Actor Adam West, who had a lengthy career in television but whose legacy will always be tied to the cartoon character of Batman, died at the age of 88 in Los Angeles on June 9 from leukemia.
Growing up in Washington state, West first came to onscreen prominence in the 1959 movie, The Young Philadelphians and appeared as a guest star in a number of television programs. In 1965, following completion of a Western that was filmed in Europe, West met with producer William Dozier about possibly playing a live-action version of Batman.
West had caught the attention of Dozier as a result of a commercial that he had appeared in for Nestle’s Quik, which portrayed him as a fun-loving and debonair character. Looking for someone who could play the dual role of millionaire Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego of Batman and do so in a tongue-in-cheek manner, Dozier hired West for the role.
During the first season in early 1966, the show became a huge hit among both children and adults. In a number of cases, major celebrities offered to appear on the program as a way to curry favor with their own children.
The production schedule over the show’s first 18 months would now be considered unthinkable, with 90 half-hour episodes AND a feature film made. Budgetary cuts and a decline in interest eventually resulted in the show being cancelled in early 1968.
West later complained that the role had typecast him, resulting in the destruction of his career. However, he was able to continue making money by playing the character in numerous personal appearances, which eventually allowed him to accept his legacy.
The release of Batman movies over the past three decades also brought him back into the public spotlight. That renewed prominence allowed him to essentially play himself in the Fox cartoon, Family Guy. On the show, he played the mayor of the town, who happened to be named Adam West.