Barbara Feldon

Barbara Feldon

Feldon as Agent 99 in Get Smart, 1965
Born Barbara Anne Hall
(1933-03-12) March 12, 1933
Butler, Pennsylvania, United States
Occupation Actress, model, television host, writer
Years active 1957–present
Spouse(s) Lucien Verdoux-Feldon (1958-1967; divorced)
Partner(s) Burt Nodella (1968-1979)

Barbara Feldon (born March 12, 1933) is an American character actress who works mostly in the theatre, but is primarily known for her roles on television. Her most prominent role was that of Agent 99 on the 1960s sitcom Get Smart. She also worked as a model.[1][2]

Early life

Feldon was born Barbara Anne Hall in Butler, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. She graduated from Bethel Park High School and trained at Pittsburgh Playhouse.[3] In 1955 she graduated from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) as a Bachelor of Arts in drama. She was initiated into the Delta Xi Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma. In 1957, she won the grand prize on The $64,000 Question in the category of William Shakespeare.[4][5]


Following some work as a model, Feldon's break came in the form of a popular and much parodied television commercial for "Top Brass", a hair pomade for men. Lounging languidly on an animal print rug, she purred at the camera, addressing the male viewers as "tigers".[6]

This led to small roles in television series. In the 1960s, she made appearances on Twelve O'Clock High, Lorne Greene's Griff, Flipper, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (in "The Never-Never Affair"). In 1964, she appeared with Simon Oakland in the episode "Try to Find a Spy" of CBS's short-lived drama Mr. Broadway.

One substantial guest-starring role was opposite George C. Scott in the TV drama East Side/West Side (S1 E19). It was produced by Talent Associates, who were also developing a TV comedy, with two prominent writers, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. They created Get Smart, an Emmy Award-winning spy comedy series.[7]

Feldon was cast in this new show, as "Agent 99". She starred opposite comedian Don Adams, who portrayed Maxwell Smart, Secret Agent 86. She played the role for the duration of the show's production from 1965 until 1970, and was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1968 and 1969.

The character was unusual for the era, showing a capable woman in a stressful career.[8] Feldon noted "A lot of women said 99 was a role model for them. Because she was smart and always got the right answer."[9]

Feldon made guest appearances five times on The Dean Martin Show from 1968 to 1972, singing and dancing, as well as performing in comedy skits. She also appeared on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. After her starring TV role, she guest-starred in several 1970s television series, including The Name of the Game and McMillan & Wife.

Her TV movies include Let's Switch! (1975) with Barbara Eden, and the cult-classic thriller A Vacation in Hell (1979) with Maureen McCormick and Priscilla Barnes.

Feldon's feature films included Fitzwilly (1967), Smile (1975) and No Deposit, No Return (1976). Her last film to date is 2006's The Last Request, a crime comedy with Danny Aiello and Joe Piscopo.

Feldon reprised her role as "Agent 99" in the made-for-television film Get Smart, Again! (1989) and a short-lived television series also titled Get Smart in 1995. She provided audio commentaries and introductions for the DVD release of the original Get Smart series in 2006 but did not take part in the 2008 film adaptation that starred Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart. Feldon guest-starred as a former TV spy star on a 1993 episode (S1 E20) of Mad About You, as Diane "Spy Girl" Caldwell.

For one year, she was a co-host, with Bob Eubanks, of the annual January 1 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

Feldon has done much narration and voice-over work. Her distinctive voice has been heard in numerous TV and radio commercials as well as film and TV documentaries.

Personal life

Feldon has served as the actress's last name since her marriage to Lucien Verdoux-Feldon in 1958. The pair divorced in 1967 and Feldon then began a relationship with Get Smart producer Burt Nodella. That union lasted 12 years and upon its ending Feldon moved back to New York City where she resides. She wrote a book, Living Alone and Loving It, in 2003.[10] Barbara Feldon will still occasionally act in off-Broadway plays, but she is "no longer interested in performing." Feldon is an accomplished writer, and is still actively creating content. In 2015, she had two editorial pieces featured in Metropolitan Magazine.[11][12]


  1. Miller, Laura. "At Home With Agent 99". Salon Media Group, Inc. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  2. Rahner, Mark (November 12, 2006). "Classic "Get Smart" on DVD: Q&A with Barbara Feldon, Agent 99". Seattle Times. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  3. Conner, Lynne (2007). Pittsburgh In Stages: Two Hundred Years of Theater. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 152; ISBN 978-0-8229-4330-3. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  4. "$64,000 Question aka $64,000 Challenge".
  5. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette archives July 5, 2013 Retrieved August 11, 2015
  6. Top Brass commercial on YouTube
  7. Battaglio, Stephen David Susskind: A Televised Life page 176 ISBN 0312610513 December 6, 2011
  8. Cynthia Rose (ed.). "Television and the Feminine Mystique". American Decades Primary Sources. Vol. 7: 1960-1969. Detroit: Gale, p396-399. ©2004. 2005
  9. Lisanti, Tom; Paul, Louis (April 10, 2002). "Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1962-1973". page 127, ISBN 978-0786411948
  10. The Augusta Chronicle 11/5/06
  11. "Metropolitan Magazine - 165 Perry Street".
  12. "Metropolitan Magazine - Puck Penthouse".


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