Thursday, September 10, 2015

Batman TV Series (1966-68) - The Bad Guys

First broadcast: Wednesday, January 12th, 1966 on the US ABC network
Final broadcast: Thursday, March 14th, 1968 on the US ABC network
Description: Camp, colourful live action series based on the characters from the DC Comics universe with its tongue thrust firmly into its cheek. There was a regular roster of guest villains for Batman and his Boy Wonder sidekick Robin to face each week, as well as a wealth of one-off guest villains, often played by popular performers of the day. It ran for 120 episodes over three series.
  • A film version often referred to as Batman: The Movie was released in July 1966, just one month after the end of the first television series. It starred all of the main series villains (ie, Penguin, Joker, Catwoman and Riddler) working together to defeat the Caped Crusader. It had a budget of $1.54m but only made $1.7m at the box office and through North American rentals.

But now, some of the bad guys...

CESAR ROMERO (born Cesar Julio Romero Jr)
Played: The Joker (1966-68)
Birthdate: Friday, February 15th, 1907
Location: New York, USA

Died: Saturday, January 1st, 1994
Location: Santa Monica, California, USA
Cause of death: Bronchitis and pneumonia

Cesar had been acting since the early 1930s by the time he was cast as the Joker in Batman. He'd risen to fame playing the Cisco Kid in a series of six films between 1939 and 1941 (he'd also appeared in 1939's Return of the Cisco Kid as a different character, Lopez, to Warner Baxter's title character) and in the 1950s broke into television, notably playing Steve McQuinn in 31 episodes of the adventure series Passport to Danger.

Cesar as the Cisco Kid in
1941, aged 34
Cesar played the maniacal Joker in a total of 22 television episodes, as well as the movie version, debuting in the fifth episode of Series 1, The Joker is Wild (January 1966) and last being seen The Joker's Flying Saucer (February 1968). Perhaps due to the heavy clownish make-up he wore as the Joker, Cesar's career was not affected by typecasting, and he went on to make many guest appearances in series such as Get Smart (1968), It Takes a Thief (1970), Bewitched (1970) and Julia (1970).

Film roles came along too - he played an Italian gangster in the Dustin Hoffman vehicle Madigan's Millions (1968), and played wealthy businessman A J Arno in three live action Disney films starring Kurt Russell as Dexter Riley - The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972) and The Strongest Man in the World (1975).

His CV was bursting with guest roles as the 1970s wore into the 80s and 90s - Ellery Queen (1976), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979), Charlie's Angels (1980), Magnum PI (1985), Riptide (1985-86), The Golden Girls (1990) and Jack's Place (1992).

Between 1985-88 Cesar played Jane Wyman's love interest Peter Stavros in more than 50 episodes of the US soap Falcon Crest, but as the 1990s arrived, and old age began to take its toll, Cesar withdrew from the profession. His last role before his death was that of actor Marcello Abruzzi in an episode of Murder, She Wrote called Murder in Milan, broadcast on September 20th, 1992, when Cesar was 85.

Cesar appeared as himself a number of times throughout 1993, including Dame Edna's Hollywood and a TV biography of Shirley Temple called America's Little Darling.

Cesar arriving at a party
in 1993, the year before
he died
Cesar died of complications of a blood clot stemming from bronchitis and pneumonia at the age of 86, on New Year's Day, 1994. He was cremated and his ashes interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery in California. Cesar never married and once described himself as a "confirmed bachelor". Many people interpret this to mean Cesar was a closeted gay man, and in fact Marlene Dietrich once described him as "the undisputed queen of homosexuals", adding: "I don't think there was a gay actor in all of Hollywood who hadn't been there!" In 1996, two years after Cesar's death, it was revealed that he had enjoyed a sexual encounter with Lucille Ball's one-time husband, Desi Arnaz, and it was an open secret in Hollywood that Cesar had had a long-term relationship with actors Tyrone Power and Gene Raymond.

Before his death Cesar had given interviews for a handful of documentaries released after his death, including A Century of Cinema (1994) and Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business (1995). In December 1998 a low budget film called The Right Way was released starring Joseph Campanella, Geoff Pierson and Joe Santos. Cesar had filmed his scenes for the $500,000 production before he died, but the film was not released for four whole years, and so became his final, posthumous acting credit.

BURGESS MEREDITH (born Oliver Burgess Meredith)
Played: The Penguin (1966-68)
Birthdate: Saturday, November 16th, 1907
Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Died: Tuesday, September 9th, 1997
Location: Malibu, California, USA
Cause of death: Cancer and Alzheimer's Disease

Burgess was another well-established and prolific character actor by the time he was cast as the Penguin aged 59. He'd debuted with an uncredited role in the Oscar-winning Noel Coward film The Scoundrel (1935), but soon carved a reputation for himself as a diverse and talented actor in films such as Of Mice and Men (1939), The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949), Joe Butterfly (1957) and The Kidnappers (1958). Sadly, being named as an "unfriendly witness" and placed on the Red Channel by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the early 1950s meant his film career suffered - he went almost seven years without a silver screen role.

A young and handsome Burgess
in a publicity photo from
the 1930s
As with so many actors who started their careers in the movies, television became a great lure in the 1950s and 60s, and Burgess turned up in everything from Naked City (1962) and Sam Benedict (1962), to Ben Casey (1962) and Wagon Train (1964). He memorably appeared in four different editions of The Twilight Zone (1959-63) and had a recurring role as Vincent Marion in 77 Sunset Strip (1963).

In 1965 he secured the running role of Principal Martin Woodridge in the James Franciscus series Mr Novak, and co-starred with Lana Turner and Ricardo Montalban in Madame X. However, his 21 episodes (plus the movie) as the Penguin are perhaps his greatest legacy, but during these two years his CV continued to expand with guest appearances in series such as The Invaders (1967), Bonanza (1967) and Daniel Boone (1969).

Burgess as Mickey Goldmill in Rocky V
in 1990, when he was 83 years old
The 1970s and 80s saw a step (or a waddle?) away from TV, and a return to the big screen in productions such as The Day of the Locust (1975, for which he was Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated), The Hindenburg (1975), Magic (1978), Clash of the Titans (1981) and Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), but he did still enjoy success on the small screen - as VCR Cameron in Search (1972-73), as the voice of the animated Puff the Magic Dragon (1978-82) and Dr Willard Adams in the Sally Struthers sitcom Gloria (1982-83).

Of course one of Burgess's defining character roles was Mickey Goldmill in the Rocky series of films. He appeared in four of the first five films between 1976 and 1990 (he wasn't in Rocky IV, but did feature in archive footage), and was nominated for an Oscar for his work in the first film.

In his last film role, in
Grumpier Old Men, aged 88
In 1992 director Tim Burton considered Burgess to play the father of Danny De Vito's Oswald Cobblepot (the Penguin) in his movie sequel Batman Returns, but he was too ill to take part, and the role was filled by Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman) instead.

In 1993, at the age of 86, Burgess played Grandpa Gustafson in the film Grumpy Old Men, which starred Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and this led to a sequel, Grumpier Old Men, released in December 1995. Burgess reprised his role, which became his final screen acting credit of his career. There was one more credit to come - that of Hamilton and Covington Wofford in the video game Ripper, one of those first-person perspective role play games where the player is the detective. Burgess shared a stellar voice cast, alongside Christopher Walken, Karen Allen and John Rhys-Davies.

Burgess, aged 89, made his last public
appearance at the People's Choice
Awards in March 1996
On March 10th, 1996, Burgess attended the 22nd Annual People's Choice Awards at Universal Studios in Hollywood, which was broadcast on CBS. He was there to accept the award for Favourite Comedy Motion Picture (Grumpier Old Men). This personal appearance would become his final public engagement.

In his autobiography So Far, So Good published in 1994, Burgess revealed that for years he'd been suffering from violent mood swings caused by cyclothymia, a form of bipolar disorder. Burgess finally passed away, at the age of 89, of complications arising from Alzheimer's Disease and melanoma at his Malibu home on September 9th, 1997. Batman actor Adam West spoke at his memorial service, and his remains were cremated.

JULIE NEWMAR (born Julia Chalene Newmeyer)
Played: Catwoman (1966-67)
Birthdate: Wednesday, August 16th, 1933
Location: Los Angeles, USA

The original Catwoman debuted as an uncredited chorus girl in the 1952 Ronald Reagan/ Virginia Mayo musical She's Working Her Way Through College, and also performed as a dancer in productions such as The I Don't Care Girl (1953), The Band Wagon (1953) and The Eddie Cantor Story (1953) before being cast as Dorcas in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1953).

This breakthrough saw Julie's star ascend in films such as The Rookie (1959), Li'l Abner (1959) and The Marriage-Go-Round (1961) before she landed the lead role of Rhoda Miller in the sitcom My Living Doll (1964-65). Over the course of 26 episodes she played a robot codenamed AF 709 who is taught the ways of being a sophisticated woman by friend Bob (Robert Cummings).

Julie at the 2014 ComicCon
in Phoenix, Arizona, aged 81
She played Catwoman in a total of 13 episodes between March 1966's The Purr-fect Crime and February 1967's Batman Displays His Knowledge, and was unable to reprise the part for the 1966 film, so was replaced temporarily by Lee Meriwether. After leaving Batman in Series 2 (Catwoman was played by Eartha Kitt in Series 3), Julie continued to take roles in TV shows such as Star Trek (1967), Get Smart (1968), McCloud (1970), Columbo (1973), The Bionic Woman (1976) and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1980).

Julie's acting roles in the 21st century have been few and far between. After playing Catwoman in a 1998 episode of the sitcom Maggie, she has had only three credits - Judy's mother in 1999's If... Dog... Rabbit, neighbour Julie in sitcom According to Jim (2006, incidentally spoofing a real-life feud between Julie and her neighbour James Belushi) and the voice of Martha Wayne in the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2010). However, she pops up on talking head shows regularly chatting about her career, and also attends conventions and signings. Now in her eighties, Julie suffers from the neurological disorder Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease.

LEE MERIWETHER (born Lee Ann Meriwether)
Played: Catwoman (1966 film); Lisa Carson (1967)
Birthdate: Monday, May 27th, 1935
Location: Los Angeles, USA

After being crowned Miss California, and then Miss America, live on television in September 1954 (with Grace Kelly as a judge, no less!), Lee carved out a successful acting career for ten or so years before she got the role of Catwoman in the 1966 Batman movie. Starting in 1954's Middle of the Night, she took roles in everything from The Millionaire (1958), Dragnet (1958) and Dr Kildare (1963-65) to The Man from UNCLE (1965), The Fugitive (1966) and My Three Sons (1966).

Lee as Lisa Carson in the 1967 Batman
story King Tut's Coup/ Batman's Waterloo
Series 1 Catwoman Julie Newmar had other commitments when the Batman movie was being filmed so Lee stepped in, but a lesser known fact is that she did actually make an appearance in the TV series, albeit as a different character. She played Bruce Wayne's love interest Lisa Carson in King Tut's Coup/ Batman's Waterloo in March 1967.

After her dalliance with the Caped Crusader Lee secured a regular role as Dr Ann MacGregor in the Irwin Allen series The Time Tunnel (1966-67), then continued to make many guest star appearances in Star Trek (1969), Mannix (1969), Mission: Impossible (1969-70), The New Andy Griffith Show (1971), Time Express (1979) and CHiPS (1979). Throughout the 1970s her most high profile role was as Betty Jones in the detective series Barnaby Jones, playing daughter-in-law to Buddy Ebsen's title character in no fewer than 178 episodes between 1973-80.

Lee, aged 79, pictured in March 2015
Guest roles continued throughout the 1980s (Hotel, The Love Boat, Jake and the Fatman, the usual suspects) and in 1988 she bagged another recurring role, that of Lily Munster, in The Munsters Today, a reboot of the 1960s sitcom which ran for three years and more than 70 episodes.

As Lee reached her 65th year as the millennium turned she began to pick and choose her roles more carefully, the most memorable of which is probably that of Ruth Martin in the soap opera All My Children, appearing in 49 episodes between 1996 and 2011. She's also appeared in Desperate Housewives (2012), Hawaii Five-O (2012) and The League (2012).

Lee continues to act today, with several productions she's filmed scenes for in post-production awaiting release or broadcast, and regularly attends Hollywood galas, premieres and fundraisers.

EARTHA KITT (born Eartha Mae Keith)
Played: Catwoman (1967-68)
Birthdate: Monday, January 17th, 1927
Location: South Carolina, USA

Died: Thursday, December 25th, 2008
Location: Weston, Connecticut, USA
Cause of death: Colon cancer

Eartha's career outside of Batman is epic. She was a dancer, singer, cabaret artiste, comedienne and even an activist, so let's concentrate on her screen work to try and focus things a little. Her earliest screen appearance was as an uncredited dancer in 1948's Casbah, while she appeared as herself in 1951's Paris is Always Paris. The acting roles began to come with 1953's The Conquest of Mexico, followed by work in Salome (1955), St Louis Blues (1958), Burke's Law (1965) and Mission: Impossible (1967).

She made her first appearance as the TV series' second Catwoman in December 1967's The Bloody Tower, and appeared in a total of five episode in the third series, ending with The Joke's on Catwoman in January 1968.

Eartha in Miami Vice, aged 58
Acting roles continued for the rest of her life, turning up in The Protectors (1974), Police Woman (1978), Miami Vice (1985), Erik the Viking (1989), Boomerang (1992), Fatal Instinct (1993), Harriet the Spy (1996), Welcome to New York (2000), Holes (2003) and American Dad! (2007). In 2000 she gave her voice to the villainess Yzma in Disney's film The Emperor's New Groove, and followed it up in the sequel Kronk's New Groove (2005) and the TV series The Emperor's New School (2006-08). Eartha won a Daytime Emmy in both 2007 and 2008 for her vocal work as Yzma, and a third was awarded her posthumously in 2010 for her voice work as Cool Cat in the Wonder Pets! episode Save the Cool Cat and the Hip Hippo (2009). Her final screen credit was as the voice of her animated self in an episode of The Simpsons' 21st series, Once Upon a Time in Springfield, broadcast in January 2010, 13 months after she died.

One of Eartha's final personal appearances was on BBC1's Breakfast programme in the UK on April 23rd, 2008 (where she appeared full of life), and in February 2009, just five weeks after she'd died, PBS in the United States broadcast An Evening with Eartha Kitt, which had been recorded at the Northwestern University Law School in Chicago on September 20th, 2008. In the hour-long special, she performed Ain't Misbehavin', La Vie en Rose and Here's to Life - her final public performances.

Eartha pictured in 2007, the
year before she passed away
Eartha died of colon cancer on Christmas Day, 2008, aged 81, at her home in Connecticut. Her daughter Kitt Shapiro spoke movingly and frankly of her mother's final days:

"I was with her when she died. She left this world literally screaming at the top of her lungs. I was with her constantly. She was home for the last few weeks when the doctor told us there was nothing they could do any more. Up until the last two days, she was still moving around. The doctor told us she would leave very quickly and her body would just start to shut down.

"But when she left, she left the world with a bang, she left it how she lived it. She screamed her way out of here, literally. I truly believe her survival instincts were so part of her DNA that she was not going to go quietly or willingly. It was just the two of us hanging out during the last days and she was very funny. We didn't have to talk because I always knew how she felt about me. I was the love of her life, so the last part of her life we didn't have to have these heart-to-heart talks.

"She started to see people that weren't there. She thought I could see them too, but, of course, I couldn't. I would make fun of her, like: 'I'm going to go in the other room and you stay here and talk to your friends'!"

An iconic moment... Eartha Kitt, Julie Newmar and Lee
Meriwether at the TV Land Awards, March 17th, 2004

FRANK GORSHIN (born Frank John Gorshin Jr)
Played: The Riddler (1966-67)
Birthdate: Wednesday, April 5th, 1933
Location: Pittsburgh, USA

Died: Tuesday, May 17th, 2005
Location: Burbank, California, USA
Cause of death: Lung cancer

For ten years before pulling on the Riddler's catsuit Frank had been working hard in character roles. Debuting in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1956, he appeared in Hot Rod Girl (1956), The True Story of Jesse James (1957), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), Tank Battalion (1958), Hennesey (1959), The George Raft Story (1961), That Darn Cat! (1965) and The Munsters (1966).

He played the Riddler in nine episodes of the series, and a tenth as an uncredited voiceover, plus, of course, the movie. He debuted in the very first episode of Batman, Hi Diddle Riddle, on January 12th, 1966, and last appeared in Ring Around the Riddler in September 1967. When Frank was unable to reprise the role for the story Batman's Anniversary/ A Riddling Controversy in February 1967, the Riddler was temporarily played by John Astin (see below).

Frank, aged 62, as Dr Fletcher in 1995's
12 Monkeys (note the cigarette!)
After Batman, Frank's career just continued to expand and he appeared in everything from Star Trek (1969) to Charlie's Angels (1977), Wonder Woman (1977) to Murder, She Wrote (1988). He never quite cracked the big time in Hollywood (although he did have roles in the odd blockbuster, such as Twelve Monkeys (1995)), and continued acting right up until his death. He even revisited the world of Gotham by voicing Professor Hugo Strange in The Batman animated series, broadcast posthumously.

In fact, Frank was so prolific that a number of his projects didn't see the light of day until after he'd died, including playing George Burns in the comedy Angels with Angles (2005), a role in the lamentable horror flick The Creature of the Sunny Side Up Trailer Park (2006) alongside Lynda Carter, and finally a guest role on the Rob Lowe series Dr Vegas, broadcast on October 6th, 2006, a full 16 months after he'd died.

Frank in 2005, the year
he died aged 72
Frank's final public appearance was on April 25th, 2005, when he played George Burns in the live one-man show Say Goodnight, Gracie, in Memphis, Tennessee. After the show, Frank boarded a plane but experienced breathing difficulties during the flight and had to be given emergency oxygen. Upon landing, Frank was transferred by ambulance to hospital in Burbank, where he died of lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia three weeks later, on May 17th, aged 72. He'd been a heavy smoker all his life, sometimes smoking five packets a day. Adam West once said: "Frank could reduce a cigarette to ash with one draw." Frank was buried at the Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Hazelwood, Pittsburgh.

Ironically, Frank appeared as himself in an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation entitled Grave Danger, broadcast two days after his death, on May 19th, 2005. It was directed by Quentin Tarantino, and dedicated to Frank's memory on transmission. Two days later, the Riddler (this time voiced by Robert Englund) made his debut on The Batman animated series... a passing of the baton, perhaps?

The last ever photo taken of Frank, on
April 25th, 2005, aboard the flight from
Tennessee when he was taken ill
with breathing difficulties

JOHN ASTIN (born John Allen Astin)
Played: The Riddler (1967)
Birthdate: Sunday, March 30th, 1930
Location: Baltimore, USA

John played the Riddler for just one two-part story in Batman's second series, in Batman's Anniversary and A Riddling Controversy, on February 8th and 9th, 1967. The usual actor, Frank Gorshin (see above), was not available, but did return to the role in Series 3.

By 1967 John was best known for playing the iconic role of Gomez Addams in the horror sitcom The Addams Family between 1964-66, and prior to that he regularly played Harry Dickens in the sitcom I'm Dickens, He's Fenster (1962-63). After Batman John's career simply continued in the way it was before, with a plethora of guest appearances in many TV series and films. Notable roles were in the original Freaky Friday film (1976), and a return to the role of Gomez in a 1977 Hallowe'en reunion special.

Gomez Addams through the years - in 1964, 1977, 1992 and 1998
After that he secured the role of Lt Cmdr Matthew Sherman in Operation Petticoat (1977-78), and provided his vocal talents to the cartoon series Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (1977-80). In the 1980s he played Ed LaSalle in Mary Tyler Moore's sitcom Mary (1985-86), and turned up in the movies National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985), Teen Wolf Too (1987) and the so-terrible-it's-great B-movie Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988). He also had the recurring role of Buddy Ryan in Night Court (1986-90).

The 1990s bought more high profile, or at least well-remembered, notches to his CV - he had a cameo as a janitor in Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), appeared in sequels Killer Tomatoes Strike Back (1991) and Killer Tomatoes Eat France (1992), and the animated spin-off Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1990-91), voicing Dr Putrid T Gangreen. There were also recurring roles in Eerie, Indiana (1992), another return to the part of Gomez in the animated series The Addams Family (1992-93), The Adventures of Brisco County Jr (1993-94), the cartoon Duckman (1994-97), and yet another return to the Addams canon, this time as Grandpapa Addams in The New Addams Family (1998-99).

John pictured in July 2014, aged 84
John's work in the 21st century has been much sparser, and his last credited acting part was in 2006, but he is due to make an appearance as Professor Peabody in Starship II: Rendezvous with Ramses in 2016, alongside another genre favourite, Battlestar Galactica's Richard Hatch.

However, John still appears as himself on American TV, most recently at the Star-Spangled Spectacular celebrating the bicentennial of the American National Anthem in his hometown of Balitmore in September 2013. He also teaches method acting and directing at John Hopkins University, Baltimore, his almer mater. He practices Nichiren Buddhism and is a member of Soka Gakkai International.

No comments:

Post a comment

Please add your comments here...