flagg, a performance for which he was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and the Golden Globe.

Buono appeared in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) as Big Sam Hollis, the father of Bette Davis, who played the title role. The film was also directed by Aldrich.

In the Biblical epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Buono portrayed the High Priest Sorak.

In The Strangler, based on the actual Boston Strangler Murders, he portrayed Leo Kroll.

He also appeared in 4 for Texas (1963), Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), The Silencers (1966), Who’s Minding the Mint? (1967), Target: Harry (1969), Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), The Mad Butcher (1972) and The Evil (1978).

Buono had extensive television appearances; one was in the recurring role of Count Manzeppi in The Wild Wild West. He also played unrelated characters in that series’ premiere episode and in the second and final Wild Wild West reunion movie, More Wild Wild West (1980).

Buono was cast to play villains of various ethnic origins on TV programs between 1960 and 1970. He was cast twice in 1960 in the western series The Rebel, starring Nick Adams, in the episodes “Blind Marriage” and “The Earl of Durango.”

In 1962, he played Melanthos Moon in an episode of The Untouchables, titled “Mr. Moon” where he played a San Francisco art and antique dealer who hijacked supply of the paper used for printing US currency.

In a 1963 episode of the same series, titled The Gang War, he played Pamise Surigao, a liquor smuggler competing with the Chicago mob.

In the episode “Firebug” (January 27, 1963) of the anthology series GE True, hosted by Jack Webb, Buono plays a barber in Los Angeles, who is by night a pyromaniac. In the storyline, the US Forest Service believes one arsonist is causing a series of fires in California.

Buono appeared in 4 episodes of Perry Mason. In season 5, (March 17, 1962), he portrayed Alexander Glovatsky, a small-town sculptor, in “The Case of the Absent Artist”. In season 7, (April 2, 1964), he played murderer John (Jack) Sylvester Fossette in the episode “The Case of the Simple Simon”.[4] In season 8, (April 29, 1965) he played murderer Nathon Fallon in “The Case of the Grinning Gorilla”.

In season 9, (February 27, 1966), he appeared in “The Case of the Twice Told Twist”, the only color episode, as Ben Huggins, the ringleader of a car-stripping ring.

Buono played the villain King Tut on the TV series Batman. A Jekyll-and-Hyde character, William McElroy is a timid Yale professor of Egyptology who, after being hit in the head with a brick at a peace rally, assumes the persona of the charismatic, monomaniacal Egyptian King Tut. When he suffers another blow to the head, the villain recovers his meek academic personality. The role, the most frequently featured original villain in the series, was one of Buono’s favorites, able to overact without restraint.

He played another campy villain, “Mr. Memory” in a 1967 unsold TV pilot film based on the Dick Tracy comic strip, from the producers of Batman and Green Hornet.

Buono played a scientist bent on world domination in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in an episode titled “The Cyborg.”

Buono made a guest appearance as Hannibal Day in the Get Smart episode “Moonlighting Becomes You”, originally airing January 2, 1970, and appeared three times as Dr. Blaine in the sitcom Harrigan and Son, starring Pat O’Brien and Roger Perry as a father-and-son team of lawyers. He appeared in a segment of Night Gallery titled “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” He also was in episode of Hawaii Five-O, “The $100,000 Nickel” in which he played thief Eric Damien. It first aired on December 11, 1973.

He made two memorable appearances on The Odd Couple, once in the episode “The Exorcists” and again in “The Rent Strike” where he portrayed Mr. Lovelace.

In 1976, he appeared in comedy The Practice, portraying Bernard on the episode “Jules and the Bum.”

He also made 9 appearances on the 1977 series Man from Atlantis, appearing all nine times as Mr. Schubert, the enemy of the main character.

In the 1970s, Buono released several comedy record albums which poked fun at his large stature, the first of which was Heavy!,[9] as well as a book of comic poetry called It Could Be Verse.[10] He began to style himself as “the fat man from Batman”. During guest appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, he frequently recited his poetry.

In the late 1970s and in 1980, Buono played the millionaire father of the memory-impaired Reverend Jim Ignatowski on Taxi. Buono died before the end of the series. One episode was made where Jim learns to cope with his father’s death.

In 1980, Buono appeared in the TV movie Murder Can Hurt You as Chief Ironbottom, a parody of the title character from Ironside.

His later roles were more of pompous intellectuals and shady con men, though he also played straight roles.

In the miniseries Backstairs at the White House (1979), he portrayed President William Howard Taft.

Dying Young: Age 43

Buono was found dead at his home in Apple Valley, California on New Year’s Day 1982; he died of a sudden heart attack.

He was a devout Christian and attended the University of San Diego, USD, a Catholic men’s college.

Closeted Gay

Buono was closeted like most gay actors at the time but he lived with same-sex partners.

Oscar Context

In 1962, Buono competed for the Supporting Actor Oscar with Ed Begley, who won for “Sweet Bird of Youth,” Telly Savalas in “Birdman of Alcatraz,” Omar Sharif in “Lawrence of Arabia,” and Terence Stamp in “Billy Budd.”