Early life and careerEdit
Buono was born in San Diego, California, the son of Myrtle Belle (née Keller; 1909-1979) and Victor Francis Buono (1907-1981). His maternal grandmother, Myrtle Glied (1886-1969), had been a Vaudeville performer on the Orpheum Circuit. When he was a little boy, she taught him songs and recitations and encouraged him to perform for visitors. Even though the young Buono enjoyed the polite applause of those captive audiences, he thought he wanted to be a doctor. When he was sixteen, Father John Aherne of St. Augustine High School in San Diego cast him as Papa Barrett in the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street. Buono appeared in three plays a year while attending high school, which included Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp and Shakespearean dramas. He even played the title role of Hamlet. He soon forgot about having a medical career. He started appearing on local radio and television stations, and at the age of eighteen he joined the Globe Theater Players in San Diego. The director had confidence in Buono and cast him in Volpone, Midsummer Night's Dream and other Globe presentations. He received good notices for his various Shakespearean roles and in modern plays such as The Man Who Came To Dinner and Witness For The Prosecution. In the summer of 1959, a talent scout from Warner Bros. saw the heavyset Buono play Falstaff at the Globe and took him up to Hollywood for a screen test. He made his first network TV appearance playing the bearded poet Bongo Benny in an episode of 77 Sunset Strip. Over the next few years he appeared on numerous shows playing menacing heavies in just about every Grade "A" private eye series. He also appeared on The Untouchables. Because of his overweight stature and early hair loss, Buono usually played older characters. After appearing in a few uncredited film roles, he was cast by director Robert Aldrich in the psychological horror movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. He played the part of the ne'er-do-well musical accompanist, Edwin Flagg, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for this performance.
Noteworthy film rolesEdit
Buono appeared in Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) playing Big Sam Hollis, the father of Bette Davis, who had the title role, which was also directed by Aldrich. And he appeared in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) starring Max von Sydow, Michael Anderson, Jr. and Carroll Baker, which was produced and directed by George Stevens. Buono played the role of the High Priest Sorak in this story about Jesus. He also appeared in such movies as 4 for Texas (1963), Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964), The Silencers (1966), Who's Minding the Mint? (1967), Target: Harry (1969) and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and The Mad Butcher (1972).
Buono had a vast body of work in movies, and among his extensive TV appearances were the recurring roles of the demented Count Manzeppi on the popular series The Wild Wild West starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, which ran from 1965 to 1969. 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). He played King Tut on the series Batman with Adam West and Burt Ward, which ran from 1966 to 1968. King Tut was a timid history professor who, after being hit in the head with a brick at a peace rally, donned the persona of the Egyptian royal. When he suffered another blow to the head, the villain would return to his meek demeanor. He was in demand to play villains of various nationalities and ethnic origins on many programs between 1964 and 1970. He made a guest appearance as Hannibal Day in the Get Smart episode Moonlighting Becomes You originally airing January 2, 1970. Buono also appeared three times as Dr. Blaine in the ABC sitcom Harrigan and Son, starring Pat O'Brien and Roger Perry as a father-and-son team of lawyers. He made two memorable appearances on ABC's The Odd Couple, once in the episode The Exorcists where he played an odd doctor, of sorts, of the supernatural, and again in The Rent Strike where he played the part of Mr. Lovelace, the evil manager of the building that Oscar and Felix lived in. He also made several appearances as the mad scientist Dr. Schubert in the short-lived NBC series Man from Atlantis.
Comedy record albums and comic poetryEdit
In the early 1970s, Buono released some comedy record albums, which poked fun at his extra large stature, and a book of comic poetry called It Could Be Verse. He would sometimes recite his poetry on guest appearances of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The most popular of his poems was "Fat Man's Prayer". It included many widely quoted couplets such as: We are what we eat, said a wise old man, And Lord, if that's true, I'm a garbage can!
At oleomargarine I'll never mutter, For the road to hell is spread with butter. And cake is cursed, and cream is awful, And Satan is hiding in every waffle.
Give me this day my daily slice— But cut it thin and toast it twice.
In the late 1970s and in 1980, Buono played the memory-impaired Reverend Jim Ignatowski's millionaire father on Taxi. Buono died before the end of the series, and another actor played the role briefly. The character was eventually killed off and an episode dealt with Jim coping 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. He also played straight roles. In the TV miniseries Backstairs at the White House (1979) he portrayed President William Howard Taft and delivered a poignant tribute to the late Mrs. Taft.
Buono liked to read and write, and one of his main hobbies was Shakespeare. "The more you study him," he said, "the greater he grows". He was also highly regarded as a gourmet chef. In regards to relationships (and the implicit questioning of his sexuality), Buono is quoted as saying "I've heard or read about actors being asked the immortal question 'Why have you never married?' They answer with the immortal excuse 'I just haven't found the right girl.' Because I'm on the hefty side, no one's asked me yet. If they do, that's the answer I'll give. After all, if it was good enough for Monty Clift or Sal Mineo..."
Buono died of a heart attack at his home in Apple Valley, California on January 1, 1982. Buono is entombed in a crypt with his mother Myrtle, but his name unmarked in San Diego's Greenwood Memorial Park. Selected filmography
Film Year Film Role Notes 1961 The Guns of Navarone Greek cleric at wedding plaza Uncredited 1963 My Six Loves Gatecrasher Uncredited 1964 The Strangler Leo Kroll 1965 Young Dillinger Professor Hoffman 1966 The Silencers Tung-Tze 1969 Big Daddy A. Lincoln Beauregard Alternative title: Paradise Road 1972 The Wrath of God Jennings 1973 Arnold The Minister 1974 Moonchild The Maitre'd 1978 The Chinese Caper Everett Maddox Alternative title: China Heat 1980 The Man with Bogart's Face Commodore Anastas Alternative title: Sam Marlow, Private Eye 1980 Target...Earth? Homer the Archivist 1982 The Flight of Dragons Arak (Voice) Alternative title: Flight of the Dragon Television Year Title Role Notes 1960 Bourbon Street Beat Joe Leslie 1 episode Surfside 6 Mr. Beamish 1 episode 1962 The New Breed Manrique 1 episode 1963 GE True Charles Colvin 1 episode 1965 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Dr. Tabor Ulrich 1 episode Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre General Leo Chareet 3 episodes 1966 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Colonel Hubris 1 episode I Spy Karafatma 1 episode 1967 The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Sir Cecil Seabrook 1 episode T.H.E. Cat General Burek 1 episode Daniel Boone Milo Quaife 1 episode 1963 The Flying Nun Marko "The Magnificent" Antonio 1 episode Here's Lucy Mr. Vermillion 1 episode It Takes a Thief Mr. Kent 1 episode 1970 O'Hara, U.S. Treasury Al Connors 1 episode 1973 Mannix Hamilton Starr 1 episode Hawaii Five-O Eric Damien 1 episode 1976 Ellery Queen Dr. Friedland 1 episode The Tony Randall Show Judge Bernard Gluck 1 episode Alice Mr. James 1 episode 1977 The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries Seth Taylor 1 episode 1979 Supertrain Misto 1 episode 1980 Fantasy Island Dr. Albert Z. Fell 1 episode 1980-1981 Vega$ "Diamond" Jim 4 episodes 1981 Here's Boomer Dr. Frankenstein 1 episode Award nominations
Year Award Result Category Film or series 1963 Academy Award Nominated Best Supporting Actor What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actor What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Laurel Awards Top New Male Personality - References
^ Pitts, Michael R. (2002). Horror Film Stars. McFarland. pp. 44. ISBN 0-786-41052-3. ^ MacDonald, Shari; Spangler, Ann (January 1, 2002). Don't Stop Laughing Now!. Zondervan. pp. 121. ISBN 0-310-23996-6. ^ Thise, Mark (2008). Hollywood Winners & Losers A to Z. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 23. ISBN 087-910351-5. ^ Donnelley, Paul (June 1, 2003). 2. ed. Fade To Black: A Book Of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. pp. 219-220. ISBN 0-711-99512-5. ^ "Milestones". Time. 1982-01-18. Retrieved 2009-05-01. External links
Victor Buono at the Internet Movie Database Victor Buono at Allmovie Victor Buono at Find a Grave