Frank Buxton, Writer and Director on 'The Odd Couple' and 'Happy Days,' Dies at 87

Frank Buxton - Publicity - P 2017
Courtesy of John Kenyon Ellis

The voice of Batfink and host of kids TV shows, he enjoyed a close association with Garry Marshall and Woody Allen during his eclectic career.

Frank Buxton, who wrote and directed episodes of The Odd Couple and Happy Days and provided the voice of the 1960s cartoon superhero Batfink, has died. He was 87.

Buxton battled heart issues for some time and died Tuesday at Harrison Medical Center on Bainbridge Island in Washington, his friend John Kenyon Ellis told The Hollywood Reporter. "He was a hell of a guy and will be sorely missed," Ellis said.

Buxton wrote seven episodes of The Odd Couple, the 1970-75 ABC sitcom co-developed by Garry Marshall; the first one was the classic season-three installment "Password," which cleverly employed the name of the Greek playwright Aristophanes as Oscar (Jack Klugman) and Felix (Tony Randall) become game-show contestants.

Buxton also directed and produced episodes of The Odd Couple and worked on Happy Days and Mork & Mindy, two other Marshall sitcoms, as well. And he appeared onscreen in Beaches (1988) and Frankie and Johnny (1991), two features helmed by Marshall.

Buxton co-wrote and did redubbing work on Woody Allen's quirky directorial debut, What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), and he created the 1970-71 NBC kids documentary series Hot Dog that featured Allen, Jonathan Winters and Jo Anne Worley and won a Peabody Award.

Earlier, Buxton had teamed with actress Virginia Gibson (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) to host another acclaimed kids news show, ABC's Emmy-winning Discovery, which aired weekday afternoons and Sunday mornings starting in 1962.

The syndicated TV cartoon Batfink was created in 1966 at a time when Batman and The Green Hornet were extremely popular crime fighters in primetime on ABC. Buxton's hero was a gray bat with supersonic radar and metallic wings ideal for deflecting bullets, and his sidekick was a guy named Karate.

A native of Wellesley, Massachusetts, Buxton early in his career appeared on stage with Buster Keaton in Three Men on a Horse and spent a year touring throughout Australia in Bye Bye Birdie, performing the role of Albert Peterson that Dick Van Dyke made famous.

Buxton also wrote for other TV series including Love, American Style, The Bob Newhart Show and One Day at a Time, hosted an ABC game show called Get the Message and did voice work on Garfield and Dennis the Menace cartoons.

A founding member of a local improv group called The Edge, Buxton was named an "island treasure" in 2010 for his contribution to the arts in his community, Ellis noted.