Adam West was our first movie Batman to hit the mainstream. Apart from the one or two serial style aventures in the 40s, West’s performance defined a generation’s Batman. It was campy and at times ridiculous but he earned the monicker “The Bright Knight”. The actor died of leukemia at the age of 88 leaving behind a legacy of talent, unparalleled sense of humor, and a permanent mark on the tapestry of American culture.
Contrary to popular belief, Adam West worked very consistently from the end of his 1960s turn as the cage crusader. His most recent stint on television was as the mayor in the animated series Family Guy. Series creator Seth MacFarlane always appreciated wests particular acting skills. It was also as many of us are, a diehard fan of his Batman. Perhaps the biggest fan and now cohost of the hit podcast Hollywood Babble-On with Kevin Smith is Ralph Garman. Garman was instrumental in helping Adam West receive his star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
Underrated from the very beginning Adam has been able to be that glue that hold TV series together. Prior to Batman the television series he held his own in shows like Maverick and the detectives up against such heavy hitters like James Garner and Roger Moore.
Batman for most people represents their childhood. For some their incarnation is Christian Bale in the most realistic version we’ve seen to date. For others it’s Val Kilmer or George Clooney and they’re outlandish and seemingly career destroying take in the mid to late 90s. A whole new generation will grow up thinking that Ben Affleck is the Batman in his dower outing along side an equally depressing Superman. However for the generation that looks to Adam West they don’t see a dark Knight, they see a familiar character with a fun persona.
In 1989 Director Tim Burton and actor Michael Keaton Took a decidedly different path with the caped crusader character. In their film “Batman”, Gotham was a bleak crime den in need of constant surveillance. The Gotham of Adam West’s Batman was a Mayberry type existence. Always very bright crimes being committed in broad daylight and the lead character always obeyed speed and traffic laws. Obviously geared towards children as all comic book characters are with the exception of the ever-growing graphic novel set there were lessons to learn from Adam West’s portrayal.
The fun and energetic style attracted huge stars of the time. Stars the likes of Burgess Meredith, Jill St. John, Frank Gorshin, And Cesar Romero all made regular appearances as top name characters.
Adam never lost his love for the show or the appreciation for his fans. He will be missed.
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