Dee Caruso, a Writer on Classic 1960s Sitcoms, Dies at 83

He and partner Gerald Gardner worked on “Get Smart,” “The Monkees” and “Gilligan’s Island.”

Dee Caruso, one-half of the comedy writing team who worked on TV’s Get Smart and The Monkees and the Disney film The World’s Greatest Athlete, died May 27 of pneumonia at his Brentwood home in Los Angeles. He was 83.

Most recently, Caruso served as a professor of screenwriting at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television for more than two decades. Before that, he and his wife of 47 years, Sandra, taught a class called “What’s Funny, What's Not” in the UCLA Extension. She survives him.

Caruso got his start working for such nightclub comedians as Allen & Rossi (Marty Allen and Steve Rossi) and Don Adams. He and his writing partner, Gerald Gardner, served as the head writers for Get Smart, the 1960s spy spoof that starred Adams and was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry.

In addition for writing 22 epsiodes of The Monkees, the pair produced and/or wrote for The Red Skeleton Hour, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Bill Cosby Show, What’s Happening!! and Gilligan’s Island (a memorable episode with guest star Phil Silvers). They also wrote for Don Adams’ Screen Test, a 1975 game show that featured contestants re-enacting famous scenes from movies.

Caruso and Gardner shared a primetime Emmy nomination with Henry and several others in 1965 for their writing on the series That Was the Week That Was, starring David Frost.

The duo’s film résumé included Jerry Lewis war satire Which Way to the Front? (1970), The World's Greatest Athlete (1973) starring Jan-Michael Vincent and Doin’ Time (1985).

Caruso and Gardner also teamed for several telefilms, including Break Up (1973) with Bernadette Peters and How to Break Up a Happy Divorce (1976), starring Barbara Eden.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles.