Batman is a 1960s American television series, based on the DC comic book character of the same name, which starred Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, two crime-fighting heroes who defended “Gotham City”. It aired on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) network for two and a half seasons from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968. Despite its short run, the show had a total of 120 episodes, having two weekly installments for most of its tenure.
In the early 1960s, Ed Graham Productions optioned the TV rights to the comic strip Batman, and planned a straightforward juvenile adventure show, much like Adventures of Superman and The Lone Ranger, for CBS on Saturday mornings. Mike Henry, who would later go on to star in the Tarzan franchise, and is best known for his portrayal of Jackie Gleason’s not-too-bright son Buford T. Justice, Jr. in the Smokey and the Bandit movies, was set to star as Batman.
Reportedly, DC Comics commissioned publicity photos of Henry in a Batman costume. Around this same time, the Playboy Club in Chicago was screening the Batman serials (1943′s Batman and 1949′s Batman and Robin) on Saturday nights. It became very popular, as the hip partygoers would cheer and applaud the Dynamic Duo, and boo and hiss at the villains. East coast ABC executive Yale Udoff, a Batman fan in childhood, attended one of these parties at the Playboy Club and was impressed with the reaction the serials were getting. He contacted West Coast ABC executives Harve Bennett and Edgar J. Scherick, who were already considering developing a TV series based on a comic strip action hero, to suggest a prime time Batman series in the hip and fun style of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
When negotiations between CBS and Graham stalled, DC quickly re-obtained rights and made the deal with ABC. ABC farmed the rights out to 20th Century Fox to produce the series. Fox, in turn, handed the project to William Dozier and his Greenway Productions. ABC and Fox were expecting a hip and fun—yet still serious—adventure show. However, Dozier, who loathed comic books, concluded the only way to make the show work was to do it as a pop art camp comedy. Originally, espionage novelist Eric Ambler was to write the motion picture that would launch the TV series, but he dropped out after learning of Dozier’s camp comedy approach.
By the time ABC pushed up the debut date to January 1966, thus foregoing the movie until the summer hiatus, Lorenzo Semple, Jr. had signed on as head script writer. He wrote the pilot script, and generally kept his scripts more on the side of pop art adventure. Stanley Ralph Ross, Stanford Sherman, and Charles Hoffman were script writers who generally leaned more toward camp comedy, and in Ross’ case, sometimes outright slapstick and satire. Instead of producing a one-hour show, Dozier and Semple decided to have the show air twice a week in half-hour installments with a cliffhanger connecting the two episodes, echoing the old movie serials. Eventually, two sets of screen tests were filmed, one with Adam West and Burt Ward, the other with Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell, with West and Ward winning the roles.
The Penguin — Played by Burgess Meredith. The Penguin is an old arch enemy of the Caped Crusaders. He baffles them with his bird and umbrella clues as to what crime he is going to commit.
The Joker — Played by Cesar Romero. Also, an enemy of Batman and Robin; possesses a twisted, malevolent sense of humor. The Joker has a habit of overpowering the station in charge of the news, and gives the Dynamic Duo clues to his crimes.
The Riddler — Played principally by Frank Gorshin, and once by John Astin. Has a compulsion to present riddles that give Batman clues to his crimes. The Riddler’s mind works in a twisted way. As Batman said in the first episode, “The Riddler’s mind is like an artichoke. You have to rip off spiny leaves to reach the heart!”
Catwoman — Played in the first two seasons by Julie Newmar; in the third season by Eartha Kitt. Her crime sprees emphasize a “cat” motif. Newmar’s Catwoman secretly loves Batman, but she still likes to try to murder him and Robin. Kitt’s Catwoman displayed no underlying affection for Batman, but harbored particular antipathy toward Batgirl.
Mr. Freeze — Played one time each by George Sanders, Otto Preminger, and Eli Wallach. Facilitates his crimes by freezing people and objects with a blast of his deadly “freeze gun” (which is also a flame-thrower on some occasions). Mr. Freeze is forced to live in an environment 50 degrees below zero.
King Tut — Played by Victor Buono. An obese Yale Egyptologist who, after a blow to the head, believes he is a real pharaoh, with a gang of hoods who also believe the delusion.
The Mad Hatter — Played by David Wayne. An inventor who uses his many hats to hypnotize people.
Egghead — The self-proclaimed “world’s smartest criminal,” played by Vincent Price.
The typical story began with a villain (often one of a short list of recurring super-criminals) committing a crime, such as stealing a fabulous gem or taking over Gotham City. This was followed by a scene inside Police Commissioner Gordon’s office where he and Chief O’Hara would deduce exactly which villain they were dealing with. Gordon would press a button on the Batphone, a bright red telephone located on a pedestal in his office. The scene then cut to stately Wayne Manor where Alfred the butler would answer the Batphone, which sat like a normal everyday telephone on the desk in Bruce Wayne’s study. Frequently, Wayne and his ward, Dick Grayson, would be found talking with Dick’s Aunt Harriet. Alfred would interrupt so they could excuse themselves and go to the Batphone. Upon learning which criminal he would face this time, Bruce would push a button concealed within a bust of Shakespeare that stood on his desk causing a bookcase to slide back and revealing two poles. “To the Batpoles!” Wayne would exclaim, at which he and Grayson would slide down to the Batcave, activating a mechanism on the way that dressed them as their alter egos. Often, at this point, the title sequence would begin.
Similar in style and content to the 1940s serials, they would arrive in the Batcave in full costume and jump into the Batmobile, Batman in the driver’s seat. Robin would say, “Atomic batteries to power…turbines to speed.” Batman would respond, “Roger, ready to move out.” And the two would race off out of the cave at high speed. As the Batmobile approached the mouth of the cave, actually a tunnel entrance in Los Angeles’s Bronson Canyon, a hinged barrier dropped down to allow the car to exit onto the road. Scenes from the Dynamic Duo sliding down the batpoles in the Batcave, to the arrival at Commissioner Gordon’s building via the Batmobile (while the episode credits are shown), are reused footage that is used in nearly all part 1 and single episodes.
After arriving at Commissioner Gordon’s office, the initial discussion of the crime usually led to the Dynamic Duo conducting their investigation alone. During the investigation, a meeting with the villain would usually ensue, with the heroes getting involved in a fight and the villain getting away, leaving a series of unlikely clues for the Duo to investigate. Later, the Duo would face the villain again, and he or she would capture one or both of the heroes and place them in a deathtrap with a cliffhanger ending which was usually resolved in the first few minutes of the next episode.
After the cliff-hangers
The same pattern was repeated in the following episode until the villain was defeated in a major brawl where the action was punctuated by superimposed onomatopoeic words, as in comic book fight scenes (“POW!”, “BAM!”, “ZONK!”, etc.). Not counting five of the Penguin’s henchmen who disintegrate or get blown up in the associated Batman theatrical movie, only three criminal characters die during the series: the Riddler’s moll Molly (played by Jill St. John in Episode 2) who accidentally falls into the Batcave’s atomic pile, and two out-of-town gunmen who shoot at the Dynamic Duo toward the end of the “Zelda The Great/A Death Worse Than Fate” episode, but end up killing each other instead. In “Instant Freeze,” Mr. Freeze freezes a butler solid and knocks him over, causing him to smash to pieces, although this is implied rather than seen, and there is a later reference suggesting the butler survived. In “Green Ice,” Mr. Freeze freezes a policeman solid; it is left unclear whether he survived or not. In “The Penguin’s Nest,” a policeman suffers an electric shock at the hands of the Penguin’s accomplices, but he apparently survived as he appeared in some later episodes. In “The Bookworm Turns,” Commissioner Gordon appears to be shot and falls off a bridge to his death, but Batman deduces that this was actually an expert high diver in disguise, employed by The Bookworm as a ruse (implying that the diver survived the fall).
Robin, in particular, was especially well known for saying “Holy (insert), Batman!” whenever he encountered something startling.
The series utilized a narrator (producer William Dozier, uncredited) who parodied both the breathless narration style of the 1940s serials and Walter Winchell’s narration of The Untouchables. He would end many of the cliffhanger episodes by intoning, “Tune in tomorrow — same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!”
Only two of the series’ guest villains ever discovered Batman’s true identity: Egghead by deductive reasoning, and King Tut on two occasions (once with a bug on the Batmobile and once by accidentally mining into The Batcave). Egghead was tricked into disbelieving his discovery, as was Tut in the episode when he bugged the Batmobile. In the episode when Tut tunnelled into the Batcave, he was hit on the head by a rock which made him forget his discovery and jarred him back into his identity as a mild-mannered Professor of Egyptology at Yale University. (He didn’t even recognize Batgirl, asking her, “Why are you wearing that purple mask, lady?”)
In Season 1, the dynamic duo, Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward), are super crime-fighting heroes, contending with the villains of Gotham City. It begins with the two-parter, “Hi Diddle Riddle” and “Smack in the Middle”, featuring Frank Gorshin as The Riddler.
In Season 2, the show suffered from repetition of its characters and formula. In addition, critics noted that the series’ delicate balance of drama and humor that the first season maintained was lost as the stories became increasingly farcical. This, combined with Lorenzo Semple Jr. contributing fewer scripts and having less of an influence on the series, caused viewers to tire of the show and for critics to complain, “If you’ve seen one episode of Batman, you’ve seen them all.”
By Season 3, ratings were falling and the future of the series seemed uncertain. A promotional short featuring Yvonne Craig as Batgirl and Tim Herbert as Killer Moth was produced. The short was convincing enough to pick up Batman for another season, and introduced Batgirl as a regular on the show in an attempt to attract more female viewers. Batgirl’s alter ego was Barbara Gordon, a mild-mannered librarian at the Gotham Library and Commissioner Gordon’s daughter. The show was reduced to once a week, with mostly self-contained episodes, although the next week’s villain would be in a tag at the end of the episode, similar to a soap opera. Accordingly, the narrator’s cliffhanger phrases were eliminated, but most episodes would end with him saying something to the effect of “Watch the next episode!”
Aunt Harriet was reduced to just two cameo appearances during the third season because of Madge Blake’s poor health. (Aunt Harriet was also mentioned in another episode, but was not seen; her absence was explained by her being in shock upstairs.) The nature of the scripts and acting started to enter into the realm of the surrealistic. For example, the set’s backgrounds became mere two-dimensional cut-outs against a stark black stage. In addition, the third season was much more topical, with references to hippies, mods, and distinctive 1960′s slang, which the previous seasons avoided.
Near the end of the third season, ABC planned to cut the budget even further by eliminating Robin and Chief O’Hara, and making Batgirl Batman’s full-time partner. Both Dozier and West vetoed this idea, and ABC cancelled the show. Weeks later, NBC offered to pick the show up for a fourth season and even restore it to its original twice-a-week format, if the sets were still available for use. However, NBC’s offer came too late: Fox had already demolished the sets a week before. NBC didn’t want to pay the $800,000 for the re
build, so the offer was withdrawn.
* Adam West – Batman/Bruce Wayne – A caped crusader whose parents were murdered when he was a child
* Burt Ward – Robin/Dick Grayson – Batman’s faithful partner and “boy wonder”.
* Alan Napier – Alfred – Batman’s loyal butler.
* Neil Hamilton – Commissioner James Worthington Gordon – Gotham City Commissioner of Police.
* Stafford Repp – Chief Clancy O’Hara – Gotham City Chief of Police.
* Madge Blake – Aunt Harriet Cooper – Dick Grayson’s maternal aunt.
* Yvonne Craig – Batgirl/Barbara Gordon – Commissioner Gordon’s daughter and Batman’s partner (Season 3).
* David Lewis – Warden Critchton – Warden of Gotham State Penitentiary (recurring).
* Byron Keith – Mayor Linseed – Mayor of Gotham City (recurring).
* William Dozier – “Desmond Doomsday”, the Narrator
Several cast members recorded records tied in to the series. Adam West released a single titled “Miranda”, a country-tinged pop song that he actually performed in costume during live appearances in the 1960s. Frank Gorshin released a song titled “The Riddler” which was composed and arranged by Mel Tormé. Burgess Meredith recorded a spoken word single called “The Escape” backed with “The Capture”, which was The Penguin narrating his recent crime spree to a jazz beat. Burt Ward recorded a song called “Boy Wonder, I Love You”, written and arranged by Frank Zappa.
Watch The Batman 1966 TV Series Intro Below
Watch The Batman 1966 Video Movie Trailer Below
Holy Bat Facts
Molly was the only person to die in the Bat-Cave!
The distance from the Bat-Cave to Gotham City is 14 miles.
The Bat-Mobile registration is 2F-3567.
Robin said “Holy” 357 times during the show!
There were 86 said sounds.
When playing The Joker, Cesar Romero refused to shave his moustache so he painted over it instead.
All the villains were paid $2,500; no more, no less!
There was 47 signs in the Bat-Cave!
Bruce Wayne was involved in 19 public organisations!
The executive producer William Dozier was also the narrator!
The Batcave cost $800,000 to build!
In 1968, when ABC cancelled Batman, NBC asked to run the show but the Bat-Cave had already been dismantled!
The Batmobile couldn’t travel faster than 45 mph!
In 1966 Batman was nominated for an Emmy in the category of “Outstanding Comedy Series” and also “Individual Achievements in Sound Editing”.
The episodes “The Devils Fingers” “The Dead Ringers” starring Liberace was the highest-rated of all the Batman shows!
The Puzzler episodes were intended for the Riddler but Frank Gorshin didnt want to play the role anymore! These episodes were originally called “A Penny For Your Riddles” “They’re Worth A Lot More”.
Episode 68 “The Catwoman Goeth” was changed from “A Stitch In Time” to include the Catwoman.
Tallulah Bankhead gave her last performance on the show as the Blackwidow she sadly died a little while after her performance on December 12th 1968.
Both Walter Slezak (Clock King) and George Sanders (First Mr Freeze) committed suicide!
Catwoman’s real name is Selina Kyle but this was never used in the series!
Have a groovy vintage retro day!
- Retro Rebirth
Become a Retro Rebirth Fan on our Facebook Page
If you like to you at Retro Videos then take a look at our Retro Video YouTube Page
Check out the Retro Rebirth Design Catalog and see what groovy vintage retro Music & Pop Culture designs we have for sale.