Wednesday 26 December 2018

Hail to The Chief

Ed Platt will always be known as The Chief on Get Smart, for a time one of the most brilliantly written shows of the 1960s, and one that benefited from great casting and chemistry.

Get Smart debuted in the 1965-66 season and was the top TV show of the year on Saturday nights, ranked 12th overall. Platt was vaulted into the spotlight. There were downsides; one newspaper article reveals how “funny” fans would bash into him on the street and say “Sorry about that Chief.” On the other hand, the same story revealed he would be catered to in restaurants, with staff respectfully calling him “Chief.” After all, he was ensuring America’s freedom by helping the government secretly thwart those baddies from KAOS.

Here are a couple of other newspaper stories about Platt from the show’s second season. The first is from February 1, 1967 and talks a bit about how he won the role.
Never A Star
By Erskine Johnson

Of TV Scout
HOLLYWOOD (NEA) — After 27 years as an actor, after 50 movies and 150 television shows, Ed Platt finally has a name.
The name is Ed Platt.
"I was one of those actors people recognized." he grins, "but when they asked me for my autograph I always caught them sneaking a quick peek at mv signature because they didn't really know my name."
As everyone knows by now, deep-voiced, 51-year-old Ed Platt plays the long-suffering Chief of CONTROL, boss of Don Adams, on NRG-TV's hit comedy series Get Smart.
Ed may suffer in the role, but:
"Really, I'm a fat cat. Every character actor in town envies me and it takes me half an hour every day to count my blessings."
Until Get Smart went on the air, Ed's acting world ranged from western heavies to liveable old fathers, from loveable doctors to fiery district attorneys and stern judges. He was always acting but he was never a star.
Winning a name via Get Smart he admits "is great for the ego but I'm even more delighted about the comedy facets to the role. I had never played comedy before. It's a crazy business but delightful.
"I guess my children are the happiest about Get Smart. There are three of them — 11, 10 and 8 — who until recently found it difficult explaining to young friends about their daddy's job. Now they just say he's the Chief on Get Smart and as the 11-year-old said to me recently,
" 'Dad, we're famous.' "
How Ed won the role of chief reflects Ed's own words about the crazy business he's in. He was called in to play a test scene with Don Adams just two days before filming of the series began. Before doing the test, he commented to his agent, "It can't be much of a role otherwise they would have cast it weeks ago.' "
When he later mentioned this to his friend, Howard Morris, who directed the pilot, Morris laughed and said:
"You don't know the whole story, Ed. We've been testing actors for this part for six weeks. I believe you were the 86th."
The combination of creator Buck Henry, producer Leonard Stern and Don Adams is the reason for the show's big success, Ed believes. "Henry and Stern are perfectionists and Don really surprised me. He's unerring in his judgment about what will be funny to other people and it's all because of his long career as a night club comedian."
Early in his career Staten Island-born Ed sang for two years with Paul Whiteman's band, then moved into acting via New York radio dramas and such Broadway shows as "The Shrike" and "Stalag 17."
This unbylined syndicated story showed up in papers starting July 21, 1967. This version was found in the Argus of Fremont, California, and talks about an actor dealing with fame and social responsibility. The photo accompanied the article in a number of papers.
Ed Platt—A Profile Learn To Live With Fame
Special to The Argus
HOLLYWOOD—Fame makes many changes in a man's life.
"For one thing my children now know what I do for a living," said Ed Platt.
The actor has become famous as The Chief on the spy-spoofing series, "Get Smart," starting its third successful year this coming fall on NBC Saturdays.
"NOW, WHEN I go anywhere, like New York, everything I do is watched and noticed," said Platt. "With fame, you give up a certain amount of privacy. You're well compensated for this, or course, but you'd still like to have a certain amount of anonymity. I would miss it, though, if people didn't pay attention."
Platt has become aware of the potential power that has suddenly been thrust upon him.
"I HAVE STRONG opinions on various matters, including the way to run the world," he said. "Three or four years ago people would have asked. 'Who is Ed Platt?' Now, I am asked for all kinds of opinions. I find it wrong to give opinions on subjects on which one is not qualified. In this position one's influence is too great. It's a terrible thing to have your own personal opinions accepted and tested on a large scale."
Platt is particularly conscious of this when he is asked to address youngsters.
"I HAVE BEEN asked to talk to 500 youngsters," he said. "Suddenly a strange set of events and circumstances is much public attention making me, Ed Platt, important enough to talk to them about their future career. I will just say 'platitudes' to them, and that's not a pun."
He gave an example.
“I usually tell them first thing, ‘If you depend on the word of an actor you’re in a lot of trouble.’ Naturally, I am flattered to be asked for advice, but I hope I will not be influential beyond advising them ‘to thine own self be true.’ This seems like a platitude, but when you think about it and when you’ve experienced it, it is really profoundly true.”
Platt has become more introspective as a result of so much public attention.
"It still seems indecent to me to be interviewed for hours by highly intelligent people and talk about myself all that time," he said. "Usually we go through life with our own private hells and heavens, but when you have to dredge your life and make it interesting to others you be come more introspective, you try to find out what you and your life are all about."
Platt has found the experience valuable.
"I am thrilled to have achieved this fame of sorts and this chance at greater introspection," he said. "I've tried to use this experience to help me build some of the qualities that should have been built within oneself early in life. As I build them in myself, I will build them hopefully, too, in my children. It gives you such a personal glow," he said.
Platt has seen some evidence of this and he is pleased.
"The other day my daughter wrote a 'Grace.' I was surprised to discover that her feelings went so deep."
The show eventually became stale and petered out at the end of the 1969-70 season after a change in networks. Platt didn’t have much time to enjoy any residuals from reruns. He died in 1974.


  1. One of the most brilliant straight men ever.

    1. I agree, and an incredible baritone set of pipes made him instantly recognizable, even if you weren't looking at the television screen. I remember some of the last work he did was on a soap opera.

  2. I like Get Smart, but I'm hard pressed to think of another sitcom that 1) contained as many catchphrases, and 2) hammered them into the ground as relentlessly, as GS did. In these regards, perhaps its closest rival is Welcome Back, Kotter.