Buck Henry headshot, actor and writer, photo
FILE - Buck Henry, a comedian, writer and director, died Wednesday in Los Angeles of a heart attack.

American comedian, writer and director Buck Henry, who was behind one of the most influential films in history, has died of a heart attack. He was 89.

The Dartmouth-educated Henry first emerged in the late 1950s, playing a puritanical character who was offended by so-called naked animals and wanted them to wear clothes.

Many in the media failed to realize it was a joke and booked Henry's character on news and interview shows.

FILE - Key members of NBC's comedy, "The New Show," from left, Dave Thomas, Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels, Valri Bromfield, Jeff Goldblum, and Buck Henry, hold a news conference announcing the show in New York, Dec. 31, 1983.

In 1965, Henry co-created the television comedy Get Smart, a satire of James Bond. Instead of the smooth martini-drinking spy, the Get Smart lead character, Maxwell Smart, was a dense bumbler whose apologies to his boss of "Sorry about that, chief" became a national catch phrase.

Three years later, Henry co-wrote and appeared in The Graduate, a film that influenced generations of young people. In it, Dustin Hoffman played a former college student who had no ambition or clear idea of what he wanted to do with his life and wound up having an affair with a woman twice his age.

With a musical score by Simon and Garfunkel, Henry's script for The Graduate earned him his first Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay. His second nomination came 10 years later for the hugely popular film Heaven Can Wait. Henry’s other hit films included Catch-22 and What’s Up, Doc?

The short and bespectacled Henry, who died Wednesday in Los Angeles, also had appeared on numerous television comedy and variety shows.