In the summer of 1959, a talent scout from Warner Bros. saw the heavy-set Victor Buono play Falstaff at the Globe and took him to Hollywood for a screen test. 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 nearly every Grade “A” private eye series on TV and also appearing 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 part of the ne’er-do-well musical accompanist, Edwin Flagg, a performance that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. 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 & The Strangler  where he portrayed Leo Kroll, a film based on the actual Boston Strangler Murders of the time.. 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) and The Mad Butcher (1972).
Though Victor 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 CBS’s 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 ABC 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 ABC’s The Untouchables, titled “Mr. Moon”, where he played a San Francisco art and antique dealer who hijacks a supply of the paper used for 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 CBS anthology series, GE True, hosted by Jack Webb, Buono plays a barber in Los Angeles, who is by night a pyromaniac. In the story line, the United States Forest Service believes one arsonist is causing a series of fires in California. The episode also stars Keith Andes and Arch Johnson.
Victor Buono appeared in four episodes of CBS’s legal drama Perry Mason. In season 5, 1962, he portrayed Alexander Glovatsky, a small-town sculptor, in “The Case of the Absent Artist”. In season 7, 1964, he played murderer John (Jack) Sylvester Fossette in the episode “The Case of the Simple Simon”. In season 8, 1965 he played murderer Nathon Fallon in “The Case of the Grinning Gorilla.” In season 9, 1966, he appeared in the only color episode, “The Case of the Twice Told Twist” as Ben Huggins, the ring leader of a car stripping ring. Buono played King Tut on the 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. 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 episode “The Cyborg.”
Victor 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 ABC 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 NBC’s Night Gallery titled “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” He also appeared in a 1973 episode of Hawaii Five-O (episode 15). He made two memorable appearances on ABC’s 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 the NBC situation comedy The Practice, portraying Bernard in the episode “Jules and the Bum.” He also made nine appearances in the NBC series Man from Atlantis (1977). In the late 1970s and in 1980, Buono played the millionaire father of memory-impaired Reverend Jim Ignatowski on Taxi. Buono died before the end of the series and another actor briefly assumed the role. The character was eventually killed off, followed by an episode where Jim learns to cope with his father’s death. In 1980, Victor Buono appeared in the TV 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. Victor Buono was found dead at his home in Apple Valley, California, on New Year’s Day 1982; he died of a sudden heart attack. He is entombed with his mother Myrtle in Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, but his name is not inscribed on the crypt.
- February, 03, 1938
- San Diego, California
- January, 01, 1982
- Apple Valley, California
Cause of Death
- heart attack
- Greenwood Memorial Park
- San Diego, California