PROFILE
Name:
Buddy Hackett
Birth Date:
August 31, 1924
Birth Place:
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Nationality:
American
Famous for:
His role as Marcellus Washburn in 'The Music Man' (1962)
BIOGRAPHY
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Lunatics and Lovers

Background:

Like many other comedians, the late Buddy Hackett (1924-2003) began his career performing onstage. Following his award-winning performance in the musical play “Lunatics and Lovers” (1955, won a Donaldson Award), Hackett had a steady career on screen. He was famous to TV viewers as a titular news/ticket bureau stand keeper in the live-aired sitcom “Stanley” (1956-1957), as well as a regular performer in “The Jackie Gleason Show” (1958-1959) and “The Jack Paar Tonight Show” (1958-1962).

On the big screen, Hackett was seen in Disney’s The Love Bug (1968, costarred as Tennessee Steinmetz) and Scrooged (1988, as Scrooge). He also did voiceovers for several animated projects, including the movie The Little Mermaid (1989) and the short-lived series “Fish Police” (1992). His last screen appearance was in the TV stand-up competition “Last Comic Standing,” in 2003, where he served as a Celebrity Talent Scout.

Hackett, who in 1996 stopped doing live performances because of dizziness and breathing difficulties, was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998. His life story was written by Ronald L. Smith in his book “Who’s Who in Comedy” (1992). Toward the end of his life, Hackett was active in fundraising for animal shelters. Buddy Hackett died on June 30, 2003, leaving his wife, Sherry Cohen, and three daughters behind.


15-Year Old Performer

Childhood and Family:

Buddy Hackett was born Leonard Hacker, on August 31, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York, to Anna and Phillip Hacker. Having an early comedic talent, Leonard began making professional performances in nightclubs at age 15 amid his studies at New Utrecht High School. It eventually led to bigger stints onstage and later, on screen.

On June 12, 1955, Buddy tied the knot with Sherry Cohen, with whom he had three daughters: Ivy Julie Hackett, Lisa Jean Hackett and Sandy Zade Hackett. The comedian, who suffered from diabetes, passed away on June 30, 2003, at his house in Malibu, California, of natural causes.


Stanley

Career:

Buddy Hackett, who at age 15 made his professional debut at a small hotel in the Catskills, served with the antiaircraft unit during World War II for three years. Returning to New York, he performed at a Brooklyn club, the Pink Elephant, which eventually brought him to Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Soon, Hackett became the biggest headliner in many comedy clubs and got a ticket to Hollywood after successfully starring in the hit road production of “Call Me Mister” (1946). Two years later, the comedian emerged on the small screen as a regular cast member in the musical-comedy revue series “School House” (1948).

He also made a feature film debut with the supporting role of Blimp Edwards in the low budget comedy Walking My Baby Back Home (1953), before successfully delivering his role in the Broadway staging of “Lunatics and Lovers” (1955) and took home a Donaldson for Best Male Debut Performance. The stage achievement was ensued with his starring turn as new fireman Smokey Hinkle in the comedy Fireman Save My Child (1954), a guest performance in the special show Max Liebman Presents: Variety (1955, TV), as well as the titular role of a news/ticket stand keeper in the live-aired NBC sitcom “Stanley” (1956-1957).

Detouring to drama, the actor was cast as Pluto Swint, the Sheriff candidate, in God’s Little Acre (1958, adapted from Erskine Caldwell’s novel). The same year, he joined the cast of the Emmy-winning comedy variety program “The Jackie Gleason Show” (1958-1959) and began contributing regularly to the comedy talk show “The Jack Paar Tonight Show” (1958-1962). A guest star of “Dan Raven” (1960), Hackett worked with actor Mickey Rooney in Everything’s Ducky (1961, as John Paul Jones) and took part in the revival of the Broadway musical The Music Man (1962, as Marcellus Washburn). A year later, he rejoined Rooney in the treasure race comedy It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963).

In 1964, the humorist reappeared on Broadway in the musical “I Had a Ball,” and played a rich business manager named S.Z. Matts in the film Muscle Beach Party. Following his guest performances in “The Trials of O’Brien” (1965), “The Big Valley” (1966) and “The Danny Thomas Hour” (1967), Hackett was seen in the first Disney production about Herbie, a car with a mind of its own, titled The Love Bug (1968, costarred as Tennessee Steinmetz). After having an unaccredited appearance in the Western movie The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969), the actor took a five-year break from acting.

Marking his return to the screen, Hackett guest performed in the series “McMillan and Wife” (1974) and “Quincy M.E.” (1977), and then portrayed comedian Lou Costello in the NBC TV biopic Bud and Lou (1978), alongside Harvey Korman, who played partner Bud Abbott. He also voiced Pardon-Me-Pete, the groundhog in the TV cartoon Jack Frost (1979), before hosting the game show “You Bet Your Life” (1980).

Hackett, who made episodic appearances in “The Love Boat” (1979, 1981), “The Fall Guy” (1983) and “Murder, She Wrote” (1987), carried out the part of Scrooge in Scrooged (1988), a contemporary spin on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” He then providing his voice for seagull Scuttle in Disney’s animated feature The Little Mermaid (1989), as well as for Crabby, a character in the short-lived series “Fish Police” (1992).

The following years, Hackett primarily emerged onscreen as a guest star and was seen in the sci-fi series “Space Rangers” (1994), the sitcom “Boy Meets World” (1996), “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (1998) and “Action” (1999). His only feature performance was in the family movie Paulie (1998), where he had a small part as Artie, the pawnbroker. Before his death, Buddy Hackett appeared in 2003 as a Celebrity Talent Scout in the TV stand-up competition “Last Comic Standing.”


Award:

  • Donaldson: Best Debut Performance—Male, “Lunatics and Lovers,” 1955
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