Oscar Directors: Henry, Buck–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography (Cum Advantage)

October 6, 2020

Buck Henry Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: Yes; mother actress

Social Class: upper-middle; father, Air Force brigadier general and stockbroker

Race/Ethnicity/Religion: Jewish

Nationality: US

Education: B.A., Dartmouth College, writing


TV before Film: cast member on The New Steve Allen Show (1961) US version of That Was the Week That Was (1964–1965).

Theater: At 15, acting debut



First Film: as actor,

First Oscar Nomination: The Graduate, 1967; co-writer; aged 37; Heaven Can Wait (co-directed), 1978; aged 48

Oscar Award: Reds, 1981; aged 44

Other Nominations: 15 in total (like Orson Welles in 4 categories)

Genre (specialties):


Last Film: Rules Don’t Apply, 2016; aged 79 (acted and directed)


Career Output: As actor

Career Span:

Marriage: actress;

Politics: Democrat


Death: 89 (in 2020)


Buck Henry (born Henry Zuckerman; December 9, 1930 – January 8, 2020) was an American actor, screenwriter, and director.

Henry’s contributions to film included, his work as a co-director on Heaven Can Wait (1978) alongside Warren Beatty, and his work as a co-writer for Mike Nichols’s The Graduate (1967) and Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? (1972).

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 such popular shows as Murphy Brown, Hot in Cleveland, Will & Grace, and 30 Rock.

He was twice-nominated for Oscar Award, for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Graduate (1967) and for Best Director for Heaven Can Wait (1978) alongside Warren Beatty.

Henry was born in New York City. His mother was Ruth Taylor (January 13, 1905 – April 12, 1984), a silent film actress and star of the original version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. His father was Paul Steinberg Zuckerman (April 15, 1899 – December 3, 1965), an Air Force brigadier general and stockbroker. Though he was nicknamed Buck from childhood, he did not officially change his name to Buck Henry until the 1970s; both his birth name and nickname came from his grandfather. Henry was from a Jewish background.

Henry attended The Choate School, then all-boys (now Choate Rosemary Hall). At 15 years old, he made his professional acting debut in a Broadway production of Life with Father, which later toured theaters in Brooklyn, Long Island, and the Bronx.

Henry earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a senior fellowship in writing at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he wrote for the university humor magazine, the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, and met movie director Bob Rafelson.

Following graduation, he enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. He served in West Germany first as a helicopter mechanic and then transferred to Special Services, where he toured with the Seventh Army Repertory Company, performing in a play he both wrote and directed.

Henry joined the improvisational comedy group the Premise, whose ranks included George Segal and Theodore J. Flicker, performing in the West Village in Manhattan. This helped lead him into a TV career.

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,[8] who presented his point of view on talk shows.

The character of Prout wished to clothe all animals in order to prevent their ‘indecency’, using slogans such as “A nude horse is a rude horse”. Henry played the character with deadpan sincerity. He 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 became a cast member on The New Steve Allen Show (1961) and the US version of That Was the Week That Was (1964–1965).

He was a co-creator and writer for the secret agent comedy television series Get Smart (1965–1970), with comedian Mel Brooks. The show lasted for five seasons and 138 episodes and won numerous Emmy Awards. Two TV projects created by Henry had short runs: 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.[1]

Henry shared Oscar nomination with Calder Willingham for their screenplay for The Graduate (1967), in which he also appeared in a supporting role as a hotel concierge. Henry’s cameo in The Player (1992) had him (playing himself) pitching a 25-years-later sequel to the film, which Henry later claimed led to real-life interest in such a project from some studios.

His many other screen writing credits included the sex farce Candy (1968), the romantic comedies The Owl and the Pussycat (1970) and What’s Up, Doc? (1972), the satire Catch-22 (1970), the thriller The Day of the Dolphin (1973), the comedy Protocol (1984), and the dark crime dramedy To Die For (1995).[6] In several of these, such as Candy and Catch-22, he also appeared as an actor.[6] In 1997, Henry was the recipient of the Austin Film Festival’s Distinguished Screenwriter Award.[citation needed]

Overall, Henry appeared in more than 40 films including a lead role in Taking Off (1971) and supporting roles in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Gloria (1980), Eating Raoul (1982), Aria (1987), Tune in Tomorrow (1990), Defending Your Life (1991), Short Cuts (1993), and Grumpy Old Men (1993).[6]

He co-directed Heaven Can Wait (1978), the remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, with the movie’s star Warren Beatty and appeared in the film as an officious angel, reprising the character originally played by Edward Everett Horton.

Henry received a second shared Oscar nomination, this time for Best Director.

Later in his career, Henry became known for guest-starring and recurring roles on television. He appeared in an episode of Murphy Brown (“My Dinner With Einstein”, 1989) as Dr. Victor Rudman, a fractal scientist who dated Murphy. He appeared on the television show Will & Grace in 2005.[citation needed] In 2007, he made two guest appearances on The Daily Show as a contributor, billed as the show’s “Senior Senior Correspondent”.[citation needed] 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.

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 hosted NBC’s Saturday Night Live ten times between 1976 and 1980, making him the show’s most frequent host during its initial five-year run.[1] 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.[16] During the October 30, 1976, episode, Buck Henry was injured in the forehead by John Belushi’s katana in the samurai sketch.[1] 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[citation needed]
Marshall DiLaMuca, father of Bill Murray’s character Todd in The Nerds sketches[citation needed]
Mr. Dantley, the straight man and frequent customer to Samurai Futaba’s (John Belushi) many businesses.[citation needed]
Uncle Roy, a single, pedophilic babysitter. The three skits, written by Rosie Shuster and Anne Beatts,[17] remain controversial.[18]
Celebrity impersonations on SNL

Henry died of a heart attack at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on January 8, 2020, at age 89.


1959 The Bridge Voice, English version
1964 The Troublemaker T.R. Kingston Also writer
1967 The Graduate Room Clerk Also writer
1968 The Secret War of Harry Frigg Stockade Commandant
1968 Candy Mental Patient Also writer
1970 Catch-22 Lieutenant Colonel Korn Also writer
1970 The Owl and the Pussycat Bookstore Man Also writer
1971 Taking Off Larry Tyne
1971 Is There Sex After Death? Dr. Louise Manos
1973 The Day of the Dolphin Women’s Club Man Also writer

1976 The Man Who Fell to Earth Oliver Farnsworth
1977 The Absent-Minded Waiter Bernie Cates Short
1978 Heaven Can Wait The Escort Also writer / director
1979 Old Boyfriends Art Kopple
1980 Gloria Jack Dawn
1980 First Family Father Sandstone
TV Anchorman Also writer / director
1981 Strong Medicine
1982 Eating Raoul Mr. Leech
1987 Aria Preston (segment “Rigoletto”)
1989 Rude Awakening Lloyd Stool
1990 Tune in Tomorrow Father Serafim
1991 Defending Your Life Dick Stanley
1991 The Linguini Incident Cecil
1991 Shakespeare’s Plan 12 from Outer Space The Priest
1992 The Player Himself
1992 The Lounge People Lewis Louis
1993 Short Cuts Gordon Johnson
1993 Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Dr. Dreyfus
1993 Grumpy Old Men Snyder
1995 To Die For H. Finlaysson Also writer
1997 The Real Blonde Dr. Leuter
1998 1999 Mr. Goldman
1998 I’m Losing You Phillip Dagrom
1998 Curtain Call Charles Van Allsburg
1998 The Man Who Counted George Postlewait Short
1999 Breakfast of Champions Fred T. Barry
2000 Lisa Picard is Famous Himself
2001 Town & Country Suttler Also writer
2001 Serendipity Himself Uncredited
2004 The Last Shot Lonnie Bosco
2011 A Bird of the Air Duncan Weber
2013 Streetcar Sheriff Short
2015 Kiss Kiss Fingerbang Cat Owner Short


Year Title Role Notes
1961 The New Steve Allen Show Regular 5 episodes
1964–1965 That Was the Week That Was Himself 2 episodes
1975 The Owl and the Pussycat Felix Sherman TV pilot
1976–1989 Saturday Night Live Host / Himself 17 episodes
1976 That Was the Year That Was – 1976 News Reporter TV movie
1978 Quark Dignitary Uncredited, 1 episode
1984 The New Show Regular 9 episodes
1985 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Walter Lang 1 episode
1987–1988 Falcon Crest Foster Glenn 3 episodes
1989 Murphy Brown Victor Rudman Episode: “My Dinner With Einstein”
1989 Trying Times Man on TV 1 episode
1992 Keep the Change Smitty TV Movie
1992 Tales from the Crypt George 1 episode
1992 Eek! The Cat Cupid Voice, 1 episode
1992 Mastergate Clay Fielder TV movie
1995 Harrison Bergeron TV Producer TV movie
1999 Dilbert Dadbert Voice, 1 episode
2005 Will & Grace Leonard 1 episode
2007 The Daily Show Contributor 2 episodes
2007–2010 30 Rock Dick Lemon 2 episodes
2011 Hot in Cleveland Fred 3 episodes
2012 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Mr. Morton 1 episode
2012 Casting By Himself Documentary, HBO
2013 Franklin & Bash Judge Henry Dinsdale 2 episodes
2013 Mel Brooks: Make Some Noise Himself Documentary, PBS
Writing credits
Source: Turner Classic Movies[6]

The Troublemaker (1964) (with Theodore J. Flicker)
The Graduate (1967) (with Calder Willingham)
Candy (1968)
Catch-22 (1970)
The Owl and the Pussycat (1970)
Is There Sex After Death? (1971) (Uncredited)
What’s Up, Doc? (1972) (with Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Benton and David Newman)
The Day of the Dolphin (1973)
Heaven Can Wait (1978)
First Family (1980)
Protocol (1984)
To Die For (1995)
Town & Country (2001)
The Humbling (2014) (with Michal Zebede)
That Was the Week That Was (1964) (3 episodes)
Captain Nice (1967) (2 episodes) (creator)
Get Smart (1965–1970) (co-creator)
Quark (1978) (7 episodes)
The New Show (1984) (TV) (5 episodes)
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985) (1 episode “Wake Me When I’m Dead”)
Trying Times (1989) (TV) (director)
Tales from the Crypt (1992) (1 episode)
Great Railway Journeys (1996) (1 episode)
Dilbert (2000) (1 episode)
Directing credits
I Miss Sonja Henie (1971) (Short film)
Heaven Can Wait (1978) (with Warren Beatty)
First Family (1980)[6]
Trying Times (1989) (TV) (director)
Awards and Nominations
Academy Awards

Year Award Nominated work Result
1968 Best Adapted Screenplay The Graduate Nominated
1978 Best Director Heaven Can Wait Nominated
Golden Globe Awards

Year Award Nominated work Result
1967 Best Screenplay The Graduate Nominated
1993 Special Award Short Cuts Won
Primetime Emmy Awards

Year Award Nominated work Result
1965 Outstanding Achievements in Entertainment – Writers That Was the Week That Was Nominated
1966 Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series Get Smart Nominated
1967 Won
Other Awards

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1967 New York Film Critics Circle Best Screenplay The Graduate Nominated [20]
1968 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Comedy Won
1969 British Academy Film Awards Best Screenplay Won
1971 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Adapted Drama Film Catch-22 Nominated
Best Adapted Comedy Film The Owl and the Pussycat Nominated
1973 Best Original Comedy What’s Up, Doc? Won
1979 Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Direction – Film Heaven Can Wait Nominated
1993 Venice Film Festival Special Volpi Cup Short Cuts Won