Eighty-eight-year-old Adam West, born William West Anderson and best remembered for his appearance in the lead role of ABC’s Batman (1966-1968), passed away Friday night in Los Angeles.
West made the transition peacefully in his sleep after a brief struggle with leukemia. He is survived by his wife Marcelle, six children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“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,” said his family in a statement.
The family also tweeted: “Our beloved AW passed away last night. He was the greatest. We’ll miss him like crazy. We know you’ll miss him too – West Family”.
Bruce Ward, who plays Batman’s sidekick, Robin/ Dick Grayson in the ABC series of the Sixties, said he was devastated – the two “lifelong” friends having traveled to the East Coast together for an autograph show just two weeks prior to West’s death.
“I am devastated at the loss of one my very dearest friends,” Ward said in a statement. “Adam and I had a special friendship for more than 50 years. We shared some of the most fun times of our lives together. Our families have deep love and respect for each other. This is a terribly unexpected loss of my lifelong friend. I will forever miss him. There are several fine actors who have portrayed Batman in films. In my eyes, there was only one real Batman that is and always will be Adam West. He was truly the Bright Night.”” – As reported by Variety.
Early Life and Career
Born on September 19, 1928, in Walla Walla, Washington to a farmer father and an opera singer/concert pianist mother, West studied at the Walla Walla High School during his freshman and sophomore years, and later went to Lakeside School in Seattle. He had moved to Seattle at the age of 15 with his mother soon after his parents’ divorce.
After his discharge from the United States Army, where he served as an announcer on American Forces Network television, he moved to Hawaii in pursuit of a career in showbiz.
Let’s take a chronological look at how his showbiz career progressed over the years.
His foray into the world of entertainment began when he was selected for a role in a children’s program, the El Kini Popo Show. He went on to become the star of the show.
In 1959, he moved to Hollywood with his wife and two children where he adopted the stage name Adam West.
Here is a list of the majority of West’s film and TV appearances:
El Kini Popo Show – As mentioned above he started his acting career with this children’s show playing the sidekick – the show also featured a chimp.
The Young Philadelphians – Paul Newman was the star in the film.
Sugarfoot, Colt.45, and Lawman – These were three westerns from Warner Bros., aired on ABC, in which West plays Doc Holiday, the gunfighter/dentist.
Westbound Stage – He plays Wild Bill Hickok in this episode of the NBC Western series Overland Trail (1960) – Doug McClure and William Bendix also featured in the episode.
Johnny Midnight – West appeared as a guest star in this syndicated Edmond O’Brien-crime- drama.
The Detectives – Also referred to as ‘The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor’ and ‘Robert Taylor’s Detectives,’ this crime drama saw him in a supporting role as a police officer.
The Real McCoys – West appeared only once in this Walter Brennan sitcom.
The Man from Kansas – In this January 1961-episode of the NBC Western series Laramie (1959-1963), West plays the part of a young, ambitious deputy.
The Case of the Barefaced Witness – His first of two guest appearances on this Perry Mason episode was in 1961 – he portrays a small-town journalist, Dan Southern, in this particular episode.
The Case of the Bogus Books – This was the 1962 Perry Mason episode in which he makes his second guest appearance as Pete Norland, a folk singer.
The Invisible Enemy – West makes an appearance in this installment of ABC’s series, Outer Limits.
Soldier in the Rain – Has a small role as Major Dan McCready in this film also starring Steve McQueen and Jackie Gleason
Robinson Crusoe on Mars – In this 1964 release he plays the mission commander of the doomed Mars Gravity Probe 1.
The Outlaw is Coming – The Outlaw is Coming (1965) was the last film featuring The Three Stooges. It was a comedy Western in which West also finds a place.
Stopover – In this April 25, 1961, installment of the ABC series, Rifleman (1958-1963), West plays the character of Christopher Rolf.
Batman – After watching West in a Nestlé Quik commercial where he performed as Captain Q, a character along the lines of James Bond, Producer William Dozier chose West over Lyle Waggoner for the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman for the Batman television series.
The hit show ran from 1966-1968 and West, as Batman, was able to bask in the popularity and recognition that had so far eluded him.
It proved to be his undoing, as well, as he became typecast and was not really accepted outside of the Batman suit in spite of bagging his share of roles over the years. However, West took it in his stride and never visibly showed any bitterness.
“When you wear a mask and funny tights … it gets a little frustrating from time to time,” West had said in an interview. “I was turned down for a number of parts over the years, I feel, because of that.”
“Wherever I go in the world, there’s such a wonderful rapport with our Batman that it’s neat,” he said. “People come up and play entire scenes for me unsolicited, but I got to laugh. … How lucky can a person get to be part of something that is a classic?”
In an interview with CNN on Saturday, Julie Newmar, the Catwoman in Batman alongside West, honored her late co-star calling him “the finest Batman ever.”
“People adored him. Long lines of people stood to get his autograph,” Newmar said to CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield.
“A friend called me up this morning and said to me with tears in his voice, that Adam West was the father that we wanted,” she said.
“He had that extra intelligence called wit, which allows us to live in this world above things and laugh at it.”
“He did not have to have his shoulders built up. He wasn’t a fake Batman or an over-costumed Batman. I think he was the real thing,” she emphasized.
“I think he was and will be — and always will be — the finest Batman ever,” she said.
The Girl Who Knew Too Much – In this 1969 film, he plays Johnny Cain, a tough cynic but the film bombed at the box office. It was evident that he had been severely typecast because audiences found it difficult to accept him portraying any other character – his Batman image had stuck.
Some of his other post-Batman era film and television appearances include the following:
The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker – 1971,
The Curse of the Moon Child – 1972
The Specialist – 1975, Hooper – 1978
The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood – 1980,
One Dark Night – 1983
The Eyes of Charles Sand – 1972
Poor Devil – 1973,
Nevada Smith – 1975
For the Love of It – 1980
I Take These Men -1983
In addition to all of the above pre- and post-batman era film and television appearances, Adam West was seen in numerous other film and television appearances.
He also did voice-over work and did pretty well for himself in that area. Some of his voice-over work include shows like The Simpsons, Futurama, Rugrats, The Critic, Histeria!, Kim Possible, Johnny Bravo, Batman: The Animated Series called “Beware the Gray Ghost”, where he lent his voice to the Gray Ghost.
In recent years West did voice-over work on shows like Disney Channel’s “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” and Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken.”
The current generation of TV fans will remember and miss him for his voice-over work on Fox’s “Family Guy” as Mayor Adam West. He had been with the show from 2000 right through to the last season so far.
Remember him as Batman or for his voice-over work, Adam West did what he did best and he will be missed by fans around the world.
R.I.P. Mr. Adam West