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Remembering Adam West as Batman

Published: June 12, 2017

We were saddened by the news this weekend of Adam West’s passing. Best known for playing Batman, West got his start on a TV variety show and had parts in such movies as The Young Philadelphians and Mara of the Wilderness. He also played the lead in The Detectives TV series.

But Batman was his big break, even if he didn’t know it at the time. In 1966, John Skow wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post where he explored the phenomenon of Batman, which ABC had launched in January in a bid to gain ratings.

Skow writes of a conversation with West:

What was your reaction when you heard about Batman? I asked West at lunch. “My reaction was Ecch!” he said. But Batman had turned out to be fun. “You have to take it seriously,” he said. “I want to do it well enough that Batman buffs will watch reruns in a few years and say, ‘Watch the bit he does here, isn’t that great?”

Executives feared the show would be too silly for adults, but their fears were unfounded. According to the article, sales for Batman merchandise were expected to reach $75-$80 million, 50 percent more than the best year for James Bond.

What no one could know at the time is that Batman would spawn an empire of comic books, TV remakes, and blockbuster movies. But it all started with the dead-serious camp of Adam West.

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  • Ima Ryma

    A 1960’s T.V. rave,
    The series Batman was on air.
    His memoir, “Back to the Batcave,”
    Adam West, the actor, did share
    Why he did get the Batman role.
    In the Caped Crusader costume,
    West delivered each line with goal
    To be serious as a tomb.
    Each week a paunchy Batman would
    Fight the crimes of a villain pack,
    Urge the audience to be good,
    A comedy with no laugh track.

    The Batman played by Adam West,
    Was straight faced tongue in cheek the best.

  • I’m saddened also. I got to meet Adam West at a vintage TV stars autograph signing and memorabilia event in one of the banquet rooms at the beautiful Beverly Garland Hotel in Toluca Lake about 12 years ago.

    He was a really nice, understated kind of guy, and we spoke for about 5 minutes. It wasn’t crowded, and he was very touched (and pleased) that I considered HIS ‘Batman’ the one and only, and always will. He was also pleased I felt the films were these ugly, dark monstrosities trying to be as opposite of his fantastic series as possible, and certainly succeeded in that regard.

    I turned 9 the month this POST article came out, and had already been a fan for 4 months. I hate the word ‘campy’. It IS code for contempt, which is sad and wrong. The only “joke” are the people who felt that way about the show, then or now, and/or love the films but hate or won’t acknowledge the ’60s series.

    The brilliance of this show never ceases to amaze me, and in fact impresses me more with each passing year. It was fun, scary, tantalizing, mesmerizing, exciting and more. Batman was a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of the very best the entertainment industry has ever seen, or ever will: Burgess Meredith, Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Vincent Price, Anne Baxter, Shelley Winters and TOO many others to list here.

    June 1966 saw the debut of the experimental soap opera ‘Dark Shadows’ also considered ‘campy’ largely because it was a one-take show (budget…), so all the normal set flaws and such couldn’t be edited out. With that kind of pressure there were relatively few, actually. ‘The Monkees’ debuted that September and were also put down for being fake and trying to ride the Beatles coattails. Isn’t it interesting the Beatles were Monkees fans too??!

    It’s funny how those ‘put down’ shows have been tried to be re-made in the decades since, with mixed results as films or new TV versions. The ‘Batman’ films have been successful financially overall, if nothing else.

    I like Michelle Pfeiffer, but ‘Batman Returns’ was SO gross I walked out on it, but not before getting my money back. She was also in 2012’s ‘Dark Shadows’, another Tim Burton film that was unwatchable—and a flop. The first in Johnny Depp’s string of them ever since.

    It wasn’t a shock to me Jonathan Frid (TV’s Barnabas) died right before the film came out. Same thing with James MacArthur right after the first episode of the revived ‘Hawaii 5-0’ in 2010; terrible series.

    The Ford Motor Company whose Ford and L-M division cars were featured in the 1968-’80 series walked out in disgust after seeing the pilot; that’s why the main car is from GM instead. Anyway, the best films ever made based on a TV show are the two ‘Addams Family’ films with Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia, without question. Adam West, you’re the best!! Rest in peace.