You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Adam West learned to embrace Batman role he couldn't shake

Associated Press logo Associated Press 6/10/2017 By KEITH RIDLER and SANDY COHEN, Associated Press
FILE - In this Dec. 11, 1985 file photo, Adam West poses for a photo in Los Angeles. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Dec. 11, 1985 file photo, Adam West poses for a photo in Los Angeles. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Before Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck donned Batman's cape in a stream of Hollywood blockbusters, there was Adam West.

FILE - This Jan. 14, 1989 file photo shows Adam West in New York. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) © The Associated Press FILE - This Jan. 14, 1989 file photo shows Adam West in New York. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

West's deadpan portrayal of the comic hero in a campy 1960's TV series brought the Caped Crusader into the national consciousness with a "bang!" The Dark Knight had been a brooding presence on the pages of comic books since 1939 and on the big screen in 1940s-era movie serials.

FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 27, 1989 file photo, actors Adam West, left, and Burt Ward, dressed as their characters Batman and Robin, pose for a photo at the "World of Wheels" custom car show in Chicago. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, West’s family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Mark Elias, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 27, 1989 file photo, actors Adam West, left, and Burt Ward, dressed as their characters Batman and Robin, pose for a photo at the "World of Wheels" custom car show in Chicago. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, West’s family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Mark Elias, File)

West died Friday night after "a short but brave battle with leukemia," his family said Saturday on a verified Facebook page.

FILE - In this Dec. 11, 1985, file photo, Adam West poses for a photo in Los Angeles. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Dec. 11, 1985, file photo, Adam West poses for a photo in Los Angeles. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon, File)

When West took on the tights, he stoked the stoicism for laughs: a superhero letting everyone know he was in on the joke.

FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2002 file photo, a fan holds a signed photograph of actor Adam West, right, during the 50th Autorama in Detroit. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Paul Warner, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2002 file photo, a fan holds a signed photograph of actor Adam West, right, during the 50th Autorama in Detroit. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Paul Warner, File)

"We were making overstated morality plays for children that adults could watch and enjoy," West told the Los Angeles Times in a 2004 interview. "We played it terribly serious, and that's half the fun of it."

FILE - This Jan. 13, 2003 file photo shows actor Adam West in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Jill Connelly) © The Associated Press FILE - This Jan. 13, 2003 file photo shows actor Adam West in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Jill Connelly)

West's Batman, which he called his "Bright Knight," protected Gotham City from Technicolor criminals such as the Penguin, the Riddler and Catwoman.

FILE - This June 14, 1989 file photo shows Adam West in New York. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) © The Associated Press FILE - This June 14, 1989 file photo shows Adam West in New York. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Viewers came to expect fight scenes where Batman and his trusted sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder, played by Burt Ward, would battle and array of anonymous henchmen, dispatching them with comedic blows punctuated with onomatopoeia graphics that filled the screen: Bam! Whap! Pow! He would be associated with the role for the rest of his life.

FILE - In this June 27, 1989 file photo, Adam West, left, stands beside the old Batmobile driven by owner Scott Chinery in Philadelphia. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Cristy Rickard, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this June 27, 1989 file photo, Adam West, left, stands beside the old Batmobile driven by owner Scott Chinery in Philadelphia. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Cristy Rickard, File)

"You get terribly typecast playing a character like that," he told The Associated Press in a 2014 interview.

FILE - In this March 19, 2006 file photo, Burt Ward, left, and Adam West pose for photos while walking the red carpet prior to the TV Land Awards, in Santa Monica, Calif. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, West’s family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News via AP) © The Associated Press FILE - In this March 19, 2006 file photo, Burt Ward, left, and Adam West pose for photos while walking the red carpet prior to the TV Land Awards, in Santa Monica, Calif. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, West’s family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News via AP)

"But in the overall, I'm delighted because my character became iconic and has opened a lot of doors in other ways, too." ''Batman" was among the most popular TV shows in 1966, the year of its debut, and some of the era's top actors signed on to play villains.

FILE - In this May 29, 2015 file photo, a Batman costume worn by Adam West in the 1960s television show is on display next a Superman costume worn by Christopher Reeve in "Superman IV" at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, Ky. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, West’s family said the actor has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan) © The Associated Press FILE - In this May 29, 2015 file photo, a Batman costume worn by Adam West in the 1960s television show is on display next a Superman costume worn by Christopher Reeve in "Superman IV" at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, Ky. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, West’s family said the actor has died at age 88. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)

Burgess Meredith squawked as the Penguin. Eartha Kitt purred as Catwoman. And Cesar Romero cackled as the Joker. It was the start of a tradition that would continue when the characters re-emerged as Hollywood mainstays in 1989.

FILE- In this Nov. 17, 2012 file photo, Adam West arrives at Variety Power of Comedy at Avalon Hollywood in Los Angeles. 10, 2017. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE- In this Nov. 17, 2012 file photo, Adam West arrives at Variety Power of Comedy at Avalon Hollywood in Los Angeles. 10, 2017. On Saturday, June 10, 2017, his family said the actor, who portrayed Batman in a 1960s TV series, has died at age 88. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

The show lasted just three seasons but has endured in reruns and video sales. After "Batman" went off the air in 1968, West continued to work in television, appearing in "Laverne & Shirley" and "Fantasy Island."

But he said he had been turned down for some roles because of his time portraying millionaire, playboy Bruce Wayne and his spandex-wearing alter ego, Batman. It was a source of tension until he realized his work helped kick off the big-budget film franchise by showing the character was a hit with wide audiences.

"It is kind of a double-edged sword, but I made up my mind a long time ago to enjoy it," West told The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs, California, in a June 2006 interview. "Not many actors get the chance to create a signature character."

He returned to the role in an episode of "The Simpsons" and in 2003's "Return to the Batcave," in which he reminisced with his former co-star Ward, reprising his role as Robin, while chasing villains who had stolen the Batmobile from a museum.

More recently, he did the voice of nutty Mayor Adam West on the long-running "Family Guy" series. In April 2012, West received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Born William West Anderson in Walla Walla, Washington, he moved to Seattle at age 15 with his mother after his parents divorced. He graduated from Whitman College, a liberal arts school, in Walla Walla.

After serving in the Army, he went to Hollywood, changed his name to Adam West and began appearing on a number of shows, including "Bonanza," ''Perry Mason" and "Bewitched."

He was married three times and had six children. West had homes in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California, but he and his wife, Marcelle, spent most of their time at their ranch near Sun Valley, Idaho, where he remained in on the joke.

An online search of the Sun Valley directory for Adam West results in a prompt to "See Wayne, Bruce (Millionaire)," which results in "Please consult Crime Fighters in the Yellow Pages," leading to "See Batman," leading back to Adam West. None have phone numbers.

___

Ridler reported from Boise, Idaho. Associated Press writer Greg Moore in Phoenix contributed to this report.

AdChoices
AdChoices
AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon