Adam West

Active - 1959 - 2017  |   Born - Sep 19, 1928 in Walla Walla, Washington, United States  |   Died - Jun 9, 2017   |   Genres - Comedy, Action

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Whitman College graduate Adam West began getting his first acting breaks in 1959. That was the year that West, newly signed to a Warner Bros. contract, was cast in the small but pivotal role of Diane Brewster's impotent husband in The Young Philadelphians. After two years' worth of guest-star assignments in Warners' TV product (he was hung by his heels and humiliated by James Garner in a memorable Maverick episode), West accepted the role of Sergeant Steve Nelson on the weekly TVer Robert Taylor's Detectives. In 1962, the series was cancelled, compelling West to free-lance in such films as Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964, as the astronaut who doesn't make it back) and Island of the Blue Dolphins (1964). In 1965, he landed his biggest and best role to date: Millionaire Bruce Wayne, aka the "Caped Crusader", on the smash TV series Batman. Approaching the role with the seriousness and sobriety usually afforded MacBeth or Hamlet, West struck the happy medium between "camp" and conviction. Though in recent years West has apparently basked in the adulation he has received for his two-year stint as Batman, at the time the series was cancelled in 1968, he vowed to distance himself as far from the character as possible, accepting villainous TV and film roles and even fitfully pursuing a singing career. His movie projects ranged from sublime (Marriage of a Young Stockbroker, Hooper) to ridiculous (The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington); no matter what the role, however, West's performance was invariably compared to his Batman work. Finally adopting an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" stance, West began making appearances at nostalgia conventions, supplied his vocal talents to the 1977 animated series The New Adventures of Batman, and publicly expressed disappointment that he was not offered a cameo role in the 1989 big-screen blockbuster Batman (he did however, provide a voice-over for the 1992 Fox TV series Batman: The New Adventures, not as Batman but as a washed-up superhero called the Gray Ghost). Adam West's most recent TV projects have included the weekly series The Last Precinct (1986) and Danger Theatre (1993); he also served as a spokesperson for the Nickelodeon cable network, a service specializing in nostalgia-inducing reruns.

He continued to work steadily, often trading in on his own history as a caped crusader. He appeared in the comedy The New Age and Drop Dead Gorgeous. At the dawn of the 21st century he took a regular gig voicing the role of Mayor Adam West on the animated series The Family Guy., a gig that led to more animated work in projects such as Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons. He spoofed his superhero history yet again in 2008's Super Capers and appeared as himself on an episode of The Big Bang Theory. West died in 2017, at age 88.

Movie Highlights

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  • Worked on a children's show in Hawaii in the mid-'50s.
  • Was considered to replace Sean Connery as James Bond in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
  • Published his autobiography, Back to the Batcave, in 1994.
  • Teamed with his Batman costar Burt Ward, who played Robin, for the 2003 TV-movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, in which they played themselves trying to solve the mystery of the stolen Batmobile.
  • Has done a variety of voice-over work, most notably playing a satirized version of himself as Quahog's mayor on Family Guy.
  • Has a small Batman logo on one of his molars.
  • Prized possession is a drawing of Batman with a personal message by Bob Kane, the superhero's creator.