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Adam West obituary

Legendary Batman actor struggled to throw off his alter ego in later career but remained beloved of fans

Adam West, who has died aged 88, was one of those performers who had to strive to live down not a failing but his greatest success. West, who was synonymous with the responsibilities of Batman in the vastly popular, campy Tv serial of 1966 -6 8, could never escape his alter ego. Even though he appeared in scores of cinemas and television series throughout his long career, most reviewers, whatever the persona, insisted on referring to him as TVs Batman. Nonetheless, it is fair to say that West, realising that he owed his renown to the Caped Crusader, was not averse to compel oblique allusions to the character in some of his films, and often resorted to self-mockery.

The tall, well-built West, with chiselled good looks and a reverberating baritone voice, was perfect casting for the upright all-American millionaire Bruce Wayne, who lives with his ward Dick Grayson in Wayne Manor. They secretly double as the cloaked Batman and Robin when called on the Batphone by Commissioner Gordon to catch a rascal loose in Gotham City. The enormously successful Batman: The Movie( 1966 ), brought together four outrageous villains the Penguin( Burgess Meredith ), the Catwoman( Lee Meriwether ), the Joker( Cesar Romero) and the Riddler( Frank Gorshin) to try to outwit the daring “mens and” boy in tights.

Come on, Robin, to the Bat Cave! Theres not a few moments to lose! was Batmans call to action in every tongue-in-cheek chapter. While almost everybody around him hammed it up, West remained stony-faced in “the worlds largest” implausible comic-book situations, passionately giving such ludicrous lines as Ive just perfected an Electronic Hair Bat-Analyzer which may hold the key to this mystifying quest; Id rather succumbed than pleads for such a small promote as my life; and, reading from the penal code, It is the duty of every good citizen of Gotham City to report encountering a humankind from Mars in a public park.

He was born William West Anderson in Walla Walla, Washington, where he went to academy and university, graduating with a degree in literature. During his last year of college, he marriage Billie Lou Yeager. After spending two years in the army, he moved with his wife to Hawaii, where he starred in a childrens prove. In 1956, West got a divorce and married a Tahitian daughter, Nga Frisbie Dawson, with whom he had a son and daughter, though that marriage likewise objective, in 1962.

William West Anderson was born on 19 September 1928 in Walla Walla, Washington. Here he is depicted in 1961. Photograph: REX/ Shutterstock

In 1959, with a few small-minded Tv parts behind him, he went to Hollywood, having changed his name to Adam West. On television, “hes been” employed in supporting roles as a strong, stolid character in horse operas such as Tenderfoot, Lawman, Colt. 45, Bonanza( in which he played one of his few baddies) and Tales of Wells Fargo, eventually landing a repetition role as Detective Sergeant Steve Nelson in The Detectives( 1961 -6 2 ), comparatively animated in contrast to a wooden Robert Taylor as his superior.

Apart from further appearings in Tv westerns, West had a few pallid roles on the big screen: a likable cavalry officer in Geronimo( 1962 ), an cosmonaut in Robinson Crusoe on Mars( 1964 ), playing straight man to the Three Stooges in the unfunny and ungrammatical The Outlaws is Reaching( 1965 ), and starring as a tough Texas ranger in the formulaic spaghetti western The Relentless Four( 1965 ). One interest was Alexander the Great, a projected historical TV serial, with William Shatner in the title role and West as his right-hand mortal Cleander. A aviator occurrence was shaped in 1964, but merely aired four years later when Shatner and West had become known as Captain Kirk and Batman respectively.

In 1966, after seven years as a jobbing actor, West was given the breach he had dreamed of, although it was turned out to be a expletive in masquerade. When he was given the role of Batman, West would join the ranks of performers thought to be one-trick ponies: Shatner( Captain Kirk ), Clayton Moore( The Lone Ranger ), George Reeves( Superman) and poor Burt Wade( Robin ). Typecasting is an enormous challenge, West remarked. I envisage I had one of the most difficult with Batman, because it was a costume attribute and part of American pop culture. People mentioned I couldnt do certain things because Batman wouldnt. It was tough for a while.

After the Batman series ended in 1968, West continued to have a fan base in spite of the low quality of the movies in which he appeared. In The Girl Who Knew Too Much( 1969 ), instead of the Joker, West takes on the Red Menace as an ex-CIA man investigating communist influence of the mafia, and as a Nazi legion captain, with a shaky German accent, he faces Yugoslavian resistance fighter Rod Taylor in Hell River( 1974) and they were among his better movies.

As if to counteract his clean-cut image, West was drawn to playing sleazy attributes like the movie producer in The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood( 1980 ), in which he seems briefly in drag. Other schlocky B cinemas he made were Young Lady Chatterly II( 1985 ), Zombie Nightmare( 1987 ), Night of the Kickfighters( 1988 ), An American Vampire Story( 1997) in a Hawaiian shirt as the Big Kahuna, vampire murderer and Joyride( 1997 ), as a boy who pimps his daughter.

Meanwhile, on television, West was much in demand, principally for voiceover work in animation series, predictably dubbing Batman/ Bruce Wayne in The New Adventures of Batman( 1977 ), and again in SuperFriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show( 1984) and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians( 1985 ). He lampooned himself in The Simpsons( 2002 ), trying to convince Bart and Lisa that he once played Batman. I guess youre only familiar with the new Batman movies. I didnt need moulded plastic to improve my physique. Privately, West called himself the Bright Knight in contrast to the Dark Knight. Above all, he voiced the crazy Mayor Adam West in 83 episodes of Family Guy( 2000 -1 4 ), without one reference to Batman.

When West was asked how he supposed his career would have developed without Batman, he responded: I never even think about that. How many actors get the chance to create a signature persona? Not many. Individual that each generation loves. Thats a wonderful thing. One of Wests most prized belongings was a depicting of Batman by the characters architect, the comic book artist Bob Kane, with the inscription To my crony, Adam, who wheezed life into my pen and ink creation.

West is subsisted by his third spouse, Marcelle Tagand Lear, whom he married in 1972, four children and two stepchildren.

  • Adam West( William West Anderson ), actor, born 19 September 1928; succumbed 9 June 2017

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