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Red_Buttons

Red Buttons

Red Buttons (February 5, 1919July 13, 2006) was an American comedian and actor.

Biography

Early life

Red Buttons was born Aaron Chwatt on February 5, 1919 in New York City to Jewish immigrants. At sixteen years old, Buttons got a job as an entertaining bellhop at Ryan's Tavern in City Island, Bronx. The combination of his red hair and the shiny buttoned bellhop uniform inspired orchestra leader Charles "Dinty" Moore to call him Red Buttons, the name under which he would later perform.

Later that same summer, Buttons worked on the Borscht Belt; his straight man was Robert Alda. In 1939, Buttons started working for Minsky's Burlesque; in 1941, José Ferrer chose Buttons to appear in a Broadway show The Admiral Had a Wife. The show was a farce set in Pearl Harbor, and it was due to open on December 8 1941. It never did, as it was deemed inappropriate after the Japanese attack. In later years Buttons would joke that the Japanese only attacked Pearl Harbor to keep him off Broadway.

Career

In September 1942, Buttons at last got his Broadway debut in Vickie with Ferrer and Uta Hagen. Later that year, he appeared in the Minsky's show Wine, Women and Song; this was the last Burlesque show in New York City history, as the Mayor La Guardia administration closed it down. Buttons was on stage when the show was raided.

1943 saw Buttons in the Army Air Corps. He was chosen to appear in the Broadway show Winged Victory, as well as appearing in the Darryl F. Zanuck movie version. He later went on to entertain troops in the European Theater of operations in the same unit as Mickey Rooney.

After the war, Buttons continued to do Broadway shows. He also performed at Broadway movie houses with the Big Bands. In 1952, Buttons received his own variety series on television - The Red Buttons Show ran for three years, and achieved high levels of success. His catch phrase from the show, "strange things are happening," entered the national vocabulary briefly in the mid-1950s.

His role in Sayonara was a dramatic departure from his previous work. In that film, he played Joe Kelly, an American airman stationed in Kobe, Japan during the Korean War, who falls in love with Katsumi, a Japanese woman (played by Miyoshi Umeki), but is barred from marrying her by military rules intended to reassure the local populace that the U.S. presence is temporary. His portrayal of Kelly's calm resolve not to abandon the relationship and touching reassurance of Katsumi impressed audiences and critics alike; both he and Umeki won Academy Awards for the film. After his Oscar-winning role, Buttons performed in numerous feature films, including Hatari!, The Longest Day, Harlow, The Poseidon Adventure, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Pete's Dragon, and 18 Again! with George Burns. Buttons also made many memorable TV appearances on programs including Little House on the Prairie, It's Garry Shandling's Show, ER and Roseanne.

He became a nationally recognizable comedian, and his "Never Got A Dinner" sketch was a standard at the Dean Martin roasts for many years.

Number 71 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time, Buttons received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for television, located at 1651 Vine Street.

Personal life

Buttons was married to actress Roxanne Arlen in 1947, but it soon ended in divorce. His next marriage was to Helayne McNorton, from December 8, 1949 until 1963. His last marriage was to Alicia Pratt, which lasted from January 27 1964 until her death in March 2001. Buttons had two children, daughter Amy Buttons and son Adam Buttons. He was the advertising spokesman for the Century Village, Florida retirement community.

Buttons was an early member of the Synagogue for the Performing Arts, and at the time, Rabbi Jerome Cutler was the Rabbi.

Death

Buttons died of vascular disease on July 13, 2006 at his home in the Century City area of Los Angeles. Buttons had been ill for some time and was with family members when he died.

Filmography

Year Film Role Other notes
1947 Winged Victory Whitey/Andrews Sister as Cpl. Red Buttons
13 Rue Madeleine Second Jump Master uncredited
1951 Footlight Varieties Himself
1957 Sayonara Airman Joe Kelly Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated - BAFTA Award for most promising newcomer
1958 Imitation General Cpl. Chan Derby
1959 The Big Circus Randy Sherman
1961 One, Two, Three MP sergeant uncredited
1962 Hatari! Pockets
Five Weeks in a Balloon Donald O'Shay
The Longest Day Pvt. John Steele
Gay Purr-ee Robespierre voice
1963 A Ticklish Affair Uncle Cy
1964 Your Cheatin' Heart Shorty Younger
1965 Up from the Beach Pfc. Harry Devine
Harlow Arthur Landau Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1966 Stagecoach Peacock
1969 The Moviemakers Himself short subject
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Sailor Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1971 Who Killed Mary What's 'Er Name? Mickey
1972 The Poseidon Adventure James Martin
1976 Gable and Lombard Ivan Cooper
1977 Viva Knievel! Ben Andrews
Pete's Dragon Hoagy
1978 Movie Movie Peanuts/Jinks Murphy
1979 C.H.O.M.P.S. Bracken
1980 When Time Ran Out Francis Fendly
1985 Alice in Wonderland The White Rabbit
1988 18 Again! Charlie
1990 The Ambulance Elias Zacharai
1994 It Could Happen to You Walter Zakuto
1999 The Story of Us Arnie Jordan
2001 Odessa or Bust The Old Man short subject
2004 Goodnight, We Love You documentary
2005 Sid Bernstein Presents... Himself documentary

References

External links

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