Thursday, September 10, 2015

Batman TV Series (1966-68) - The Good Guys

First broadcast: Wednesday, January 12th, 1966 on the US ABC network
Final broadcast: Thursday, March 14th, 1968 on the US ABC network
Description: Camp, colourful live action series based on the characters from the DC Comics universe with its tongue thrust firmly into its cheek. There was a regular roster of guest villains for Batman and his Boy Wonder sidekick Robin to face each week, as well as a wealth of one-off guest villains, often played by popular performers of the day. It ran for 120 episodes over three series.
  • A film version often referred to as Batman: The Movie was released in July 1966, just one month after the end of the first television series. It starred all of the main series villains (ie, Penguin, Joker, Catwoman and Riddler) working together to defeat the Caped Crusader. It had a budget of $1.54m but only made $1.7m at the box office and through North American rentals.
But here's the good guys...

ADAM WEST (born William West Anderson)
Played: Bruce Wayne/ Batman (1966-68)
Birthdate: Wednesday, September 19th, 1928
Location: Walla Walla, Washington, USA

Died: Friday, June 9th, 2017
Location: Los Angeles, California, US
Cause of death: Leukaemia

Before donning the familiar blue cape, Adam was mainly known in the US for playing Detective Sergeant Steve Nelson in 30 episodes of The Detectives between 1961-62, and was a regular guest star in many series, from The Virginian to The Outer Limits, from Gunsmoke to Perry Mason.

But after hanging up his cape and cowl, Adam's career did not immediately tumble into the abyss of self-parody that some might believe it has today. He had guest roles in The Big Valley (1968), Night Gallery (1971), Mannix (1972) and Police Woman (1977), but did keep his hand in by lending his voice to Batman and Bruce in the 1977 animated series The New Adventures of Batman, SuperFriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show (1984) and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (1985).

Adam pictured in April
2015, aged 86
However, Batman proved to be a shadow he could not escape, and perhaps has never wanted to, and his CV soon began to be peppered with cameos as Batman in other shows, or with less than salubrious productions such as Zombie Nightmare (1987), Night of the Kickfighters (1988), Baadasssss! (2003) and Sexina (2007). There may be a reason you've never heard of them.

Further DC-related cameos include The Flash (1990), playing "hippy guy"; Batman: The Animated Series (1992), in which he voiced Simon Trent aka The Gray Ghost; Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1995), playing Jerry Retchen; animated series, The Batman (2004-06), in which he gave voice to Mayor Grange; and another animated series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2010), in which he voiced Thomas Wayne and Proto-Bot. He's also voiced Mayor Adam West in the animated comedy Family Guy since the year 2000.

Adam West kept busy since leaving Batman in 1968, and was a favourite on the American convention circuit. He even has a Star on the Television Walk of Fame at 6764 Hollywood Boulevard. Following a "short but brave" battle with leukaemia, Adam died on June 9th, 2017, at the age of 88, surrounded by his family - wife Marcelle, six children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. At 9pm on June 15th, the familiar Bat-Signal from the TV show was projected onto the tower of Los Angeles City Hall in his memory.

Actor Burt Ward, Adam's co-star as Robin in the TV series, paid tribute: "This is a wonderful man who I've spent 75% of the time on this earth working with, who has been a pleasure, just amazing talent, a great father, a great family man, a wonderful human being, just a lot of fun and I'm going to miss him incredibly. In fact it's very difficult to really believe that the end has come. Adam and I had the most amazing friendship... we instantly got along."

BURT WARD (born Bert John Gervis Jr)
Played: Dick Grayson/ Robin (1966-68)
Birthdate: Friday, July 6th, 1945
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

Playing Robin was Burt's big break in television - it was his very first credited role, but while both he and Adam West have struggled to escape the DC legend's shadow, it is Burt who has suffered the most. After Batman ended, Burt had no screen credits for two whole years, until he appeared as a mere dune buggy driver in the lamentable horror flick Scream, Evelyn, Scream! (1970). And after that? Seven whole years of silence, until he returned to the role which broke him in more ways than one by voicing Robin for The New Adventures of Batman cartoon in 1977.

Burt Ward in July 2014,
aged 69
It seemed he could not escape Robin - he also played him in cameos in Tarzan and the Super 7 (1978), Legends of the Superheroes (1979) and The Simpsons (2002), but he has had his fair share of character roles in later years, including Robot Ninja (1989), Hot Under the Collar (1992, in which he played the Pope!), Assault of the Party Nerds 2: The Heavy Petting Detective (1995), Pacino is Missing (2002) and Star Quest (2015). Really, there's not much to be proud about there.

Burt has kept a much lower profile than his co-star, and while he still enjoys personal appearances at conventions, he is not as deeply involved in the world of entertainment, or even DC Comics, as Adam West became.

ALAN NAPIER (born Alan William Napier-Claverling)
Played: Alfred Pennyworth (1966-68)
Birthdate: Wednesday, January 7th, 1903
Location: King's Norton, UK

Died: Monday, August 8th, 1988
Location: Santa Monica, California, US
Cause of death: Pneumonia

Before playing the Wayne mansion valet Alfred, Alan had enjoyed more than 35 years in the acting business, making his debut aged 27 in a film called Caste in September 1930, which was directed by Campbell Gullan and an uncredited Michael Powell, and co-starred Hermione Baddeley, Nora Swinburne and Sebastian Shaw (who, trivia fans, was the face behind Darth Vader's mask 53 years later in Return of the Jedi!). Alan played Captain Hawtree in the film.

Alan played Sherlock Holmes in a TV
play in March 1949, aged 46
After Caste, Alan made appearances in, among many others, The House of the Seven Gables (1940), Lassie Come Home (1943), Ministry of Fear (1944), Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949), The Great Caruso (1951), Moonfleet (1955), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) and Hitchcock's Marnie (1964). He also had the regular role of General Steele in the sitcom Don't Call Me Charlie (1962-63), starring John Hubbard as an Army vet.

Alan appeared in all 120 episodes of Batman, as well as the movie adaptation, and this took up almost all of his professional time for two years (apart from a role in a 1967 episode of The Beverly Hillbillies). So what became of him post-Batman? Well, in 1968, when Batman was axed, Alan was 65 and had plenty of career ahead of him. His first project was the sitcom Family Affair, appearing in a January 1969 episode in which Bill (Brian Keith) gets a job in England.

As the High Priest Elinu in the 1956
B-movie The Mole People!
After that Alan's appearances were sparser but steadier. He appeared in series such as Ironside, Rod Serling's Night Gallery, Kojak, Flying High and Centenniel throughout the 1970s.

In September 1979 Alan made his penultimate acting appearance in the ABC Weekend Special The Contest Kid Strikes Again, while his very last role was in the The Monkey Mission in March 1981, the second of three TV movies starring Robert Blake as private eye Joe Dancer.

After this, when Alan was aged 78, he decided to retire and live out the rest of his days in California's Pacific Palisades. In 1987, aged 84, Alan suffered a stroke, but this did not prevent him from making his one and only personal appearance on television for a Batman cast reunion on The Late Show on April 28th, 1988. Alan was in a wheelchair and obviously frail, but spoke fondly of his time on the programme. The reunion also featured Adam West, Burt Ward, Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar, Yvonne Craig and Eartha Kitt, with Cesar Romero interviewed at his home.

Alan, aged 85, at the 1988 Batman
cast reunion party
There was a further cast reunion party in March 1988 to help celebrate the forthcoming release of Tim Burton's Batman movie, but in June 1988, Alan was hospitalized and was gravely ill for several days before dying of pneumonia on August 8th, 1988, aged 85, at the Berkeley East Convalescent Hospital in Santa Monica. He was cremated at the Chapel of the Pines crematorium in Los Angeles, and his ashes scattered in the rose garden of his home at 17919 Porto Marina Way, Pacific Palisades, California.

Alan did actually write a three-volume autobiography in the early 1970s but this was never published in his lifetime as he did not believe he'd had a particularly interesting life. However, the memoir was finally scheduled for publication in January 2016 by McFarland Press, entitled Not Just Batman's Butler and updated by James Bigwood. This may or may not mention the fact that Alan was 1930s British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's cousin, or that his second wife Aileen was a great-granddaughter of novelist Charles Dickens, or that his daughter Jennifer Nicholas worked on the costumes for films such as Saturday Night Fever and Tootsie. See... he wasn't just Batman's butler at all!

NEIL HAMILTON (born James Neil Hamilton)
Played: Commissioner James Gordon (1966-68)
Birthdate: Saturday, September 9th, 1899
Location: Lynn, Massachusetts, USA

Died: Monday, September 24th, 1984
Location: Escondido, California, US
Cause of death: Asthma attack

Despite being only four years older than Alfred actor Alan Napier, Neil's career stretches back as far as the silent era, debuting in 1918's The Beloved Imposter when he was a mere teenager! After starting out as a model for Arrow Shirts, he went on to appear in a great number of shorts and films throughout the silent 1920s and into the sound 1930s, also transitioning from monochrome to colour. Early works of note include D W Griffith's The White Rose (1923), Beau Gests (1926), The Great Gatsby (1926) and Tarzan the Ape Man (1932). He also played Dr Jack Petrie in a couple of Dr Fu Manchu adventures in 1929-30.

Neil was a handsome matinee idol in
the 1920s and 30s (left); he also modelled
for Arrow Collars and Shirts (right)
Much of his output isn't fondly remembered these days, but he did have roles in a couple of more high profile productions: he played a private eye in Dangerous Lady (1941), in which Duke Martindale and his wife Phyllis (June Storey) try to clear a girl falsely accused of murdering a judge; he appeared in the 1945 adaptation of Brewster's Millions alongside Dennis O'Keefe; and in the 1950s appeared in a number of television series, including The Adventures of Jim Bowie (1958), Mike Hammer (1958) and Zorro (1959).

Further work prior to being cast as Commissioner Gordon included (ironically) Bruce Gordon in Marilyn Monroe's Bus Stop (1962), Philip Mercer in the soap General Hospital (1963) and even a turn in monstrous sitcom The Munsters (1964).

Neil appeared in all 120 episodes of Batman, as well as the film. Adam West has said of Neil that he was not the sort of actor to fool around on set. He rarely laughed or smiled, and was the one actor he felt he didn't hit it off with. He added that Neil didn't really get along with his co-star Stafford Repp (Chief O'Hara) either, taking a dislike to Repp's fake Irish brogue.

Another matinee idol shot
of Neil in his twenties
After the show was axed in 1968, his CV only had a handful more entries before he retired. In December 1969 he appeared on The Debbie Reynolds Show, and the following year played the Chief of Staff in the Jerry Lewis war comedy Which Way to the Front?. Neil's final acting job was aged 72, playing Merrihew in the Universal Television political thriller Vanished, broadcast on March 8th, 1971 and co-starring Richard Widmark, Tom Bosley, Larry Hagman and William Shatner. Although virtually forgotten now, Vanished actually won an Emmy for Lionel Lindon's cinematography, and was nominated in a further seven categories!

Neil spent the rest of the 1970s in retirement, and died of complications resulting from an asthma attack on September 24th, 1984, just two weeks after his 85th birthday. After his cremation, his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

STAFFORD REPP (born Stafford Alois Repp)
Played: Chief Miles Clancy O'Hara (1966-68)
Birthdate: Friday, April 26th, 1918
Location: San Francisco, USA

Died: Tuesday, November 5th, 1974
Location: Inglewood, California, US
Cause of death: Heart attack

Stafford had been acting for 12 years when the role of Chief O'Hara came up in Batman. Many of his roles had gone uncredited, but as the 1950s wore on he won more and more guest roles in TV series such as Frontier (1955), Cheyenne (1956), The Thin Man (1957-58), Dragnet (1956/59) and Black Saddle (1960). He never really made it in the movies, and as the 1960s dawned, his prolific run in many TV series continued (Hennesey, The New Breed, Dr Kildare, Checkmate, Perry Mason, The Virginian, The Twilight Zone, Burke's Law... the list goes on!).

Playing Mayor Watkins in a February
1960 episode of Rawhide, aged 41
He did enjoy a recurring role as factory supervisor Brink in The New Phil Silvers Show (1963-64) before being cast as O'Hara in all 120 episodes of the Batman series, as well as the movie. After Batman, Stafford very wisely invested much of his fortune in a chain of car washes, while his acting career continued to blossom. He popped up in almost every American TV series imaginable, including The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1968), My Three Sons (1969), I Dream of Jeannie (1969), Banacek (1972), Kung Fu (1973) and The Cowboys (1974).

On November 5th, 1974, Stafford completed filming his role of Fred Dobie in an episode of the detective series Mannix. He was joined on set by his wife Theresa, and as it was the eve of their fourth wedding anniversary, they decided to celebrate it with a flutter at the Hollywood Park Racetrack (one of Stafford's favourite haunts). Sadly, Stafford suffered a fatal heart attack at the racetrack, and died - with a winning ticket in his pocket! He was just 56 years old. He was buried at Westminster Memorial Park in California, and after his death, his sister Elisabeth set up the Stafford Repp Memorial Scholarship for alumni of Lowell High School in San Francisco, where he was educated. It offered $50,000 every Spring term. A quick search on the school's website draws a blank when trying to find out if the scholarship is still going today...

Stafford's appearance in M*A*S*H was
broadcast five months after his death
Stafford's appearance in Mannix was broadcast posthumously in January 1975, but there were three other performances in the can as well. His penultimate screen appearance was as Sergeant Clay in the M*A*S*H episode White Gold, broadcast on March 11th, 1975, while his last one was less than auspicious, playing "Dirty Old Man" in the best forgotten campfest Linda Lovelace for president (released April 1975).

Stafford had also filmed scenes for one of Orson Welles's many unfinished projects, The Other Side of the Wind, appearing as a party guest at the 70th birthday party of character Jake Hannaford (played by John Huston).

MADGE BLAKE (born Madge Cummings)
Played: Aunt Harriet Cooper (1966-67)
Birthdate: Wednesday, May 31st, 1899
Location: Edwards County, Kansas, USA

Died: Wednesday, February 19th, 1969
Location: Pasadena, California, US
Cause of death: Arteriosclerosis

Despite being the same age as Neil Hamilton, Madge had only been acting since the 1940s as her Methodist father discouraged her from entering the acting profession. During the war she and her husband James lived in Utah and worked on construction of the detonator for the atom bomb, and tested equipment destined for the Manhattan Project.

As Mrs Mondello in Leave It
to Beaver
After the war she found bit parts and largely uncredited roles in various productions but didn't actually study acting until 1949. She made appearances in the Tracy/ Hepburn vehicle Adam's Rib (1949), Joseph Losey's remake of M (1951), Gene Kelly's An American in Paris (1951) and Singin' in the Rain (1952), and Fred Astaire's The Band Wagon (1953). She also enjoyed a recurring role as Diane Dodsworth in The Ray Milland Show (aka Meet Mr McNutley) in 1954.

In 1958, at the age of 59, she landed another recurring role, that of Margaret Mondello in Leave It to Beaver (1958-60), while in 1961 she was cast as Mrs Barnes in a total of 21 episodes of The Joey Bishop Show. Throughout this time she was playing Flora MacMichael in the sitcom The Real McCoys, a lesser known precursor to The Beverly Hillbillies. She played Flora in 26 episodes between 1957-63. She also popped up from time to time as Tillie (sometimes referred to as Clara), Jack Benny's super-fan and president of his fan club, on The Jack Benny Show (1955-64).

Madge was a life model for one of the
fairy godmothers in Disney's Sleeping
Beauty. What's the odds it was for
Flora, the one in red?
A lesser known fact about Madge is that she was the live action model for one of the fairy godmothers in Disney's animated film of Sleeping Beauty (1959) - it makes sense when you see how they turned out!

The 1960s were busy with guest roles for Madge, who turned up in everything from Guestward Ho! (1961) to Dr Kildare (1962/64), from The Addams Family (1964) to The Man from UNCLE (1965).

She was cast as Aunt Harriet in 96 episodes of the Batman TV series, her last appearance being in the Series 3 episode The Bloody Tower in December 7th, 1967 (the one with Rudy Vallee and Glynis Johns as the ever-so-English Lord Ffogg and Lady Peasoup!).

Madge in The Doris Day
Show, broadcast one month
after her death, aged 68
The truth is that due to Madge's declining health through 1967, she only appeared in two Series 3 episodes (the other being Ring Around the Riddler). The addition of Yvonne Craig's Batgirl to the regular cast meant Aunt Harriet was not needed as much, and her involvement was much reduced.

Madge's last few roles included playing Mrs Hardy in The Doris Day Show episode The Con Man (broadcast posthumously in March 1969) and Freida Bindell in the Peyton Place soap spoof Hastings Corner (again broadcast posthumously, on January 14th, 1970).

Madge was admitted to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California after she fell at her home and fractured her ankle. She died there, aged 68, of the effects of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). She was buried beside her mother Alice Cummings, who had died in 1931, at Grand View Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

YVONNE CRAIG (born Yvonne Joyce Craig)
Played: Barbara Gordon/ Batgirl (1967-68)
Birthdate: Sunday, May 16th, 1937
Location: Taylorville, Illinois, USA

Died: Monday, August 17th, 2015
Location: Pacific Palisades, California, US
Cause of death: Breast cancer

Yvonne was 20 when she got her first credited acting role in Eighteen and Anxious (1957), then spent the next decade carving out a CV littered with guest roles in series such as Perry Mason (1958), Bronco (1959), The Detectives (1961), Ichabod and Me (1961), Dr Kildare (1964), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964) and My Favourite Martian (1965). She also had minor roles in two Elvis Presley films - It Happened at the World's Fair (1963) and Kissin' Cousins (1964) - as she was dating the singer at the time.

Yvonne and Elvis Presley in Kissin'
Cousins in 1964
She was cast as Batgirl in Batman's third series, appearing in 26 episodes between September 1967 and March 1968. She also appeared in the eight-minute TV "pilot" Batgirl. After her sojourn in Gotham City drew to an end, her career continued on the same path as before, with guest roles in everything from The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1968), Star Trek (1969), Land of the Giants (1970) and Mannix (1969 & 1973). As the 1970s wore on the roles began to dry up a little, and she was vocally unhappy about the transition from "sexy" roles to "mother" roles (despite never being a mother herself). There came guest roles in The Magician (1973), Kojak (1973), The Six Million Dollar Man (1977), Starsky and Hutch (1979) and Fantasy Island (1983).

Yvonne photographed at an event in
May 2012, aged 75. The following year
she was diagnosed with breast cancer
By the 1980s Yvonne's acting career was pretty much over, her final role for some time being Lucille in the 1990 funeral parlour comedy Diggin' Up Business. After this, she had just one more role, that of the voice of Grandma in the children's cartoon Olivia. Yvonne voiced the character for 29 episodes between 2009-11.

To supplement her failing acting career, in the 1970s Yvonne became a co-producer of industrial shows, and later became a real estate broker and an investor in the pre-paid phone card industry. In 2000 she published her autobiography From Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond. Yvonne was also a philanthropist, and an advocate for workers' unions, free mammograms, and equal pay for women.

After being diagnosed with cancer in 2013, Yvonne endured chemotherapy for the following two years, before finally succumbing at her home in California in August 2015, aged 78. The breast cancer had spread to her liver. In a statement, her family said: "In the end, her mind still wanted to fight but her body had given up."

Click here for some of the Bad Guys: The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin, John Astin) and Catwoman (Julie Newmar, Lee Meriweather, Eartha Kitt).

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