Sunday, June 18, 2017

R.I.P. Adam West.

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of actor Adam West, on June 09, 2017, at the age of 88. 

Adam West was one of those rare personalities who was universally beloved, particularly by those of us who were children of the sixties!  His uniquely zestful personality and acting style pretty much made him a favorite to everyone! 

When Adam West burst into our living rooms each Wednesday and Thursday evenings as BATMAN, there had never been anything like it before – and did he, and the series he would be forever associated with, ever arrive at the perfect time! 

Premiering on January 12-13, 1966, almost literally bisecting the final television season to broadcast a steadily-dwindling number of prime-time series in Black and White, Adam West’s BATMAN shattered any final lingerings of television as it was during the previous decade-and-a-half. 

While other fantasy-oriented prime-time network series such as VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, LOST IN SPACE, THE WILD WILD WEST and sitcoms like BEWITCHED, I DREAM OF JEANNIE, GET SMART, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, and THE MUNSTERS had started the ball decidedly rolling in the imaginative direction that 1960s television would best be remembered for, it was BATMAN – thanks to Adam West and the talented actors, writers, and directors that fashioned this unique series – that boldly announced that the Sixties In-Color had arrived!  

Adam West was the PERFECT Batman for the sixties.  Resolute, melodramatic, even “square”… but FUN!  Always FUN! 

But, having run my own personal DVD “West-Fest” in the days following his death, it becomes apparent that Adam West did not “create” this particular performance type FOR the character of Batman and his alter-ego Bruce Wayne – but had pretty much practiced it throughout the years leading up to the series.  Indeed, the 1966 television persona of Batman might very well have been created to suit the singular talents of Adam West – rather than the other way around.    

Consider the Three Stooges film “The Outlaws Is Coming”, co-starring Adam West.  There, his male-lead character IS unquestionably the Bruce Wayne / Batman persona… in a film released in 1965, the year PRIOR TO the BATMAN television series.  

In PERRY MASON’s “The Case of the Bogus Books” (1962), West’s character somehow manages to be “square” (though heroically-intentioned) even though he carries around a guitar! 

And, in THE OUTER LIMITS’ “The Invisible Enemy” (1964), he turns in a performance that, at times, would make William Shatner blush!  A performance not all that far from the Batman in his future! 

Funny that my three-item “West-Fest”, intended as nothing more than my usual sort of tribute to a favorite departed figure – with an emphasis on his pre-Batman roles, ends up revealing all the more about exactly what went into creating his forever-unique take on the Caped Crusader! 

Over the last quarter-century, Adam West enjoyed a tremendous resurgence in popularity, which I believe began with his guest-voicing role in the BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES episode “Beware the Grey Ghost”. 

From there, he went on to many live action and voice acting roles – the most famous and enduring of which would be “Mayor Adam West” on FAMILY GUY! 

Aw, heck… HERE is his extensive list of credits at IMDB!   

The final, full-circle steps of the resurgence of both Adam West and his version of Batman was this comic book…

...This amazing classic series Blu-ray release...

…And this new animated DVD, featuring the voices of Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar!  (…With one more like it, guest-starring William Shatner as Two-Face, to come!) 

I got to meet Adam West once, and he was every bit as wonderful as one would imagine him to be!  That story is contained in THIS POST

Rest in Peace, Adam West.  Forever a beloved hero to legions of fans!  


Marc Whinston said...

What I like best about West is that he embraced his place in TV history. Many stars come to run away from the roles that made them famous. That always seems ungrateful to me. Adam West seemed to embrace his inner Batman, I will always appreciate that.

Joe Torcivia said...

Agreed, Marc.

Funny thing is that Batman brought Adam West fame… then, that fame was somewhat hampered by being typecast… but, eventually, it was Batman that brought him renewed fame. And, a great deal of that was because he continued to revel in the fact that he was – and is – Batman!

Comicbookrehab said...

I had rented "Robinson Crusoe Goes To Mars" because I learned that Adam West was in it...then put it aside after the production notes in the pamphlet included with the DVD revealed he only had a small role in it. I CERTAINLY would've loved to see West as Robinson Crusoe!

Of his early work, I like the ad for Nestle Quik with Adam as "Captain Quik", a James Bond spoof. It's the jib that got the attention of Bill Dozier to have him screen test for Batman.

The episode of "Powerless" with Adam as "Chairman West" was uploaded on YouTube over the weekend by DC. I liked the show..many didn't..but this episode was never aired on TV once the show was cancelled and I think it's his last onscreen appearance in anything, so I'm glad it's out there.

Joe Torcivia said...


Yes, Adam’s West’s role in “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” was a minor one, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying what was a great sci-fi adventure fantasy film for its time. Even if West was not the titular “castaway on Mars”, Paul Mantee did a fine job in that part. And, unlike Adam West, Paul Mantee did not really go on to bigger and better things. You can read more about Paul Mantee in this post.

Oddly, the meatier role for Adam West you may have been seeking in “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” actually DID occur in the OUTER LIMITS episode “The Invisible Enemy”, referred to (and IMDB linked-to) in this post. You might want to check that out.

And, when you do, be sure to note the decades-earlier similarities to it in the “Tremors” film franchise! Gotta believe there was at least some inspiration for “Tremors” taken from that 1964 OUTER LIMITS episode.

scarecrow33 said...

Another pre-Batman appearance was in the Bewitched episode number 13 "Love is Blind", which was broadcast in 1964. Adam West played Kermit, a photographer for McMann and Tate, and exuded his natural charm which served him well in this somewhat off-beat (for the series) romantic side story. The magic is toned down, and human love is emphasized. It's a nice performance, convincing, and generally underplayed to best advantage.

West also gave his voice to a late season (one of the series' best) of Super Friends, finally taking on the role of Batman for the series to the delight of many fans.

I agree with Marc's comment above that it's refreshing when a celebrity doesn't try to downplay the role or persona that made him/her famous. The late Annette Funicello is another example.

Joe Torcivia said...


Ah, yes… I should have included that episode of BEWITCHED in my “West-Fest”! Well, it’s never too late!

There was also a seventies Filmation Batman series that featured Adam West and Burt Ward. This is not to be confused with the superior 1968 Filmation Batman series that featured Olan Soule as Batman and a pre-Shaggy Casey Kasem as Robin. This was the one with Bat-Mite – back before BATMAN THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD redeemed the character tremendously – that was known for its Network-mandated Saturday morning moralizing!

And, another example of “…when a celebrity doesn't try to downplay the role or persona that made him/her famous” would be Jonathan Harris with his character of Doctor Smith. He embraced that role until the day he died!

TC said...

Reportedly, the producers of Batman the Animated Series considered calling off the Gray Ghost episode, but West assured them that it was OK with him.

His talents as a voice-over actor, and his willingness to be a good sport and take a joke, were also on display in episodes of The Fairly Odd Parents and Kim Possible. In each, he played a retired actor who had gone 'round the bend and believed himself to be the superhero that he had previously played on a TV series. (Catman in the former, the Fearless Ferret in the latter.)

There was also the Brave & Bold episode with a flashback to Batman's origin. West and Julie Newmar played Bruce Wayne's parents. So Mr. West may have the rare distinction of having played the character in both live action and in animated cartoons, as well as playing the same character's father.

Joe Torcivia said...


Interesting. I wonder why they would consider calling-off “Beware the Grey Ghost”? Because it portrayed West’s character as a has-been?

Quite the contrary, it completely redeems his character by the end, and in a most satisfying way. If anything, it skewers producer Bruce Timm to a far greater degree! It also adds what I regard as a magnificent layer to the Batman mythos, in that young Bruce Wayne was inspired by a heroic figure BEFORE Zorro. And the concept makes a personal connection to so many of US who were at “that impressionable age” when Adam West first brought Batman into our homes. I know *I* ran around as “Batman” back then… and so did countless other children of the sixties!

I’ll take it a step further, and say that THIS might have been THE MOMENT that redeemed Adam West in the eyes of many fans of the then-current comics, who maintained a reflexive disdain for the BATMAN TV series. At least to me, the general reactions among fans of the comics to the 1966 TV series almost palpably changed after that, to a degree of acceptance of the show as something FUN – leading to the great resurgence in popularity that West enjoyed (…and DESERVED!) until his death!

Also, regarding Adam West’s more recent extensive animation voicing career… I continue to ferret-out more tidbits from my DVD collection, for the on-going (and apparently open-ended) “West-Fest” I’m conducting, with the “impossible-to-do-without assistance” of IMDB – and I have just another gem to add.

SpongeBob Squarepants: “Back to the Past” (2010 …and a pretty mundane title, even if it is intended to parody “Back to the Future”). As many may know, the series features a parody of the 1966 Batman and Robin, named (aptly for the underwater world of SpongeBob) “Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy” – and played NOT by Adam West and Burt Ward (or anyone even attempting to mimic them), but by the equally-sixties McHALE’S NAVY duo of Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway!

Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy were, coincidently, TV heroes of the 1960s, who have been in perpetual reruns ever since – and SpongeBob and his dim buddy Patrick are HUGE (and annoying fans)… especially annoying now that the two 1960s heroes are doddering old men in the 2000’s.

To make a short story shorter still, SpongeBob and Patrick bumble their way back in time to see Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy in their prime… where they ARE voiced by none other and Adam West and Burt Ward! …Inadvertent time paradoxes and hilarity ensue!