If you grew up like me watching the Adam West version of Batman on tv, you may have heard that the series is being released on blu ray and dvd later this year. This show has been at the top of my list (along with The Wonder Years) of series I’ve been hoping to be released for years now. Who doesn’t love the campiness of the Pow! Sock! Blam! Zap! Splat! onomatopoeia that came along with Batman and Robin laying waste to the villainy that plagued Gotham City?
This classic series ran from 1966 to 1968, but has lived on in pop culture and in syndication for the decades since. I have owned Batman: The Movie for years, which was also released in 1966, but wasn’t put out on dvd until 2001. The Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder have long been some of my favorite super heroes and I cannot wait to buy this box set of all 120 episodes with bonus features when it is released on November 11th.
What I thought I’d take a look at today is some of the awesome guest stars, usually in the forms of villains, that graced the small screen in Batman’s two year run. Some became series regulars, but others were only in a single story arc. To the Batmobile!
Some of my favorite roles of guest stars were simple cameos in the form of what is commonly known as the Batclimb. This is when Batman and Robin must scale the side of a building for one reason or another, and out of one of the windows pops a celebrity, or Kato and the Green Hornet thanks to Bruce Lee and Van Williams. This is how we encountered acting legends like Edward G. Robinson, pop culture mainstays like Dick Clark, singers Don Ho and Sammy Davis Jr., tv regulars like Art Linkletter, Werner Klemperer as Colonel Klink from Hogan’s Heroes, and Jerry Lewis.
Fans of stage and screen may appreciate some of the parallels like Gypsy Rose Lee and also Ethel Merman who was famous for portraying her on stage in Gypsy. Mary Poppins fans might spot Mrs. Banks actress Glynnis Johns and one of the maids for the Banks family who was played by Hermione Baddeley. Stars of tv and music from the 1960s were pretty prevalent in the show’s almost three year run. Jerry Mathers aka Beaver Cleaver had an uncredited role in one Batman episode. Alan Hale Jr., the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island, showed up too.
Women who were popular at the time had brief roles in Batman as a variety of lethal ladies. Zsa Zsa Gabor played Minerva in two episodes, which I had not seen until this year. Shelley Winters, probably best known for her roles in A Place In The Sun opposite Montogmery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, and the 1970s disaster flick Poseidon Adventure, also put in time as the villainous Ma Parker. Singer Lesley Gore, diva Joan Collins, stage and screen legend Tallulah Bankhead, and later Bond girl Jill St. John made appearances on Batman as well.
Check this out: Tallulah Bankhead was directed in the film A Royal Scandal by Otto Preminger. He was one of the actors who played Mr. Freeze, and he fathered a child with Gypsy Rose Lee. And as we already have learned, Gypsy was played on stage by Ethel Merman. And all of them were guest stars on the show! Holy tangled web of stars, Batman!
There are so many more stars who made their way to Batman over the years, but I can’t list them all here. I will list a few more of my favorites though. Tv host Steve Allen, tv/film actor/director Rob Reiner, the voice of Fred Flintstone Alan Reed, Honeymooner’s star Art Carney, Gomez Addams/Patty Duke’s ex husband/Sean Astin’s father John Astin, classic film character actor Eli Wallach, Liberace, Milton Berle, actors Roddy McDowall, Cliff Robertson, James Brolin, master of macabre Vincent Price, and Nat from Beverly Hills 90210 Joe E. Tata.
These guest stars don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the fantastic list of people who acted on Batman from 1966 to 1968. I tried to highlight some of the more popular names, and ones that I found fun connections between. I didn’t even get into some of the most popular characters like Cesar Romero as the Joker, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin, Julie Newmar/Eartha Kitt/Lee Meriwether as Catwoman, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, Victor Buono as King Tut, and tons more.
Hope you enjoyed this look back at some of the famous faces the Dynamic Duo encountered in their time on screen! For those who get the Independent Film Channel (IFC), Batman is airing six or seven times a day every day right now. Check your local listings for times. Tune in next week – same Bat Time and same Bat Channel for more fun! I will leave you with this one parting image, as all things should end, with the Batusi.
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