“Gives a feller a good feeling knowing they’re up there doing their job.”
Before Christian Bale, before George Clooney or Val Kilmer, before Michael Keaton, there was Adam West. A minor actor, still somewhat struggling in Hollywood, he was taking small roles in television episodes and doing commercials when producer William Dozier noticed him in a Nestle Quik ad as a secret agent, and decided West might be a good fit for the lead role in his upcoming Batman television series. Coincidentally, West had heard of the series being produced, and had been pushing for his agent to try and get him the role. The two came together, and Dozier’s dream of a comedic take on the Caped Crusader started to become a reality. Adam West was cast with very little competition, but Dozier had West do screen tests with the various actors trying out for the role of Dick Grayson, Batman’s sidekick Robin.
Dozier hoped to find a candidate with whom West had the right chemistry, and they found it in Burt Ward; reportedly any time the two were together, it was a constant struggle for the crew to not bust out laughing. The two actors became fast friends and remain so decades later. Dozier told Ward to simply be himself in the role; his personality and mannerisms were already what Dozier had pictured for the Boy Wonder. Of course, a minor snafu in communication led to Ward not knowing for several weeks that he had gotten the part; his agent thought the studio had informed him, and the studio thought his agent had. As Ward tells it, he’d receive occasional calls over the next four weeks asking him details like his shoe size and the circumference of his head, and wonder if meant that he was being seriously considered for the role. He was on the verge of taking a job as a gas station attendant when he was finally informed that he had gotten the role almost two months prior.
Though a television show was Dozier’s primary goal, it was not his initial plan to start with the show. Dozier planned a Batman movie to show the television networks how successful the idea could be, and sell the series based on the reception of the film. However, ABC, facing low ratings decided to purchase the show as a mid-season replacement, before Dozier was able to put the plans for the movie in motion. The cast and crew set to work on the first season of Batman, airing in 1966. But the film idea was not shelved. Instead, it was shot after the first season concluded (and after the second season was shot, but before it aired), with the intention of using it to sell the series to an international market. In 1966, Batman, sometimes called Batman: The Movie to distinguish it from the series, hit the big screen. It was the first time a superhero was in a color feature-length picture (and only misses out on being the first feature-length superhero movie if one counts the hour-long Superman and the Mole Men as being feature-length). Continue reading