Buck Henry, Legendary Screenwriter of The Graduate, Creator of Get Smart, and SNL Host, Dead at 89

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Celebrated writer, director, and actor Buck Henry — who wrote such seminal works as The Graduate, won an Emmy for co-creating Get Smart, and often hosted SNL — died on Wednesday of a heart attack at Cedars-Sinai Health Center in Los Angeles. He was 89. Henry began his career as a TV writer for Steve Allen and Garry Moore’s television programs before writing the screenplay for The Graduate with Calder Willingham. The 1967 film starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft would go on to become one of the definitive films of the ’60s, win Mike Nichols his only Oscar, and earn Henry and Willingham an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Henry would go on to write the screenplays for movies including What’s Up, Doc?, The Owl and The Pussycat, and Is There Sex After Death?, among others.

Beyond screenwriting, Henry was a prolific director and actor, earning an Oscar nomination for directing Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty in 1978. He also won an Emmy for co-creating the hit spy series Get Smart, starring Don Adams as a befuddled yet effective detective in 1965. The series would eventually be made into a feature film starring Steve Carell in the Don Adams role. As for acting, Henry was a frequent host of Saturday Night Live during its first five seasons and holds the distinction of being the first person to ever host SNL over ten times. His SNL ties lasted till the end of his career, as he memorably played Liz Lemon’s father, Dick Lemon, on 30 Rock.

Buck Henry, Prolific Writer, Director, and Actor, Dead at 89