Victor Buono

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Victor Buono
BornVictor Charles Buono
(1938-02-03)February 3, 1938
San Diego, California, U.S.
DiedJanuary 1, 1982(1982-01-01) (aged 43)
Apple Valley, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
Occupationactor, comic
Years active1959-1981
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Victor Buono
BornVictor Charles Buono
(1938-02-03)February 3, 1938
San Diego, California, U.S.
DiedJanuary 1, 1982(1982-01-01) (aged 43)
Apple Valley, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
Occupationactor, comic
Years active1959-1981

Victor Charles Buono (February 3, 1938 – January 1, 1982) was an American actor and comic most famous for playing the villain King Tut on the television series Batman. He was a busy actor from his late teens until his death at age 43, and with his large size and sonorous voice, he made a career of playing men much older than himself.

Early life and career[edit]

Buono was born in San Diego, California, the son of Myrtle Belle (née Keller; 1909–1979) and Victor Francis Buono (1907–1981).[1] His maternal grandmother, Myrtle Glied (1886–1969), 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. Even though the young Buono enjoyed the polite applause of those captive audiences, he aspired to be a doctor. When he was sixteen, Father John Aherne, OSA, 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 during high school, including Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp and Shakespearean dramas such as the play "Hamlet." Buono played the role of King Claudius.

He started appearing on local radio and television stations, and at the age of eighteen 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 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 heavy-set Buono play Falstaff at the Globe and took him to Hollywood for a screen test.[2] Buono 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 played menacing heavies in nearly every Grade "A" private eye series on TV and also appearing on The Untouchables. 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). The film starred Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and Buono played the part of the ne'er-do-well musical accompanist, Edwin Flagg, a performance that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Noteworthy film roles[edit]

Shortly after What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, 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.

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) and The Mad Butcher (1972).

Television roles[edit]

Though, Buono had a vast body of work in movies, he also had extensive television appearances to his credit, one was in the recurring role of Count Manzeppi in CBS's 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 many television programs between 1960 and 1970. He was cast twice in 1960 in the episodes, "Blind Marriage" and "The Earl of Durango," of the ABC western series, The Rebel, starring Nick Adams. In 1962, he played Melanthos Moon, a San Francisco art and antique dealer who hijacks a supply of the paper used for United States currency, in an episode of ABC's The Untouchables, titled Mr. Moon. In a 1963 episode 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 CBS anthology series, GE True, hosted by Jack Webb, Buono plays a barber in Los Angeles, who is by night a pyromaniac. In the story line, the United States Forest Service believes one arsonist is causing a series of fires in California. The episode also stars Keith Andes and Arch Johnson.[3]

Buono appeared in four episodes of CBS's legal drama Perry Mason. In season 5, 1962, he portrayed Alexander Glovatsky, a small-town sculptor, in "The Case of the Absent Artist". In season 7, 1964, he played murderer John (Jack) Sylvester Fossette in the episode "The Case of the Simple Simon". In season 8, 1965 he played murderer Nathon Fallon in "The Case of the Grinning Gorilla." In season 9, 1966, he appeared in the only color episode, "The Case of the Twice Told Twist" as Ben Huggins, the ring leader of a car stripping ring.

Buono played King Tut on the series Batman. A Jekyll-and-Hyde character, William McElroy is a timid Yale history professor 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, which proved to be the most frequently featured original villain in the series, was one of Buono's favorites because he was delighted at being able to overact without restraint.[4] He played another villain in a 1967 unsold TV pilot film based on the Dick Tracy comic strip.

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 ABC 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 NBC's Night Gallery titled "Satisfaction Guaranteed." He also appeared in a 1973 episode of Hawaii Five-O (episode 15). He made two memorable appearances on ABC's 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 the NBC situation comedy The Practice, portraying Bernard in the episode "Jules and the Bum." He also made nine appearances in the NBC series Man from Atlantis (1977).

Comedy record albums and comic poetry[edit]

In the early 1970s, Buono released several comedy record albums, which poked fun at his large stature, and a book of comic poetry called It Could Be Verse.[5] During guest appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, he frequently recited his poetry. The most popular of his poems was Fat Man's Prayer, a work often erroneously attributed to Dom DeLuise. 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.[6]

Later career[edit]

In the late 1970s and in 1980, Buono played the millionaire father of memory-impaired Reverend Jim Ignatowski on Taxi. Buono died before the end of the series and another actor briefly assumed the role. The character was eventually killed off, followed by an episode 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, although he also played straight roles. In the miniseries Backstairs at the White House (1979), he portrayed President William Howard Taft.


Buono was found dead at his home in Apple Valley, California, on New Year's Day 1982; he died of a sudden heart attack.[7][8] He is entombed with his mother Myrtle in Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, but his name is not inscribed on the crypt.

Personal life[edit]

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."[2] He was also highly regarded as a gourmet chef.[9]

In regard 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..."[10] Buono was unusual among gay performers of his era by openly living together with same-sex partners,[11] although he was not flamboyant about his lifestyle and referred to himself as a "conscientious objector" in the "morality revolution" of the 1960s.[11]

Despite his weight, Victor Buono was known to be a playboy according to the commentary on the DVD edition of Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Selected filmography[edit]

1961Guns of Navarone, TheThe Guns of NavaroneGreek cleric at wedding plazaUncredited
1962What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?Edwin Flagg
19634 for TexasHarvey Burden
1963My Six LovesGatecrasherUncredited
1964Hush… Hush, Sweet CharlotteBig Sam Hollis
1964Robin and the 7 HoodsDeputy Sheriff Alvin Potts
1964Strangler, TheThe StranglerLeo Kroll
1965Young DillingerProfessor Hoffman
1965The Greatest Story Ever ToldHigh Priest Sorak
1966Silencers, TheThe SilencersTung-Tze
1969Big DaddyA. Lincoln BeauregardAlternative title: Paradise Road
1969Boot HillHoney Fisher
1970Beneath the Planet of the ApesAdiposo / Fat man
1971The Mad ButcherOtto Lehman
1971The Man with Icy EyesJohn Hammond
1972Wrath of God, TheThe Wrath of GodJennings
1973ArnoldThe Minister
1974MoonchildThe Maitre'd
1977Man from Atlantis (TV movie)Mr. Schubert
1978The EvilThe DevilCameo appearance
1978Chinese Caper, TheThe Chinese CaperEverett MaddoxAlternative title: China Heat
1980Man with Bogart's Face, TheThe Man with Bogart's FaceCommodore AnastasAlternative title: Sam Marlow, Private Eye
1980Target...Earth?Homer the Archivist
1981Flight of Dragons, TheThe Flight of DragonsAraghVoice; Alternative title: Flight of the Dragon
Year 1958Title {the rebelRoleNotes
1958Sea HuntSeminard1 episode
1960Bourbon Street BeatJoe Leslie1 episode
Surfside 6Mr. Beamish1 episode
1961Everglades, TheThe EvergladesWikkament1 episode
1962New Breed, TheThe New BreedManrique1 episode
1962Perry MasonForsette1 episode
1962Perry MasonAlexander Glovatsky1 episode
1963GE TrueCharles Colvin1 episode
1965Wild Wild West, TheThe Wild Wild WestJuan Manolo1 episode
1965Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaDr. Tabor Ulrich1 episode
1965Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler TheatreGeneral Leo Chareet3 episodes
1966Man from U.N.C.L.E., TheThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Colonel Hubris1 episode
1966-1968BatmanProfessor William McElroy/King Tut10 episodes
1966I SpyKarafatma1 episode
1967Girl from U.N.C.L.E., TheThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E.Sir Cecil Seabrook1 episode
1967T.H.E. CatGeneral Burek1 episode
1967Daniel BooneMilo Quaife1 episode
1968Wild Wild West, TheThe Wild Wild WestCount Mario Vincenzo Robespierre Manzeppi2 episodes
1969Flying Nun, TheThe Flying NunMarko "The Magnificent" Antonio1 episode
1969Here's LucyMr. Vermillion1 episode
1969It Takes a ThiefMr. Kent1 episode
1970Get SmartHannibal Day1 episode
1970O'Hara, U.S. TreasuryAl Connors1 episode
1973MannixHamilton Starr1 episode
1973Hawaii Five-OEric Damien1 episode
1973 and 1975The Odd CoupleDr. Clove/Hugo Lovelace2 episodes
1976Ellery QueenDr. Friedland1 episode
1976Tony Randall Show, TheThe Tony Randall ShowJudge Bernard Gluck1 episode
1976AliceMr. James1 episode
1977Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, TheThe Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew MysteriesSeth Taylor1 episode
1979SupertrainMisto1 episode
1979Man from AtlantisDr. Schubert9 episodes
1980TaxiJames Caldwell1 episode
1980Fantasy IslandDr. Albert Z. Fell1 episode
1980–1981Vega$"Diamond" Jim4 episodes
1981Here's BoomerDr. Frankenstein1 episode

Award nominations[edit]

YearAwardResultCategoryFilm or series
1962Academy AwardNominatedBest Supporting ActorWhat Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Golden Globe AwardBest Supporting ActorWhat Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Laurel AwardsTop New Male Personality


  1. ^ "Victor Buono". Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  2. ^ a b "Biography-Victor Buono". from 1965 Press Package. Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  3. ^ "GE True". Classic Television Archive. Retrieved March 1, 2013. 
  4. ^ "King Tut - Victor Buono". Bat-Mania. 
  5. ^ Pitts, Michael R. (2002). Horror Film Stars. McFarland. p. 44. ISBN 0-7864-1052-3. 
  6. ^ Ann, Shari; Spangler (January 1, 2002). Don't Stop Laughing Now!. Zondervan. p. 121. ISBN 0-310-23996-6. 
  7. ^ "Milestones". Time. 1982-01-18. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Thise, Mark (2008). Hollywood Winners & Losers A to Z. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 23. ISBN 0-87910-351-5. 
  10. ^ Donnelley, Paul (June 1, 2003). 2, ed. Fade To Black: A Book Of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. pp. 219–220. ISBN 0-7119-9512-5. 
  11. ^ a b Mann, William J. (2001). Behind the screen: how gays and lesbians shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969. New York: Viking. pp. 340–348. ISBN 0670030171. 

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