It’s his birthday today.
As someone whose family can (and does) recite What’s Up, Doc? from beginning to end – “What happened to Fritz?” “There is only me. Franz.” “Oh, what a SHAME.” – this is sad news! (My old friend Trav wrote up a tribute to Henry when Henry died in 2019.)
Here’s a story I came across just recently. It illuminates perfectly Buck Henry’s genius. It comes from an interview with Peter Bogdanovich at the AFI back in the 70s. Bogdanovich had the idea for this kooky story, a spin on the screwball comedies of the 1930s, featuring a dizzy dame, an absent-minded professor, and a hot-to-trot old lady, who all have the same style bag. Hijinx ensue when the bags get mixed up.
Bogdanovich brought the script/treatment to Buck Henry for feedback. Buck Henry sat there and read it all the way through. He thought a little bit. Then he said, “I think there needs to be one more bag.”
One more bag in play means one more level of confusion. Means more utter anarchy. If there were only three bags, the audience could easily keep track of each one. With four, you lose track. As a matter of fact, during filming Bogdanovich lost track at a couple different points. “I think we’ve lost one bag.”
To me, this small anecdote shows Buck Henry’s genius. He didn’t need weeks to come up with it. He read Bogdanovich’s first draft and he knew something wasn’t quite right.
“There needs to be one more bag.”