The Top Brass commercial gave Barbara some public recognition. It also made an impression on Leonard Stern a prominent film and television producer and director. Stern was getting ready to produce a spy spoof called Get Smart and he thought Barbara would be right for the part of the alluring Agent 99, the leading female character in the show.
Get Smart debuted on NBC on September 18, 1965 with Barbara Feldon in the role of 99. She was reluctant to commit to the series and only signed for four episodes. After filming the pilot, she agreed to a three-year contract instead of the traditional five-year contract. When Don Adams first met Barbara, he was not thrilled about the fact that she was taller than he. In order to accommodate her co-star, she wore flats and agreed to slouch or go barefoot. Although her poor posture was noticeable to viewers, Barbara told the Archive of American Television that "Don would have liked a shorter leading lady, and I wanted to please my co-star."
In a 2016 interview with Jim Clash for Forbes magazine, Barbara stated the following: "If I were doing a scene in a desert, Don would dig a hole for me. When we walked into a room together, I was taller. By the time we got to the close-up, I was two inches (5.08 centimetres) shorter due to my ability to slouch effectively."
Despite the difference in height, Don and Barbara really worked well together. According to Ed Robertson, host of the TV Confidential podcast, "Barbara and Don Adams were one the great comedy pairings of the '60s. She was basically the straight man to Don Adams. There would be a little sarcasm toward the end of their run, but basically her job was to prop up Maxwell Smart and she did a marvelous job."
The beautiful and intelligent Agent 99 was the perfect foil for the bumbling Maxwell Smart. Yet, Agent 99's name was never revealed during the run of the series. Even though she and Max wed during he show's fourth season, he continued to call her "99." Slightly more than a year after their marriage, Agent 99 gave birth to twins, a son named Zachery and a daughter whose name, like her mother's, was never revealed.
Below is the wedding photo of Agent 99 and Maxwell Smart.
In 1968, Barbara agreed to a two-year extension of her 1965 Get Smart contract. In 1969, NBC cancelled the show after four seasons. However, it was picked up by CBS for what would turn out to be its final season. Barbara stayed with the series until it ended its run. On May 15, 1970, Get Smart went off the air after five seasons and 138 episodes.
After Get Smart, Barbara Feldon's acting career slowed down, due to typecasting. However, that didn't seem to faze Barbara, who told Forbes magazine that she didn't find the typecasting confining. "I was just happy to be working back then," she said. "I was too busy to be thinking about that.." She continued to do voice overs for TV commercials and she guest-starred on a number of television shows such as Medical Center (1973), McMillan and Wife (1973), Cheers (1991) and Mad About You (1993). She also appeared in a slew of TV movies such as Let's Switch (1975), in which she co-starred with Barbara Eden, A Guide for the Married Woman, Sooner of Later (1979), Before and After (1979), Children of Divorce (1980).
Barbara reprised her role as Agent 99 in the 1989 ABC television film Get Smart Again! In 1995, she reunited with Don Adams in a short-lived revival of Get Smart on the Fox network. In the updated series, Maxwell Smart was now the chief of CONTROL and Agent 99 served as a Congresswoman in charge of CONTROL's budget. Max and 99 had to deal with their son, Zach Smart, who was also a newly bumbling new secret agent. The series was a springtime replacement and was essentially cancelled before it even aired. A Fox executive revealed that the network had no intention of picking it up after its initial run. Don Adams appeared in all seven episodes and Barbara Feldon appeared in five.
Although retired from acting, Barbara still attends Get Smart fan and nostalgia conventions on occasion. She has noted that the submissive nature of Agent 99 could not be portrayed on television today because woman are far more assertive.
In 1958, Barbara Hall wed photographer and artist's representative Lucien Verdoux-Feldon (A Closer Weekly article refers to him as an "ad man"). Barbara took "Feldon" as her last name but the marriage did not last. The couple divorced in 1967 and did not have any children together. In 1968, while in Los Angeles, Barbara began a relationship with Get Smart producer Burt Nodella. The couple were together. from 1968 to 1979. In 1980, after the dissolution of the relationship, Barbara returned to New York City, where she still resides. She felt she felt the need to shake her life up, so she bought a townshouse in Manhattan and never looked back.
"When I left Hollywood, I threw my life in the air," Barbara told The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, California. "I went to New York to see what would happen. To me, a person's life is like a kaleidoscope. You hold it still and look at the beads making a set pattern. Then you turn it a little and everything changes. Well I needed that sort of change. I gave the kaleidoscope of my life a real big twist."
Jim Colucci, an author who sat down with Barbara Feldon for a 3-hour Television Academy Foundation interview at her her New York home, said the following about his impression of her: "She is so cultured and has kind of a waspy persona. The way she describes it in our interview (for the Archives of American Television), she talks about her father's family as being very English and proper and puritanical, and that she preferred her mother's Scottish side of the family, who were warm and musical and fun. What's funny is that she could be patrician if she wanted to be, but she's also very warm, and it's a great combination."
* In 1957, Barbara Feldon won the grand prize on the then-popular quiz show The $64,000 Question. She won by correctly answering a series of questions in the category of William Shakespeare and then increased her earnings to $96,000. Barbara had an avid interest in books and ballet as a child and she studied Shakespeare while a drama student at Carnegie Institute of Technology.
* Barbar admitted that she was "too young" and didn't quite know what to do with her winnings from The $64,000 Question. She invested some of the money, "some wisely, some I didn't." One of her investments was an art gallery with Lucien Verdoux-Feldon, whom she later married. The art gallery didn't last long.
Below is a 1956 photo of Barbara with actor and singer/dancer Gene Kelly, who was the The $64,000 Question's master of ceremonies. Both Barbara and Gene grew up in the Pittsburgh area and they were both dancers.
* Barbara's favourite episode of Get Smart is "The Impossible Mission," (Season 4, Episode 1, Air Date: September 21, 1968), due to the costumes and romance. In the episode, Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 are trapped in a television station's control room. Escape seems impossible and Max confesses that he wants to spend the rest of his life with 99, A lovestruck 99 takes that as a marriage proposal.
* Don Adams, Barbara's co-star on Get Smart, died on September 25, 2005 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Don was 82 years old at the time of his passing and had suffered from lymphoma and lung infection.
* Edward Platt, the "Chief" on Get Smart, was found dead in his Santa Monica, California apartment on March 19, 1974 after committing suicide. According to his family, he suffered from depression. Ed Platt was 58 years old at the time of his passing.
* Barbara's ex-partner, television producer Burt Nodella (also known as Cary Nodella), died on February 23, 2016.
* For her role as Agent 99, Barbara was nominated twice for Primetime Emmy Awards, in 1968 and 1969.
* Barbara Feldon is the author of a self-help book entitled Living Alone and Loving It: A Guide to Relishing the Solo Life. The book was published in 2003. It is a memoir that chronicles how she dealt with being alone after her divorce from Lucien Feldon and the end of her long relationship with Burt Nodella. Barbara's memoir is a declaration of the benefits of being on one's own, without dependence on a romantic partner.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Barbara Feldon and 'The $64,000 Question," by Marylynne Pitz, July 5, 2013; The Pennsylvania Center For The Book website; Closer Weekly, "Here's What Happened to Barbara Feldon Before, During and After Playing Agent 99 on 'Get Smart'," by Ed Gross, July 2, 2020; Forbes, "Barbara Feldon (Agent 99)):Why I Did 'Get Smart' in Bare Feet," by Jim Clash, March 25, 2016; Wikipedia; IMDb (Internet Move Database)