William West Anderson, better known as Adam West, passed away on Friday, June 9, 2017 at the age of 88. Mr. West was best known by millions for his iconic role as Batman on the classic 1960’s TV show as well as 1966’s Batman: The Movie. His family reports that he had been briefly fighting leukemia and that he died peacefully surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife, Marcelle along with six children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Following his graduation from Whitman College in Washington State with a literature and psychology degree, the future Adam West got his first job as a disk jockey at a local radio station. He was then drafted into the Army. He spent two years setting up television stations in California and New Jersey, serving as an announcer for Armed Forces Television. After his discharge, he and his wife toured Europe before he landed a job on a Hawaiian TV station’s kiddie show.
From 1954 through 1959 he appeared in several uncredited roles as well as being credited as Will West.
In 1959 he adopted the stage name “Adam West”. This would turn out to be prophetic as he appeared in numerous film and TV Westerns including several in the role of Doc Holiday in three TV series: Lawman, Sugarfoot and Colt .45. Ironically, it was his appearance as a sailor hat-wearing James Bond-like character named Captain Q in a series of Nestlé Quik commercials that brought him to the attention of Batman casting director William Dozier.
After beating out Lyle Waggoner for the role of the Caped Crusader, West was able to have a say in choosing the actor for the role of his sidekick, Robin. He chose Dick Ward despite his lack of acting experience, partially due to the latter’s brown belt in karate.
In the 1960s, comics were still subject to the Comics Code and the show was, like its print counterpart, geared towards the younger audience. Batman took a campy approach to the adventures of the Dynamic Duo and the result was an overwhelming success. Burt Ward became a teen idol and Batman merchandise flew off the shelves. He filmed public service announcements in his role as the Caped Crusader.
The three seasons of Batman marked the highlight of his career. Adam West gained international fame and earned a respectable $100,000 salary for his role in the cinematic Batman movie. Syndication ensured that the show would remain on the air well into the 1970’s.
Like his contemporary, Leonard Nimoy, West found himself typecast by his signature role. Despite a singular film appearance playing against type in 1969, he found it impossible to get more acting roles. He was able to support himself through public appearances as well as appearances at the then-new fan conventions.
His film career picked up again beginning in 1971 with cinematic roles and guest appearances on TV shows. In all, he had over 80 post-Batman credits to his name. He gained newfound popularity as the voice of Mayor Adam West in the animated series American Dad. Most recently, DC All Access announced his return to the role of Batman in the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, currently in release.
When the original Tim Burton movie was being developed there was a lot of outrage among fans that Michael Keaton would take up the cowl. This was to be a darker version on the Caped Crusader, based on Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Its success was not a foregone conclusion and many questioned that approach.
In a statement to VARIETY, Burt Ward had this to say:
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 Knight.
Even after the success of the DC Batman franchise, for many, there will be only one Batman – Adam West. Rest in peace, old chum.