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Red Buttons Biography

  • Profession: Actor
  • Born: Feb 5, 1919
  • Died: Jul 13, 2006
  • Birth Name: Aaron Chwatt

The son of a milliner from New York City's Lower East Side, Aaron Chwatt became a performer after winning an amateur contest at age 12. Six years later he was a singing bellboy in a Bronx tavern. It is from the uniform that he took his famous moniker, Red Buttons. A talented and versatile performer of stage, screen, and television, Buttons is equally at home in dramatic or comedic roles, but it was as a burlesque comedian working in the Catskills Mountains that he first made a name for himself. Buttons first appeared on Broadway playing a supporting role in Vickie (1942). Buttons appeared in the play Winged Victory a short while later, and he reprised his role in the 1944 screen version. In 1952, the red-haired comedian starred in the CBS television series The Red Buttons Show. Extremely popular during its first season -- Button's distinctive theme song in which he'd clap his hands together as if in prayer and sing, "Ho Ho! He He! Ha Ha! Strange things are happening!" was a sort of hit amongst American kids -- it was a blend of variety acts and a weekly sitcom. The show declined in popularity its second season and was canceled, then picked up by NBC the following year where it ran in different formats until 1955. Button's career went into decline, but the feisty little performer made an auspicious comeback playing a love-struck American soldier who defies the racist policies of the U.S. military and marries a Japanese woman in the tragic [[Feature~V43047~Sayonara~sayonara]] (1957). His role landed him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. After that Buttons became a prolific character actor who could always be counted upon to bring an extra dinemsion of believablity to the roles he played. From television to film it was always an adventure for Buttons, with his role as a soft-spoken survivor in The Poseidon Adventure and small screen roles in The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, The Cosby Show, and Roseanne serving well to keep the amiable actor busy and in the public eye. At the 2005 Emmys, Buttons was nominated for a "Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series" for his recurring role as Jules "Ruby" Rubadoux in the long-running medical drama ER. Just one year later Buttons would succumb to vascular disease at the age of 87. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi