West speaking at the 2014 Phoenix Comicon
|Born||William West Anderson
(1928-09-19)September 19, 1928
Walla Walla, Washington, U.S.
|Died||June 9, 2017(2017-06-09) (aged 88)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Leukemia|
|Alma mater||Whitman College|
|Known for||Batman, Mayor West, Catman|
|Television||Batman, Family Guy, The Simpsons, The Fairly OddParents|
William West Anderson (September 19, 1928 – June 9, 2017), commonly known as Adam West, was an American actor whose career spanned seven decades. He was best known for his portrayal of the title role in the 1960s ABC series Batman and its theatrical feature film.
His acting career began in films in 1959. He played opposite Chuck Connors in Geronimo (1962) and The Three Stooges in The Outlaws Is Coming (1965). He also appeared in the science-fiction film Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964), opposite Paul Mantee, and did voice work on The Fairly OddParents, The Simpsons and Family Guy (playing fictional versions of himself in all three) and also Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.
West was born on September 19, 1928, in Walla Walla, Washington, to Otto West Anderson (January 25, 1903 – October 9, 1984) and Audrey V. Speer (1906–69). He was of Swedish descent from his father, and English, with small amounts of Welsh, German, Irish, and remote Scottish from his mother. His father was a farmer; his mother was an opera singer and concert pianist who was forced to abandon her own Hollywood dreams to care for her family. Following her example, West stated to his father as a youth that he intended after school to go to Hollywood. He moved to Seattle when he was 15 with his mother following his parents’ divorce.
West attended Walla Walla High School during his freshman and sophomore years, and later enrolled in Lakeside School in Seattle. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in literature and a minor in psychology from Whitman College in Walla Walla, where he was a member of the Gamma Zeta Chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He also participated on the speech and debate team. Drafted into the United States Army, he served as an announcer on American Forces Network television. After his discharge, he worked as a milkman before moving to Hawaii to pursue television.
While in Hawaii, West was picked for a role as the sidekick on a children’s show called El Kini Popo Show, which featured a chimp. West later took over as star of the show. In 1959, West moved with his wife and two children to Hollywood, where he took the stage name Adam West. In his autobiography Back to the Batcave, he explains he chose ‘Adam’ simply because he liked the way it looked and sounded with ‘West’, his middle name.
He appeared in the film The Young Philadelphians including Paul Newman, and guest-starred in a number of television Westerns. On three Warner Bros. Westerns aired on ABC, Sugarfoot, Colt .45, and Lawman, West played the role of Doc Holliday, the frontier dentist and gunfighter. He portrayed Wild Bill Hickok in the episode “Westbound Stage” of the 1960 NBC Western series Overland Trail, with William Bendix and Doug McClure.
He guest-starred on Edmond O’Brien‘s syndicated crime drama Johnny Midnight, and soon snagged a supporting role as police sergeant Steve Nelson in the crime drama, The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor. He made a few guest appearances on Perry Mason in the early 1960s and appeared once on Walter Brennan‘s sitcom, The Real McCoys.
On January 10, 1961, West appeared as a young, ambitious deputy who foolishly confronts a gunfighter named Clay Jackson, portrayed by Jock Mahoney, in the episode “The Man from Kansas” of the NBC Western series Laramie.
West made two guest appearances on Perry Mason in 1961 and 1962. His first role was as small-town journalist Dan Southern in “The Case of the Barefaced Witness”. His other role was as folk singer Pete Norland in “The Case of the Bogus Books”.
West starred in an episode of the ABC Outer Limits series titled “The Invisible Enemy“. He made a brief appearance in the film Soldier in the Rain starring Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen, and starred as Major Dan McCready, the ill-fated mission commander of ‘Mars Gravity Probe 1’ in the 1964 film Robinson Crusoe on Mars. In 1965, he was cast in the comedy Western The Outlaws Is Coming, the last feature film starring The Three Stooges. He played Christopher Rolf in the episode “Stopover”, of ABC’s The Rifleman, which aired on April 25, 1961.
Producer William Dozier cast West as Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, Batman, in the television series Batman, in part after seeing West perform as the James Bond-like spy Captain Q in a Nestlé Quik commercial. He was in competition with Lyle Waggoner for the Batman role.
In his Batman character, West appeared in a public service announcement where he encouraged schoolchildren to heed then-President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s call for them to buy U.S. Savings stamps, a children’s version of U.S. Savings bonds, to support the Vietnam War.
In 1970, West was offered the role of James Bond by Cubby Broccoli for the film Diamonds Are Forever. West did not accept, later stating in his autobiography that he believed the role should always be played by a British actor.
After his high-profile role, West, along with Burt Ward and Yvonne Craig (who played crime-fighting sidekicks Robin and Batgirl), was severely typecast. West’s first post-Caped Crusader role was in the film The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1969). His lead performance against type as cynical tough guy Johnny Cain did not erode his Batman image; the movie was a box office disappointment.
For a time, West made a living doing personal appearances as Batman. In 1974, when Ward and Craig reprised their Batman roles for a TV public-service announcement about equal pay for women, West was absent. Instead, Dick Gautier filled in as Batman. One of his more memorable Batman appearances after the series was when he made an appearance in the Memphis, Tennessee-based United States Wrestling Association to engage in a war of words with Jerry “The King” Lawler while wearing the cowl and a track suit, and even name-dropping Spider-Man, though he is a Marvel Comics hero.
West subsequently appeared in the theatrical films The Marriage of a Young Stockbrocker (1971), The Curse of the Moon Child (1972), The Specialist (1975), Hooper (as himself; 1978), The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980) and One Dark Night (1983). West also appeared in such television films as The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972), Poor Devil (1973), Nevada Smith (1975), For the Love of It (1980) and I Take These Men (1983).
He did guest shots on the television series Maverick; Diagnosis: Murder; Love, American Style; Bonanza; The Big Valley; Night Gallery; Alias Smith and Jones; Mannix; Emergency!; Alice; Police Woman; Operation Petticoat; The American Girls; Vega$; Big Shamus Little Shamus; Laverne & Shirley; Bewitched; Fantasy Island; The Love Boat; Hart to Hart; Zorro; The King of Queens; and George Lopez. West was also in an episode of Bonanza that supposedly never aired until reruns were shown and he made several guest appearances as himself on Family Feud. In 1986, he starred in the comedy police series titled The Last Precinct.
Return to Batman
West often reprised his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne, first in the short-lived animated series, The New Adventures of Batman, and in other shows such as The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour, Tarzan and the Super 7, Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (succeeding Olan Soule in the role). In 1979, West once again donned the Batsuit for the live-action TV special Legends of the Superheroes. In 1985, DC Comics named West as one of the honorees in the company’s 50th-anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great for his work on the Batman series.
West was considered to play Thomas Wayne in Tim Burton‘s Batman. Originally, he wanted to play Batman. To date, neither West nor Burt Ward (Robin, from the TV series) has appeared in any of the theatrically released Batman franchise motion pictures. West made an appearance in a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series on Fox, but not as Batman (as the role of Batman was already being played by Kevin Conroy). Instead, he portrayed Simon Trent, a washed-up actor who used to play a superhero in a TV series called The Gray Ghost and who now has difficulty finding work. The producers nearly considered scrapping that episode, as they figured it mirrored Adam West too much; however, West gladly accepted voicing such a character. West later had a recurring role as the voice of Mayor Grange in the WB animated series The Batman.
The actor vocally reprised his role as Batman for the computer-generated imagery animated short film Batman: New Times. He co-starred with Mark Hamill, who vocally portrayed The Joker and had originally played the role on Batman: The Animated Series. West also voiced Thomas Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s father, in an episode of the cartoon series Batman: The Brave and the Bold. In the same series, he played Batman’s prototype robot, aptly named “Protobot”, or “Proto” for short.
During the 1990s, West’s status as a pop culture icon led to appearances as himself in the film Drop Dead Gorgeous and in several TV series, including NewsRadio, Murphy Brown, The Adventures of Pete and Pete, The Ben Stiller Show, and The Drew Carey Show. He notably appeared as “Dr. Wayne” in the 1990 Zorro episode “The Wizard“, even being shown Zorro‘s “secret cave” headquarters. In 1991, he starred in the pilot episode of Lookwell, in which he portrayed a has-been TV action hero who falsely believes he can solve mysteries in real life. The pilot, written by Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel in their pre-Late Night period, aired on NBC that summer, but was not picked up as a series. It was later broadcast on the Trio channel, under the “Brilliant But Cancelled” block. In 1994, West played a non-comedic role as the father of Peter Weller’s character in the Michael Tolkin film, The New Age.
He played a washed-up superhero in the Goosebumps TV series episode “Attack of the Mutant“. The boy hero is a comic book geek whose favorite superhero, Galloping Gazelle (West’s character), is portrayed as fading and on the verge of retirement. Towards the end, the boy is shocked to learn that the Gazelle is real, though he (the boy) must save the day by himself.
In 1994, West, with Jeff Rovin, wrote his autobiography, Back to the Batcave published by Berkeley Books. He also appeared as a guest in the animated talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast in an episode titled “Batmantis”, where he displayed his book. That episode was essentially a parody to his Batman TV series, where Zorak dressed himself as “Batmantis”, a praying mantis version of Batman.
In 1996, Virgin Interactive released the gambling simulation game Golden Nugget on PlayStation. Adam West acted in the video cut scenes of the “Chaos Mystery” storyline subgame. In 2001, he played the super-villain Breathtaker on the short-lived TV series Black Scorpion.
In 2003, West and Burt Ward starred in the TV movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, alongside Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar, and Lee Meriwether. Jack Brewer portrayed West in flashbacks to the production of Batman. In 2005, West appeared in the CBS show The King of Queens. In the episode, Spence first asks Lou Ferrigno to go to a sci-fi convention, but when Spence meets West (playing himself), he leaves Ferrigno and asks West to come with him. He appears prominently in the 2006 video for California band STEFY‘s song “Chelsea” as “Judge Adam West”, presiding over the courtroom scene.
In 2007, Adam West played an attorney for Benny on the show George Lopez, and starred as “The Boss” in the movie comedy Sexina: Popstar PI. Following the release of a Batman game, a host of the show X-Play visited Adam West on the show. In 2009, West played himself in the episode “Apollo, Apollo” of 30 Rock.
In 2010, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to him. West received the 2,468th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 5, 2012. His star is located at 6764 Hollywood Boulevard in front of the Guinness Museum in Hollywood, California.
He was interviewed in 2013 on the PBS series called Pioneers of Television in the season-three episode called “Superheroes”. Also in 2013, he was the subject of the documentary Starring Adam West.
West is among the interview subjects in Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, a three-hour documentary narrated by Liev Schreiber that premiered on PBS in October 2013. He has also done voice-over work for Futurama (10.9).
In November 2014, West voiced himself, and the 1960s version of Batman, in the video game Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.
In October 2014, West was a guest star on the Huffpost Live show talking about his Batman role and the upcoming release of all 120 episodes of his Batman series.
Voice-over work and advertising
Having a distinctive voice, West built a career doing voice-over work on a number of animated series (often as himself), including appearances on The Simpsons, Futurama, Rugrats, The Critic, Histeria!, Kim Possible, Johnny Bravo, and even in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series called “Beware the Gray Ghost“, where he voiced the Gray Ghost.
He also appeared in many episodes of Nickelodeon’s cartoon, The Fairly OddParents, as a cat-obsessed version of himself, who is famous for playing a superhero called Catman, and who actually believes he is Catman. His later appearance in The Fairly OddParents world was a parody of himself, hired to play the role of the Crimson Chin in the movie of the same name. Yet another appearance on the show had him as himself in a fairy-sponsored video about how to cope with losing one’s fairy godparents. In later seasons, the role for this version of Adam West was recast to Jeff Bennett.
From 2000, West made regular appearances on the animated series Family Guy, on which he played Mayor Adam West, the lunatic mayor of Quahog, Rhode Island. His role gave him a new wave of popularity since Batman, and lead writer Seth MacFarlane claims to have gone out of his way to avoid typecasting West by deliberately not making any references to Batman.
Some of his latest voice-over performances were playing the role of Uncle Art in the Disney Animation film Meet the Robinsons, and voicing the young Mermaid Man (along with Burt Ward, who voiced the young Barnacle Boy) in the cartoon show SpongeBob SquarePants, in the episode “Back to the Past” of 2010. The Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy characters are hybrid parodies of both Batman and Robin and Aquaman and Aqualad, respectively (both heroes have a TV show), and Mermaid Man’s old age is a humorous reference to West’s age.
West also played the voice of General Carrington in the video game XIII, and has voiced other video games such as Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, Chicken Little: Ace in Action, Scooby Doo! Unmasked, and Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant. For the online game Champions Online, his voice is used in one of the website’s videos.
Personal life and death
|This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2017)|
- 1957: Voodoo Island
- 1958: Ghost of the China Sea
- 1959: The Young Philadelphians
- 1959: The FBI Story
- 1962: Geronimo
- 1963: Tammy and the Doctor
- 1964: Soldier in the Rain
- 1964: Robinson Crusoe on Mars
- 1965: The Outlaws Is Coming
- 1965: Mara of the Wilderness
- 1965: The Relentless Four
- 1966: Batman
- 1969: The Girl Who Knew Too Much
- 1971: The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker
- 1972: Curse of the Moon Child
- 1974: Hell River
- 1975: The Specialist
- 1978: Hooper
- 1980: The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood
- 1983: One Dark Night
- 1984: Hell Riders
- 1985: Young Lady Chatterley II
- 1986: Zombie Nightmare
- 1988: Night of the Kickfighters
- 1988: Doin’ Time on Planet Earth
- 1988: Yellow Pages
- 1989: Return Fire
- 1989: Mad About You
- 1990: Omega Cop
- 1991: Maxim Xul
- 1994: The Best Movie Ever Made
- 1994: The New Age
- 1994: Not This Part of the World
- 1995: Run for Cover
- 1995: Race For Your Life: An Interactive Movie
- 1995: The Clinic
- 1995: Ride for Your Life (short)
- 1996: The Size of Watermelons
- 1996: Joyride
- 1997: American Vampire
- 1997: Redux Riding Hood (short) (voice)
- 1999: Drop Dead Gorgeous
- 2001: Séance
- 2001: Nuclear Rescue 911
- 2002: From Heaven to Hell
- 2003: BAADASSSSS!
- 2004: Tales from Beyond
- 2004: Monster Island
- 2005: Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (direct-to-DVD; voice)
- 2007: Blue Harvest (as Grand Moff Tarkin)
- 2005: Aloha, Scooby-Doo! (direct-to-DVD; voice)
- 2005: Buckaroo: The Movie
- 2005: Chicken Little (voice)
- 2005: Angels with Angles
- 2005: Batman: New Times (short) (voice)
- 2006: Sexina: Popstar P.I.
- 2007: Meet the Robinsons (voice)
- 2007: Ratko: The Dictator’s Son
- 2009: Super Capers: The Origins of Ed and the Missing Bullion
- 2016: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (direct-to-DVD; voice)
- 1958: 77 Sunset Strip (as Ernest Detterback in episode: “Two and Two Make Six”)
- 1959: Lawman (as Doc Holliday)
- 1959: Sugarfoot (as Frederick Pulaski in episode: “The Mysterious Stranger”)
- 1959: Maverick (2 episodes)
- 1959: Bourbon Street Beat (as a deputy in “The Black Magnolia”)
- 1961: Bonanza (as a Frank in “The Bride” )
- 1961: Perry Mason (“The Case of the Barefaced Witness”)
- 1961: Guestward, Ho! (as Larry Crawford in “Bill, the Fireman”)
- 1961: The Rifleman
- 1961–62: The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor
- 1962: Perry Mason (“The Case of the Bogus Books”)
- 1963: Gunsmoke (“Ash”)
- 1963: Laramie
- 1964: Petticoat Junction (as Dr. Clayton Harris; two episodes)
- 1964: Bewitched (as Darrin’s friend Kermit)
- 1966–68: Batman (title role)
- 1967: Batgirl (unaired pilot)
- 1968: Alexander the Great (unsold pilot)
- 1968: The Big Valley (“In Silent Battle”; season 4)
- 1969: How I Got You
- 1972: The Eyes of Charles Sand
- 1972: Mannix (as Jonathan Forsythe)
- 1972: Alias Smith and Jones (episode: “The Men That Corrupted Hadleyburg”)
- 1973: Poor Devil
- 1974–75: Shazam! (voice)
- 1975: Nevada Smith
- 1976–85: Family Feud (himself; celebrity episodes)
- 1977: The New Adventures of Batman (voice)
- 1978–80: Tarzan and the Super 7 (voice)
- 1979: Legends of the Superheroes
- 1980: For the Love of It
- 1981: Warp Speed
- 1981: Time Warp
- 1982: Laverne and Shirley (“The Gymnast Show”) (1 Episode)
- 1983: I Take These Men
- 1983: Ace Diamond Private Eye (unsold pilot)
- 1984–85: Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show (voice)
- 1985–86: The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (voice)
- 1986: The Last Precinct (7 episodes)
- 1987: Murder, She Wrote (as Wade Talmadge in “Death Takes a Dive”)
- 1990: Zorro (episode: “The Wizard”)
- 1990: The Flash (as a hippy in “Child’s Play”) (credited as AWest)
- 1991: Lookwell (unsold pilot)
- 1992: 1775 (unsold pilot)
- 1992: Rugrats, as Captain Blasto (voice)
- 1992: Batman: The Animated Series (episode: “Beware the Gray Ghost“)
- 1992: The Ben Stiller Show (guest star)
- 1992: The Simpsons (voice)
- 1994: Tales from the Crypt (episode: “As Ye Sow”)
- 1993: Danger Theatre
- 1994: Space Ghost Coast to Coast (himself)
- 1994: The Critic (episode: “Eyes on the Prize”)
- 1994: “The Animaniacs” (as Spruce/The Caped Crusader in episode: “Cute First, Aquaintances, Here Comes Atilla, Boo Wonder”)
- 1993–96: The Adventures of Pete & Pete (as Principal Schwinger)
- 1995: Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (as Jerry Ritchen in “Whine, Whine, Whine”)
- 1996: Goosebumps (as The Galloping Gazelle in “Attack of the Mutant”)
- 1997: Johnny Bravo (voice; 3 episodes)
- 1997: The Wayans Bros. (himself)
- 1998–99: The Secret Files of the Spy Dogs (voice)
- 1998: Pacific Blue (as Macon Dean)
- 1998: Diagnosis Murder (as “Bruce Blazer” in “Write, She Murdered”)
- 1999: Histeria! (voice)
- 2001: Black Scorpion! (as Breathtaker; 5 episodes)
- 2002: The Simpsons (voice)
- 2003–2008: The Fairly OddParents (as himself/Catman in 7 episodes)
- 2000–2017: Family Guy, as Mayor West
- 2001: The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy (voices)
- 2003: Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt
- 2003: Kim Possible (episode: The Fearless Ferret; voice)
- 2004: Monster Island
- 1998–2001, 2005–06: Celebrity Deathmatch (himself)
- 2001: The Drew Carey Show
- 2004: Yes, Dear
- 2004–07: The Batman (as Mayor Grange)
- 2005: The Boondocks
- 2005: The King of Queens, himself
- 2007: George Lopez
- 2007: Blue Harvest, as Grand Moff Tarkin
- 2009: 30 Rock (himself)
- 2010: SpongeBob SquarePants (as young Mermaid Man in “Back to the Past”)
- 2011: Funny or Die Presents (himself)
- 2010: Batman: The Brave and the Bold (as Thomas Wayne” in 2 episodes)
- 2011: The Super Hero Squad Show (as Nighthawk)
- 2011: Jake and the Never Land Pirates (as Wise Old Parrot)
- 2012: Betty White’s Off Their Rockers (himself)
- 2013: Futurama (himself; voice)
- 2013: Starring Adam West (himself)
- 2015: Moonbeam City (as Razzle Novak)
- 2015: Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero (as Captain Super Captain & Professor Evil Professor)
- 2015: Scooby-Doo! and the Beach Beastie (as Sandy Blake)
- 2015: Robot Chicken DC Comics Special III: Magical Friendship (as ’60s Batman)
- 2016: The Big Bang Theory (season 9, episode 17; as himself)
- 2017: Through the Keyhole (himself)
- 2017: Powerless (as narrator (voice only))