Batman: Adam West, TV Batman, Dies at 88

Adam West, the actor defined by his role in the 1960s series Batman, died Friday in Los Angeles at age 88.

He died after a short battle with leukemia. “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 statement.

Born William West Anderson in 1928 in Walla, Washington, the actor later adopted his stage name, and began his career when he moved to Hawaii in the 1950s to star in a local children’s program.

With its flamboyant villains and cheeky tone, Batman became a surprise hit with its premiere on ABC in 1966, a symbol of the 1960s.

West’s portrayal of the superhero and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, ultimately made it hard for him to get other roles, and while he continued to work throughout his career, options remained limited because of his association with the character.

West spoke against the darker versions of Bob Kane’s hero that emerged in more recent years, beginning with Michael Keaton in Tim Burton-directed adaptations, and followed by Christopher Nolan’s enormously successful Dark Knight trilogy.

In February 2016, CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” celebrated its 200th episode —and marked the 50th anniversary of Batman—with appearance by West.

big bang theory 200th episode

Asked what the character of Batman has meant to him over decades, West said: “Money. Some years ago I made an agreement with Batman. There was a time when Batman really kept me from getting some pretty good roles, and I was asked to do what I figured were important features. However, Batman was there, and very few people would take a chance on me walking on to the screen. And they’d be taking people away from the story. So I decided that since so many people love Batman, I might as well love it too. Why not? I began to reengage myself with Batman. And I saw the comedy. I saw the love people had for it, and I just embraced it.”

West made his feature screen debut in 1959’s The Young Philadelphians, starring Paul Newman. Supporting roles in movies and TV followed, including a part in the Three Stooges movie “The Outlaws Is Coming.”

The “Batman” series eventually landed at 20th Century Fox, which handed it to producer William Dozier, who devised the show’s camp comedy tone.  West was cast, playing alongside Burt Ward as his sidekick Robin.

In a PBS special, Ward noted that West’s slow, portentous delivery was designed to eat up screen time, cutting into his co-star’s dialogue.

Cesar Romero (Joker) and Burgess Meredith (Penguin) played Batman’s villains

The show became an instant success, urging viewers to tune in for the next episode at the “Same Bat-time.” The series spawned a movie, before being canceled after three seasons, due to its high production costs.

The show was viewed with some contempt in comic book circles, after the darker vision of Batman became dominant in the ’70s and ’80s.

West remained in demand for personal appearances as the character and voice work, including a recurring stint on “Family Guy” and animated versions of Batman. Other roles ranged from “The Happy Hooker” and “Hooper” to the Michael Tolkin-directed movies “The Rapture” and “The New Age.”

West wrote two books, “Back to the Batcave,” published in the mid-1990s, in which he said that he was “angry and disappointed” not to have been offered the chance to reprise the role in Burton movies, despite being 60 at the time.

 

 

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