Adams' friend and former agent, Bruce Tufeld, says the actor died of a lung infection Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He had broken his hip a year ago, says Tufeld, and had been in poor health ever since.
While his career spanned over 40 years, from appearances on the Ed Sullivan, Rosemary Clooney, and Merv Griffin shows, to the voice of cartoon characters Tennessee Tuxedo and Inspector Gadget, and guest roles on everything from "Playboy After Dark" to "The Love Boat," Maxwell Smart is the role for which he will be remembered.
"It was a special show that became a cult classic of sorts, and I made a lot of money for it," Adams once said in a 1995 interview. "But it also hindered me career-wise because I was typed. The character was so strong, particularly because of that distinctive voice, that nobody could picture me in any other type of role."
As big in its time as "Seinfeld," the "show about nothing," was in the 1990s, "Get Smart" allowed America to laugh about the world of spies that was the Cold War and the rapid pace of change in the 1960s, when it seemed that a new gadget was invented every day, sweeping away the familiar in favor of mysterious devices which might or might not work.
Spy gadgets inspired by and poking fun at the ones in the James Bond movies were a staple of "Get Smart," especially the shoe phone, Maxwell Smart's way out of many a tight spot — decades before cell phones burst onto the scene.
New roles for women and America's place in the world as defender of freedom were also major themes of the show, written by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry.
Adams as Agent 86 found himself constantly outpaced by brainy and beautiful Agent 99, portrayed by Barbara Feldon. And with World War II only twenty years in the past, it wasn't unusual for villains to have a distinct German accent.
As the inept Agent 86 of the super-secret federal agency CONTROL, Adams captivated TV viewers with his antics in combating the evil agents of KAOS. When his explanations failed to convince the villains or his boss, he tried another tack:
"Would you believe ... ?"
It became a national catchphrase.