“Holy 1960s Batman Trivia!” Batman was a popular fixture on television during the mid-to-late 1960s. Adam West played the caped crusader and Burt Ward was his sidekick Robin, the boy wonder. The series mixed campy humor with a sitcom vibe and was a good example of the pop-art aesthetic of the 1960s. The sets were filled with bright colors and the villains were even more colorful, and most of the time they were played by huge stars of the day.
The series ran for three memorable seasons before a dip in ratings led to its cancellation by ABC in 1969. It is still remembered today as one of the most distinctive and unique television shows of its time, and introduced a host of crazy characters into our homes. Look through our gallery for some nuggets of 1960s Batman trivia that you may never have known. If you enjoy this post, be sure to SHARE it with your friends.
Originally, the series was meant to be a cool and hip crime series, something similar to The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which was popular at that time. When ABC executives read the original Batman comic books, however, they found them to be extremely campy and filled with tongue-in-cheek humor. They decided that the only way to do the television show successfully was to make it in a campy, pop-art style.
Ride in Style
The Batmobile was one of the most iconic elements of the series. The original car from the show was a modified Lincoln Futura. The Batmobile was sold at auction in 2013 and fetched a massive $4.2 million.
In order to find the perfect dynamic duo, two separate screen tests were held. One included Adam West and Burt Ward, while the other included Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell. Needless to say, West and Ward got the parts; however, the screen tests for both pairs can be found on YouTube, and they show just how different the show could’ve been. Waggoner later went on to appear alongside another television superhero, Wonder Woman Lynda Carter, in the 1970s.
In Adam West’s 1994 book, Back to the Batcave, the actor revealed that Batman‘s pilot episode scored in the high 40s, “the worst score in the history of pilot testing.” (The average score for pilots was in the 60s.) The producers made adjustments, adding such things as narration and a laugh track, but the test scores remained unchanged after the show was retested. New special effects were added to the production, and ABC decided to stick with it.
In 1966, the same year that the show debuted, a Batman film was released. The first full-length Batman movie, it premiered in theaters two months after the first season of the TV show concluded. Almost all of the show’s regulars starred in the film; Adam West played Batman, Burt Ward played Robin, Cesar Romero played The Joker, Burgess Meredith played The Penguin, and Frank Gorshin played The Riddler.
Lee Meriwether, who got the role of Catwoman — Julie Newmar played Catwoman in the first two seasons of the show — later appeared in two episodes of the series as Lisa Carson.
Batman consisted of 34 episodes per season, with two episodes airing each week. This meant a heck of a lot of work for West and Ward. Even so, Ward was upset to discover he was only being paid $350 a week, which was pretty meager in comparison to his co-star.
The Batman comic books had been running since the 30s, and were still in full swing when the show was airing. The character of Alfred the Butler had been killed off in the comics a few months before the series premiered, but when the producers revealed they were including Alfred and Aunt Harriet in the show, he was resurrected for the comics.
The actor who played Alfred, Alan Napier, had never heard of Batman before taking the role.
If you remember the scenes with the villains on Batman — and let’s face it, the villains were the real scene stealers — then you will remember the slanted camera angles. Every time the viewer is taken into a villain’s lair, the camera angle becomes tilted or crooked. This was in order to show the crooked nature of these dastardly criminals.
The Penguin and the Joker are the two Batman villains who appear in the most episodes. The Joker narrowly beats the Penguin, who appears in 19 episodes to the Joker’s 22. So of the show’s 120 total episodes, the two villains appear more than one third of the time.
Cesar Romero played the iconic role of the Joker in the series. The character’s maniacal laugh came from a real laugh that Romero let out when he saw his costume for the first time. Ironically, Frank Sinatra expressed interest in playing the Joker, too. Now that’s something we can’t picture — but we sure would’ve liked to see it.
The character of Catwoman was played by three different actresses. Julie Newmar played the feline villainess in the first season, Eartha Kitt for the remainder of the series, and Lee Meriwether for the spin-off movie in 1966.
Eartha Kitt Helped Break Barriers
When Eartha Kitt played Catwoman in season three, she became just the second African-American woman to be featured prominently on mainstream television in the United States. (Remember, this was the 1960s.) She followed Nichelle Nichols, who starred as Uhura on Star Trek. Halle Berry, who played the titular character in 2004’s Catwoman, based her performance on Kitt from decades earlier.
The Penguin is another of the series’ iconic villains, but we’ll bet you didn’t know that Mickey Rooney was originally meant for the part. So was Spencer Tracey (pictured), but he was only interested if his character could kill Batman. He obviously didn’t get the memo of how a superhero story works.
The Penguin’s familiar cackle (or quackle!) is a result of the years of cigarette smoking actor Burgess Meredith had undertaken during his life. He quit 20 years before the show began filming, but realized that the smoky quality of his voice would be perfect for the Penguin.
Another memorable trope from the series is the never-ending stream of crazy gadgets Batman used, and they usually had the word “bat” attached to them. There was the “brain wave bat analyzer,” “bulletproof bat shields, “bat shark repellent,” and “batcillin,” the hilarious Batman version of penicillin.
The Batman costumes in recent incarnations of the franchise have been pretty slick. In the 60s series, though, they were undeniably a little silly. One major problem with them was how tight-fitting they appeared to be on the character’s crotch. The National League of Decency was afraid of the controversy that the tight-fitting costumes would cause and appealed to the network to do something about it. Various methods of, er, restraint and layering were used by the wardrobe department so the outfits wouldn’t cause controversy.
Most of the villains on the show were played by big names of the day, and it seems that every Hollywood celebrity wanted to be a part of the show in the 60s. Of course, there weren’t enough roles for them all, so the producers came up with the infamous wall climbing skit. In each story, Batman and Robin scale the wall of a Gotham City building in order to foil some evil plan. On the way up, they have numerous friendly encounters with celebrities who poke their heads out of the window to see what the fuss is about. Some of the most memorable of these cameos include Sammy Davis Jr., Edward G. Robinson, and even Santa Claus!
Frank Gorshin, who played The Riddler, was such an audience favorite that the actor was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance. He was nominated for Best Supporting Character in a Comedic Role, and he sure does bring a touch of the absurd to The Riddler.
Frank Gorshin wasn’t the only actor to portray The Riddler on the series. He played the character in seasons one and three, as well as in the 1966 movie, but John Astin assumed the role in season two. The Oscar-nominated actor, who was married to Patty Duke and is the father of Sean Astin, appeared in two episodes in 1967. Gorshin played The Riddler in 10. John Astin is perhaps best known as Gomez Addams in the 1964 TV show The Addams Family.
There were also three Mr. Freezes! Mr. Freeze, aka Dr. Schimmel, was played by George Sanders in season one. In season two, both Otto Preminger and Eli Wallach (pictured) portrayed the villain. This was easy to get away with, as Mr. Freeze wasn’t much of a factor on the show; he only appeared in six episodes. (Each of the three actors played him twice.)
A new hero was introduced in the third season — Batgirl. She was the daughter of Commissioner Gordon, and took on the guise of a female caped crusader to help Batman and Robin when they were in trouble.
Batgirl, played by Yvonne Craig, was introduced in order to boost ratings, which were dropping, and appeal to young girls. But did you know that a spin-off series revolving around Batgirl was planned? However, nothing ever came of it when Batman was cancelled in 1968.
Robin is probably best known for his quips on the show. They always began with “Holy,” and always ended with “Batman!” In all, Robin had 352 of these moments throughout the show’s run, and some of them are really creative. Examples include “Holy Jack-in-a-Box,” “Holy-Haberdashery,” “Holy Ravioli,” and “Holy Schizophrenia.”
Adam West could have gone on to play another hero if he had wanted. He was offered the part of James Bond in the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He turned down the role, as he felt that a British actor would be much better for the part. The role in that film eventually went to George Lazenby, who was Australian.
The iconic scene in each episode in which the Batmobile rips out of the Batcave on its crimefighting way was helped with a little bit of camera trickery. The cave where this shot was filmed, Branson Cavern in the Hollywood Hills, was a little too small for the Batmobile’s frame. So the cameras were under-cranked, which meant that the action was filmed very slowly and then sped up during playback. The Batmobile may have been exiting the cave at a snail’s pace, but on TV it looked like, well, a Batmobile rushing out of a Batcave.
Batman didn’t just solve crimes and fight bad guys; he also helped sell products! In a 1966 commercial for Lava soap, upon noticing that Chief Miles O’Hara’s hands were dirty, Commissioner James Gordon asked Batman and Robin to give O’Hara some Lava soap. In another spot, Alan Napier — playing Alfred Pennyworth — starred in an ad for Fact toothpaste.
Batman also appeared in three public service announcements during the series’ run. He urged kids to buy U.S. savings stamps to support the Vietnam War, and encouraged children to stay safe on the road. The story of the third PSA, which we’ll tell you about on the next slide, is quite fascinating.
In the first year of the show’s run, there were multiple instances in which kids in the United Kingdom leaped from high locations, attempting to mimic Batman. To prevent future occurrences and possible tragedies, Adam West (Batman) and Burt Ward (Robin) recorded a spot explaining that Batman can’t fly, so viewers shouldn’t try to. These PSAs were shown before every episode, but only in the United Kingdom. “Holy Broken Bones!” Ward said in the spot. Way to keep it light!
After the series was cancelled, ABC held out hope that another network would purchase it and continue making the show. After waiting for a considerable amount of time, they assumed this wouldn’t happen, and the sets were destroyed. NBC then decided to acquire the show; however, it took back its offer when it realized the sets were gone. Oh, what might have been!
No, the show didn’t continue on NBC, but in 2016, 50 — that’s right, 50! — years after the original show and movie first debuted, Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin), and Julie Newmar (Catwoman) lent their voices to the animated film, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. The following year, in 2017, a sequel titled Batman vs. Two-Face was released. West, Ward, and Newmar reprised their iconic roles, and none other than Willian Shatner voiced Harvey Dent/Two-Face. (Fun Fact: Lee Meriwether, who played Catwoman in the 1966 movie, voiced Lucilee Diamond in Batman vs. Two-Face.)
Of all the regular cast members from the show, the only one still alive is Burt Ward (Robin). Alan Napier (Alfred Pennyworth), Neil Hamilton (Commissioner James Gordon), Stafford Repp (Chief Miles O’Hara), Madge Blake (Aunt Harriet Cooper), and Yvonne Craig (Batgirl) have all passed. The most recent cast member to pass away was Adam West (Batman), who died on June 9, 2017, at the age of 88, following a battle with leukemia.
Batman has been off the air for more than 50 years, but the classic show has stayed alive through syndication. In recent years, it has appeared on such networks as MeTV, IFC, and TeleXitos, among others. Numerous Batman films and television shows have been released since the debut show, and many have garnered critical acclaim, but the original still holds a special place in people’s hearts and is remembered fondly five decades later. Does it stand the test of time? No, maybe not, but its legacy as a classic superhero show is firmly secure.
Believe it or not, The Riddler wasn’t a major part of Batman’s rouges gallery prior to the series. It was only due to the popularity of the aforementioned Frank Gorshin performance that the character came to prominence in DC Comics (a prominence he maintains to this day). In addition, the question mark-adorned business suit Gorshin wore in later appearances – mainly due to his distaste for the initial skin-tight Riddler suit – has become the character’s most identifiable look. The Riddler wasn’t the only member of Batman’s rogues gallery to benefit from their use on the series…
These days, Mr. Freeze is one of the most well-known names in comics. However, prior to his first appearance on Batman, the character was actually known as Mr. Zero, which isn’t nearly as… cool as his current moniker. Though it does do a pretty good job of describing Schwarzenegger’s turn as the character inBatman and Robin.
Gotham Is Based on St. Louis
The “Giant Lighted Lucite Map of Gotham City” seen in several episodes of the series is actually a mirror image of St. Louis, Missouri, including numerous landmarks of the city, including Forest Park, Fairground Park, Tower Grove Park, and Lafayette Park.
While the hidden button on the iconic Shakespeare bust didn’t actually open up the door to the Batcave, it did light a bulb backstage that let the stage crew know when to open the door.
According to Robin actor Burt Ward, his stint onBatman wasn’t good for his body. Ward has claimed he was burned, struck by shrapnel, and flung out of the Batmobile after his door flew open during a high speed turn.
Despite its campy nature, the 1960s Batman series has inspired countless generations of fans to embrace the caped crusader, as evidenced by the 1992 episode of the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, “Beware the Gray Ghost.” In the cartoon episode, Batman teams up with actor Simon Trent – voiced by Adam West – who portrayed Bruce Wayne’s childhood hero the Gray Ghost on television years earlier. The episode served as a love letter to West and his portrayal of Batman.
The soundstage where the Batcave stood was also home to several of the most famous sets in Hollywood history, including the iconic large wooden gates from the original King Kong and Atlanta in Gone With the Wind.
There’s a longstanding rumor that producers of the series wanted to have Senator Robert Kennedy guest star on the series as a character named, um, Attorney General.
Decades before the Marvel Cinematic Universe,Batman featured perhaps the first live action comic book crossover, when Green Hornet stars Van Williams and Bruce Lee appeared as their characters (the Green Hornet and Kato) to assist Batman and Robin.
Singer Leslie Gore – of “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to…” fame – portrayed one of Catwoman’s henchwomen as well as a love interest for Robin in two episodes. Not so coincidentally, Gore’s uncle was one of the show’s producers.