.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Classically Speaking:
Promoting Classic Movies in a Jaded World!

Monday, August 11, 2014


BUDDY HACKETT (1924-2003), born Leonard Hacker

"Buddy Hackett, the Best Friend with the Big Heart"

Although Buddy Hackett appeared on television quite a bit when I was young, I saw him first watching Disney's The Love Bug, first run in the movie theater, when I was eight.  I loved the character he played in this delightful film. While the lead Jim Douglas (played by Dean Jones) was being insensitive, selfish, and clueless, auto mechanic and best friend, Tennessee Steinmetz (played by Buddy Hackett) understood that Jim's Volkswagen was no ordinary car; it was alive, possessing actual feelings. How could I not identify with someone like that who cared about the little car, as if it were a good dog?

It was directly after seeing The Love Bug, that I saw Buddy Hackett on the game show "What's My Line" (via reruns) playing the week's Mystery Guest. Later, I learned that Buddy Hackett also served several times  on the show as a guest panelist.

It was my mother, a huge musical fan, that exposed me next to The Music Man, when it aired on television, where Buddy, besides acting, also sang and danced. His character in this film was much like the one he had played in The Love Bug, playing once again, the lead's caring best friend.

I watched Buddy Hackett throughout my youth and childhood appear in several television shows both as himself and various roles, "The Merv Griffin Show"; "Tattletales"; "Hollywood Squares"; "Don Adams' Screen Test"; "Dinah"; "Murder, She Wrote"; "The Fall Guy"; "The Lucy Show"; "The Big Valley"; "Get Smart"; "The Tonight Show, Starring Johnny Carson", of which he appeared more often than any other guest. Buddy Hackett always came across to me as a funny, likable, and caring man.

As a night club comic, Buddy Hackett was one of the best headliners that the Las Vegas strip ever knew. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to see him perform in person. He was said to have been one of the best ad-libbers, working with members of his audience, that Las Vegas had ever seen. Buddy Hackett had great comedic timing, knowing exactly how long to keep a gag running.

Buddy Hackett was no longer alive when I made my first trip to Las Vegas, during which I did have the good fortune to meet his son Sandy Hackett.  My husband Paul and I had gone to see "The Rat Pack is Back" a musical tribute to The Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra; Dean Martin; Sammy Davis, Jr.; and Joey Bishop.  Sandy Hackett had portrayed  Joey Bishop in "The Rat Pack is Back", after which the cast came out for a meet and greet.  Anyone that wanted to pose for pictures could with the group.  It was then I learned that Sandy Hackett was Buddy Hackett's son.  It was struck by how wonderfully personable and kind Buddy Hackett's son was.  We had real conversation, not just the "Hurry up, snap the picture, and move along" sort of stuff. He told me that his father had enjoyed working in Vegas most of all.

I have been able to see more of Buddy's Hackett's work through watching the TV show recordings posted on YouTube.  Buddy Hackett is consistently funny and always enjoyable to watch.  It has been such a treat to revisit some of his "What's My Line" episodes, too. One in particular, he used several different voices to disguise who he was to the blindfolded celebrity panel, when appearing as that week's Mystery Guest. When he was asked to "Sign In, Please" on the chalkboard for the audience, Buddy wrote, Maralyn Monroe. Yes, he spelled her name wrong, but who cared! It was funny.

I believe it was Buddy Hackett's acting portrayal of Lou Costello in the made-for-TV movie, Bud and Lou that impressed me most of all. I truly felt like I was watching Lou Costello. Buddy Hackett made me care a lot about Lou Costello. This superb performance also made me care even more about Buddy Hackett.  You cannot do that well of a job without feeling emotionally connected to the person you are portraying.

And for those unfamiliar with Buddy Hackett's image shown here or the films recommended, it is still possible that you may have heard Buddy Hackett's voice in a well-known Disney animated feature, The Little Mermaid. He was fabulous as the voice of the dopey seagull Scuttle, yet an another friend to the lead that cares.

I will always think of Buddy Hackett in this way, a man with a very big heart. ~ClassicLiz

The Love Bug (1968)
Haven't you seen The Love Bug (1968)? Buddy Hackett plays Tennessee Steinmetz, auto mechanic and best friend to race car driver Jim Douglas, played by Dean Jones, in this Disney comedy classic about a Volkswagen Bug with a mind of its own.

Watch this and then see these other four films.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) In this wild adventure, comedy classic, Buddy Hackett plays Benjy Benjamin, friend to Ding Bell played by Mickey Rooney, in one mad rush to find hidden treasure, before these other crazy nuts do. This is one of those few movies where an all-star cast works quite well.  I find, even with repeated viewings, it utterly impossible to watch without belly laughing.
The Music Man (1962) In this all-time favorite musical of mine, Buddy Hackett plays Marcellus Washburn, friend to the lead Professor Harold Hill played by Robert Preston. I cannot see anyone else in this role.
Bud and Lou (1978) This made-for-TV movie about the famous comedy duo Bud Abbott, played by Harvey Korman and Lou Costello, played by Buddy Hackett is very moving.  Harvey Korman also does an excellent job.
Walking My Baby Back Home (1953) In Buddy Hackett's first film, he plays Blimp Edwards, friend to the lead Clarence 'Jigger' Millard, played by Donald O'Connor. It is interesting to note that in this film, Donald O'Connor can be found in black face for a Minstrel Show number, along with Buddy Hackett doing what was once regarded as extremely popular, his portrayal of a Chinese waiter.  In time, Buddy Hackett removed that impersonation from his night club act.  When asked why, he responded that it was no longer funny.

*Recommendations contributed by: "Elizabeth Van Cleve Randolph" Date: Mon, Aug 11, 2014 / 07:29:38 PDT
"Buddy Hackett, the Best Friend with the Big Heart" contributed by: ClassicLiz / "Elizabeth Van Cleve Randolph" Date: Mon, Aug 11, 2014 / 07:29:38 PDT