Latest About: Adam West American Actor
Batman’ actor Adam West dies’
A FAREWELL TO BATMAN: ROUNDING UP THE TRIBUTES TO ADAM WEST FROM FRIENDS AND FANS
Adam West, Straight-Faced Star of TV’s ‘Batman,’ Dies at 88
The actor struggled to find work after the campy superhero series was canceled, but he rebounded with voiceover gigs, including one as the mayor of Quahog on ‘Family Guy.’
Adam West, the ardent actor who managed to keep his tongue in cheek while wearing the iconic cowl of the Caped Crusader on the classic 1960s series Batman, has died. He was 88.
West, who was at the pinnacle of pop culture after Batman debuted in January 1966, only to see his career fall victim to typecasting after the ABC show flamed out, died Friday night in Los Angeles after a short battle with leukemia, a family spokesperson said.
West died peacefully surrounded by his family and is survived by his wife Marcelle, six children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives. He was and always will be our hero,” his family said in a statement.
After struggling for years without a steady job, the good-natured actor reached a new level of fame when he accepted an offer to voice the mayor of Quahog — named Adam West; how’s that for a coincidence! — on Seth MacFarlane’s long-running Fox animated hit Family Guy.
On the big screen, West played a wealthy Main Line husband who meets an early end in Paul Newman’s The Young Philadelphians (1959), was one of the first two humans on the Red Planet in Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) and contributed his velvety voice to the animated Redux Riding Hood (1997), which received an Oscar nomination for best short film.
Raised on a ranch outside Walla Walla, Wash., West caught the attention of Batman producer William Dozier when he played Captain Quik, a James Bond-type character with a sailor’s cap, in commercials for Nestle’s Quik.
West, who had appeared in many Warner Bros. television series as a studio contract player, was filming the spaghetti Western The Relentless Four (1965) in Europe at the time. He returned to the States to meet with Dozier, “read the pilot script and knew after 20 pages that it was the kind of comedy I wanted to do,” he said in a 2006 interview with the Archive of American Television.
He signed a contract on the spot, only asking that he be given the chance to approve who would play his sidekick, Robin, the Boy Wonder. (He would OK the casting of Burt Ward, who had a brown belt in karate but zero acting experience).
“The tone of our first show, by Lorenzo Semple Jr., was one of absurdity and tongue in cheek to the point that I found it irresistible,” West said. “I think they recognized that in me from what they’d seen me do before. I understood the material and brought something to it.
“You can’t play Batman in a serious, square-jawed, straight-ahead way without giving the audience the sense that there’s something behind that mask waiting to get out, that he’s a little crazed, he’s strange.”
The hunky Lyle Waggoner (later of The Carol Burnett Show) and Peter Deyell also tested to play the Gotham City crime fighters, but West and Ward clearly were superior, and Batman debuted at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 12, 1966, a Wednesday.
The cliffhanger episode would be resolved the very next night — Same Bat-time! Same Bat-channel! The show was originally intended to last an hour, but ABC split it up when it had two time slots available on its primetime schedule.
West said that he played Batman “for laughs, but in order to do [that], one had to never think it was funny. You just had to pull on that cowl and believe that no one would recognize you.”
The series, filmed in eye-popping bright colors in an era of black-and-white and featuring a revolving set of villains like the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), Joker (Cesar Romero), Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and Catwoman (Julie Newmar), was an immediate hit; the Thursday installment was No. 5 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1965-66 season, and the Wednesday edition was No. 10.
“Stellar, exemplar, a king to the end,” Newmar said of West in a statement: “He was bright, witty and fun to work with. I will miss him in the physical world and savor him always in the world of imagination and creativity. He meant so much to people.”