Victor Buono

Victor Charles Buono (February 3, 1938  January 1, 1982) was an American actor, comic, and briefly a recording artist. He was known for playing the villain King Tut on the television series Batman (1966–1968) and musician Edwin Flagg in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), the latter of which earned him Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations. 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 he was.

Victor Buono
Victor Charles Buono

(1938-02-03)February 3, 1938
DiedJanuary 1, 1982(1982-01-01) (aged 43)
  • Actor
  • comic
  • recording artist
Years active1959–1981

Early life and career

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.

He started appearing on local radio and television stations, and at age 18 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 series on TV and appeared 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 ne'er-do-well musical accompanist Edwin Flagg, a performance for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture.

Noteworthy film roles

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, and in The Strangler, a film based on the actual Boston Strangler Murders of the time, he portrayed Leo Kroll.

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), The Mad Butcher (1972) and The Evil (1978).

Television roles

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 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 western series The Rebel, starring Nick Adams, in the episodes "Blind Marriage" and "The Earl of Durango". In 1962, he played Melanthos Moon in an episode of The Untouchables, titled "Mr. Moon", where he played a San Francisco art and antique dealer who hijacked a supply of the paper used for printing United States currency. In a 1963 episode of the same series, 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 anthology series GE True, hosted by Jack Webb, Buono plays a barber in Los Angeles, who is by night a pyromaniac. In the storyline, the United States Forest Service believes one arsonist is causing a series of fires in California.[3]

Buono appeared in four episodes of Perry Mason. In season 5, (March 17, 1962), he portrayed Alexander Glovatsky, a small-town sculptor, in "The Case of the Absent Artist".[4] In season 7, (April 2, 1964), he played murderer John (Jack) Sylvester Fossette in the episode "The Case of the Simple Simon".[5] In season 8, (April 29, 1965) he played murderer Nathon Fallon in "The Case of the Grinning Gorilla".[6] In season 9, (February 27, 1966), he appeared in "The Case of the Twice Told Twist", the only color episode, as Ben Huggins, the ringleader of a car-stripping ring.[7]

Buono played the villain King Tut on the television series Batman. A Jekyll-and-Hyde character, William McElroy is a timid Yale professor of Egyptology 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.[8]

He played another villain in a 1967 unsold TV pilot film based on the Dick Tracy comic strip.

Buono also played a scientist bent on world domination in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in an episode titled "The Cyborg".

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 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 Night Gallery titled "Satisfaction Guaranteed". He also appeared in an episode of Hawaii Five-O, "The $100,000 Nickel", in which he played thief Eric Damien. It first aired on December 11, 1973.[9] He made two memorable appearances on 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 comedy The Practice, portraying Bernard on the episode "Jules and the Bum". He also made nine appearances on the 1977 series Man from Atlantis, appearing all nine times as Mr. Schubert, the enemy of the main character.

Comedy record albums and comic poetry

In the 1970s, Buono released several comedy record albums which poked fun at his large stature, the first of which was Heavy!,[10] as well as a book of comic poetry called It Could Be Verse.[11] He began to style himself as "the fat man from Batman". 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 or Jackie Gleason. 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.[12]

Later career

In the late 1970s and in 1980, Buono played the millionaire father of the memory-impaired Reverend Jim Ignatowski on Taxi. Buono died before the end of the series. One episode was made where Jim learns to cope with his father's death.

In 1980, Buono appeared in the television 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.[13] He is entombed with his mother, Myrtle, in Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, but his name is not inscribed on the crypt.[14]

Personal life

Buono liked to read and write, and one of his main interests was Shakespeare. "The more you study him," he said, "the greater he grows."[2] He was also highly regarded as a gourmet chef.[15]

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..."[16] Buono was unusual among gay performers of his era by openly living together with same-sex partners,[17] and referred to himself as a "conscientious objector" in the "morality revolution" of the 1960s.[17]

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


Year Title Role Notes
1960 The Story of Ruth Guard Uncredited
1961 Judgment at Nuremberg Courtroom Spectator Uncredited
1962 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Edwin Flagg Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1963 My Six Loves Gatecrasher Uncredited
1963 4 for Texas Harvey Burden
1964 The Strangler Leo Kroll
1964 Robin and the 7 Hoods Deputy Sheriff Alvin Potts
1964 Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte Big Sam Hollis
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told High Priest Sorak
1965 Young Dillinger Professor Hoffman
1966 The Silencers Tung-Tze
1967 Who's Minding the Mint? The Captain
1969 Target: Harry Mosul Rashi Alternative title: How to Make It
1969 Big Daddy A. Lincoln Beauregard Alternative title: Paradise Road
1969 Boot Hill Honey Fisher
1970 Beneath the Planet of the Apes Adiposo / Fat man
1970 Up Your Teddy Bear Lyle "Skippy" Ferns
1970 Tout Va Bien
1971 The Mad Butcher Otto Lehman Alternative title: The Strangler of Vienna
1971 The Man with Icy Eyes John Hammond
1971 Temporada salvaje
1972 The Wrath of God Jennings
1972 Goodnight, My Love Julius Limeway TV Movie
1972 Northeast of Seoul Portman
1973 Arnold The Minister
1974 Moonchild Maitre'd
1976 Don Carmelo il capo
1978 The Evil The Devil Cameo appearance
1978 The Chinese Caper Everett Maddox Alternative title: China Heat
1979 Better Late Than Never Dr. Zoltan Polos
1980 The Man with Bogart's Face Commodore Anastas Alternative title: Sam Marlow, Private Eye
1982 The Flight of Dragons Aragh Voice, Alternative title: Flight of the Dragon (final film role)
Year Title Role Notes
1958 Sea Hunt Seminard 1 episode
1960 Bourbon Street Beat Joe Leslie 1 episode
Surfside 6 Mr. Beamish 1 episode
1961 The Everglades Wikkament 1 episode
1962 The New Breed Manrique 1 episode
1962 Perry Mason Forsette 1 episode
1962 Perry Mason Alexander Glovatsky 1 episode
1963 GE True Charles Colvin 1 episode
1965 The Wild Wild West Juan Manolo 1 episode
1965 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Dr. Tabor Ulrich 1 episode
1965 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre General Leo Chareet 3 episodes
1966 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Colonel Hubris 1 episode
1966–1968 Batman Professor William McElroy / King Tut 10 episodes
1966 I Spy Karafatma 1 episode
1967 The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Sir Cecil Seabrook 1 episode
1967 T.H.E. Cat General Burek 1 episode
1967 Daniel Boone Milo Quaife 1 episode
1968 The Wild Wild West Count Carlos Maria Vincenzo Robespierre Manzeppi 2 episodes
1969 The Flying Nun Marko "The Magnificent" Antonio 1 episode
1969 Here's Lucy Mr. Vermillion 1 episode
1969 It Takes a Thief Mr. Kent 1 episode
1970 Get Smart Hannibal Day 1 episode
1970 O'Hara, U.S. Treasury Al Connors 1 episode
1972 The Mod Squad Alexander Vlahos 1 episode
1973 Mannix Hamilton Starr 1 episode
1973 Orson Welles Great Mysteries Sam Adelbert 1 episode
1973 Hawaii Five-O Eric Damien 1 episode
1973-1975 The Odd Couple Dr. Clove / Hugo Lovelace 2 episodes
1976 Ellery Queen Dr. Friedland 1 episode
1976 The Tony Randall Show Judge Bernard Gluck 1 episode
1976 Alice Mr. James 1 episode
1977 The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries Seth Taylor 1 episode
1979 Supertrain Misto 1 episode
1979 Man from Atlantis Mr. Schubert 9 episodes
1979 Backstairs at the White House William Howard Taft 2 episodes
1980 Taxi James Caldwell 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
1962 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


  1. "Victor Buono". Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  2. "Biography-Victor Buono". from 1965 Press Package. Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  3. "GE True". Classic Television Archive. Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  4. Perry Mason: The Fifth Season. Vol. 2. DVD Set. CBS Broadcasting Inc., 2010
  5. Perry Mason: The Seventh Season. Vol. 2. DVD Set. CBS Broadcasting Inc., 2012
  6. Perry Mason: The Eighth Season. Vol. 2. DVD Set. CBS Broadcasting Inc. 2013
  7. Perry Mason: The Final Season. Vol. 2. DVD Set. CBS Broadcasting Inc. 2013.
  8. "King Tut – Victor Buono". Bat-Mania.
  9. Hawaii 5-0: The Sixth Season. DVD Set. CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Paramount Pictures, 2009.
  10. Dore Records, LP-325
  11. Pitts, Michael R. (2002). Horror Film Stars. McFarland. p. 44. ISBN 0-7864-1052-3.
  12. MacDonald, Shari; Spangler, Ann (January 1, 2002). Don't Stop Laughing Now!. Zondervan. pp. 121. ISBN 0-310-23996-6.
  13. "Milestones". Time. 1982-01-18. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  14. Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Location 6296). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  15. Thise, Mark (2008). Hollywood Winners & Losers A to Z. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 23. ISBN 0-87910-351-5.
  16. 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.
  17. 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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