Barbara Feldon Played Agent 99 on "Get Smart." See Her Now at 88.
Find out why the iconic actor thinks the classic comedy wouldn't work today.
Viewers never found out Agent 99's real name on Get Smart, but true fans will remember that the actor who portrayed the spy was named Barbara Feldon. It's been over 50 years since Get Smart—which aired from 1965 to 1970—went off the air. Star Don Adams passed away in 2005 at the age of 82, and Feldon is now 88 years old. Feldon hasn't been active as an actor in recent years, but she remained busy after Get Smart and you probably came across some of her TV appearances. In addition to acting, she also took on another career as a writer. Read on to learn more about Feldon's life in the days since she hung up her secret agent gear.
Barbara Feldon continued acting for years.
Following Get Smart—for which she was nominated for two Emmys—Feldon continued to act for decades. She had roles in theater productions and on number of TV series and movies, including Cheers and Mad About You. She also reprised her role as Agent 99 in the 1989 movie Get Smart, Again! Feldon's last on-screen role was in the 2006 film The Last Request.
She wrote a book in 2003.
In 2003, Feldon wrote a book titled Living Alone and Loving It: A Guide to Relishing the Solo Life. It was inspired by her own experience with living on her own after spending much of her life with a partner.
"I had been in relationships my whole life," she told Forbes in 2016. "I'd been married, then had lived with someone for several years. After those, I just assumed I would find another relationship. But it didn't happen. As time went on with some good guidance, I learned how to live alone really happily. I've met a number of people—men and women—who feel living by themselves is a second-rate life. I thought that was sad, and since I had this technique of living alone, I decided to write a book."
Feldon added that people have written to thank her for sharing her advice. "We are so influenced by our culture, and as far back as we can remember, it has been a married one," she said. "But times have changed."
Feldon has been open about her personal life.
Feldon was married to Lucien Verdoux-Feldon for nine years, from 1958 to 1967. Soon after, she entered a lengthy relationship with Get Smart producer Burt Nodella. She spoke about her personal life in the interview with Forbes and talked about not having children. "It just didn't happen. Time went by and my life was just a different kind of life," she said.
Her character Agent 99, on the other hand, had twins. "I must say, though, that during the period where we were shooting and I was wearing that big pregnancy pad, I was like, 'Whoa, I'm quite not sure this would be fun,'" she recalled. "There are so many ways to be happy, and you can be happy with children. I know I would have been if I had had them. But you can be happy without them, too, and I have been."
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She thinks Get Smart wouldn't work today.
During an interview with Studio 10 in 2019, Feldon said that she thinks Get Smart worked when it came out because it was "a more innocent time." She explained, "The character of 99 I don't think could be done today, because women are much more assertive now than they were. I don't think the softness, the deference to men that she had, which was left over from the 1950s. And yet her independence, which was presaging the feminist movement in the late '60s. I think it had to be in its time. I think it needs to remain there like a bug in a crystal."
Feldon told The Journal News in 2017 that at the time of the show, she didn't even question why she didn't get to use all the spy equipment that Adams did. "The fact is, I was so un-evolved myself at that time that I never even questioned why I couldn't play with the big toys," she said.
Get Smart was remade in 2008 as a movie starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. "I thought it was entertaining," Feldon said. "But it wasn't the same. It couldn't be. The characters we played were from such an innocent time. It had its own flavor and you couldn't remake it."
Feldon has shared her favorite part of the show.
Feldon told Forbes that her favorite episodes of Get Smart were the ones in which she got to wear costumes. "I always loved when we got to dress up and play, like we were in kindergarten," she said. "I loved the one where Don [Adams] and I are disguised as Charlie Chaplin, both of us, with mustaches and everything. It's in the episode Max proposes to Agent 99 because they think they're going to be killed, so he's pressed to the wall. I loved doing that imitation wearing the costume and being proposed to in a mustache."
She summed up the show to Studio 10, saying, "It was silly. It was lovely to be silly. And there was some really sharp, playful commentary."