The actor struggled to find work after the campy superhero series was canceled, but he rebounded with voiceover gigs, including one as the mayor of Quahog on ‘Family Guy.’
Adam West, the ardent actor who managed to keep his tongue in cheek while wearing the iconic cowl of the Caped Crusader on the classic 1960s series Batman, has died. He was 88.
West, who was at the pinnacle of pop culture after Batman debuted in January 1966, only to see his career fall victim to typecasting after the ABC show flamed out, died Friday night in Los Angeles after a short battle with leukemia, a family spokesperson said.
West died peacefully surrounded by his family and is survived by his wife Marcelle, six children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives. He was and always will be our hero,” his family said in a statement.
After struggling for years without a steady job, the good-natured actor reached a new level of fame when he accepted an offer to voice the mayor of Quahog — named Adam West; how’s that for a coincidence! — on Seth MacFarlane’s long-running Fox animated hit Family Guy.
On the big screen, West played a wealthy Main Line husband who meets an early end in Paul Newman’s The Young Philadelphians (1959), was one of the first two humans on the Red Planet in Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) and contributed his velvety voice to the animated Redux Riding Hood (1997), which received an Oscar nomination for best short film.
Raised on a ranch outside Walla Walla, Wash., West caught the attention of Batman producer William Dozier when he played Captain Quik, a James Bond-type character with a sailor’s cap, in commercials for Nestle’s Quik.
West, who had appeared in many Warner Bros. television series as a studio contract player, was filming the spaghetti Western The Relentless Four (1965) in Europe at the time. He returned to the States to meet with Dozier, “read the pilot script and knew after 20 pages that it was the kind of comedy I wanted to do,” he said in a 2006 interview with the Archive of American Television.
He signed a contract on the spot, only asking that he be given the chance to approve who would play his sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder. (He would OK the casting of Burt Ward, who had a brown belt in karate but zero acting experience).
“The tone of our first show, by Lorenzo Semple Jr., was one of absurdity and tongue in cheek to the point that I found it irresistible,” West said. “I think they recognized that in me from what they’d seen me do before. I understood the material and brought something to it.
“You can’t play Batman in a serious, square-jawed, straight-ahead way without giving the audience the sense that there’s something behind that mask waiting to get out, that he’s a little crazed, he’s strange.”
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