Red Buttons was a Jewish American comedian and Academy Award winning actor.
He was born Aaron Chwatt on February 5, 1919,
York City. He won an amateur night contest at age of 12. At the
age of 16 years old, he got a job as an entertaining bellhop at Ryan’s
Tavern in City Island, Bronx. It was there that he adopted the stage
name “Red Buttons.” In 1939, Buttons started working for
Minsky’s Burlesque. Then in 1941, he was chosen to perform in
a Broadway show The Admiral Had a Wife, but the show never opened,
as it was deemed inappropriate after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
In September 1942, Buttons at last got his Broadway
debut in the show Vickie. Later that year, he also appeared in
the show Wine, Women and Song; this was the last burlesque show
in New York City history.
In 1943, Buttons was drafted in the Army Air Corps
during World War II. He was also chosen to perform in the Broadway show Winged Victory. He went on to entertain troops in the European
Theatre of operations. After the war, Buttons continued to do Broadway
In 1952, Buttons received his own variety series on
television- The Red Buttons Show. The show ran for three years,
and was considered very successful; Buttons even won an Emmy for Best
He won an Academy Award and Golden Globe as Best Supporting
Actor for his portrayal of Airman Joe Kelly in Sayonara (1957).
His role in Sayonara was a dramatic departure from his previous
comical work. After his Oscar-winning role, Buttons performed in numerous
feature films, including The Longest Day, Harlow (1966,
nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor), They Shoot
Horses, Don't They? (1970, nominated for a Golden Globe for Best
Supporting Actor) and The Poseidon Adventure. He also made many
memorable TV appearances on programs including It’s Garry Shandling’s
Buttons died on July 13, 2006, in Los Angeles, California.
He is #71 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups
of All Time.
Sources: “Red Buttons (1919 - 2006).” American
Jewish Historical Society, American
Jewish Desk Reference, (NY: Random
House, 1999). pg. 440. Wikipedia, IMDB