Crraack! Sock! Pow! Batman’s famous punches have got him out of many the predicament. But they’ll do little to save him this time. Adam West’s 1960s superhero has his hands full. Catwoman has apprehended him and he’s now stuck battling a ferocious tiger on his own. And yes, dear reader, we mean a real big cat – not a man in a costume. But this isn’t the first wacky scenario the Caped Crusader has faced alongside Burt Ward’s Robin. So without further ado, let’s explore 40 wild facts about a TV classic which is loved just as much now as it was back then.
40. William Dozier spotted Adam West in a Nestle Quik commercial
Producer William Dozier became convinced that Adam West was his Batman after he saw the actor play a spoof James Bond character named Captain Q in a Nestle Quik commercial. He felt West’s deadpan approach and expert comic timing was perfect for his vision of a campy superhero show. Yep, chocolate milk wound up giving the world a 1960s TV icon.
39. Batman was ABC’s third choice of comic book property to adapt into a show
You might be surprised to learn that Batman wasn’t ABC’s first pick for a comic book character to adapt to TV. In fact, he was actually third – after Superman and Dick Tracy. Also, the network only chose the Dark Knight because the rights to the Man of Steel and Tracy were apparently unavailable at the time. Dozier did eventually secure the Tracy rights and he produced a pilot in 1967, but neither NBC nor ABC picked it up.
38. Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell were almost cast as the Dynamic Duo
Did you know that Adam West and Burt Ward almost lost out on the roles of Batman and Robin? Yes, ABC actually screen-tested two pairs of actors to play the coveted roles. The two men we know and love obviously won out and are synonymous with the roles today. But the footage of Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell’s test has also been viewed over the years by fans. And the former would eventually land a superhero TV role when he played Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman.
37. ABC initially planned to do a movie first, then the TV show
Dozier’s initial plan was to produce Batman as a movie first, which he hoped would introduce his campy vision to the world. Then the TV show would follow, with Dozier safe in the knowledge he could re-use expensive production elements like the Batcycle, Batboat and Batcopter that had already been built for the movie. But ABC’s 1965 schedule performed poorly in the ratings. As a result, the show wound up fast-tracked for a debut in January the following year instead in order to boost the network.
36. The show initially had the lowest test audience score in history
Did you know that, according to Adam West, Batman’s first episode received “the worst score in the history of pilot testing?” Yes, he revealed as much in his autobiography Back to the Batcave. The producers apparently tried adding narration and a laugh track, but subsequent scores were the same. Luckily, the viewing public disagreed with these test audiences, as the show became a runaway hit soon after it aired.
35. Frank Sinatra wanted to play the Joker
Frank Sinatra as… the Joker? Yep, Burt Ward claimed in the book Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV’s Most Famous Myths that Ol’ Blue Eyes himself lobbied to play the part in Batman. Ward said, “From what I understand, Frank Sinatra was very upset because he couldn’t play the Joker. Cesar Romero had already been signed.” And Ward later repeated this claim on the DVD commentary track for Batman: The Movie.
34. William Dozier was the show’s narrator, as well as its producer
If you’re a familiar with the show, you’ll know that Batman has a narrator who delivers the words in an incredibly melodramatic fashion. Dozier wanted it to sound like narration from an old movie serial and, even though he auditioned several voiceover actors, no one could quite hit the nail on the head. So, who better to do it than himself? Dozier would also later do the very same thing on The Green Hornet, too.
33. The iconic two-part cliffhanger structure wasn’t initially intended
One of the most beloved things about the 1960s Batman TV show is how it aired in two 30-minute instalments – with a cliffhanger at the end of episode one. It led to the iconic appeal for fans to tune in again, with the tagline, “Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!” Amazingly, though, ABC initially intended for Batman to be a one-hour show and only opted for two half hours because of a scheduling snafu.
32. The Bat-costume having small ears was not an aesthetic choice
The ears on Batman’s cowl have tended to be fairly tall in other screen incarnations of the superhero. But the ears on West’s costume were comparatively short and stubby. Yet the reason for this wasn’t an aesthetic design choice. No, costume designers actually thought it looked better this way. They apparently realized that tall ears would have been mostly cut off by the camera during close-ups, so the decision was made to cut them down to size.
31. Burt Ward did most of his own stunts – and often got hurt
Did you know that Burt Ward performed the majority of his own stunts in Batman? Apparently, he was told he had to due to Robin’s domino mask being more revealing of the face than Batman’s cowl. Over the years, Ward has claimed this led to him sustaining several injuries. The actor said that he was hit in the face with a two-by-four, nearly fell out of the Batmobile at speed and was burned on several occasions by pyrotechnics.
30. The inspiration for ‘Holy [blank] Batman!’ did not come from the comic books
“Holy Cinderella, Batman!” “Holy bunions, Batman!” “Holy heart failure, Batman!” Robin’s excited and often ridiculous exclamations were a staple of the 1960s TV classic. Originated by writer Lorenzo Semple Jr., you would assume he took inspiration from Robin’s dialogue in the comics. But you’d be wrong. In fact, Semple pilfered the idea from the Tom Swift sci-fi adventure novels he read as a child.
29. The ‘Batusi’ dance was an Adam West improv
The “Batusi” is a legendary internet meme these days. And if you haven’t seen it already, you really should. The dance – performed by the Caped Crusader in the pilot – was a hilarious improv from West, with the script simply calling for Batman to do something goofy because he had been drugged by the Riddler. He told Nerdist that, while driving to set, “I began to move on my car seat, and people looked at me strangely. I was watusing, then batusing, while I drove.”
28. West’s performance was influenced by Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes
In the comics, Batman is known as the “World’s Greatest Detective.” And West took that to heart – apparently taking influence for his performance from Basil Rathbone’s iconic take on Sherlock Holmes. In 2014 West told Digital Spy, “Batman had a certain speech pattern that I established because he was always Sherlock Holmes-ian. He was Basil Rathbone. In other words, he was always musing about something.”
27. The show’s popularity kept the flagship Batman comic from being canceled
You might struggle to believe this, but DC Comics allegedly considered killing off the Batman character entirely at one point. Co-creator of the Caped Crusader Bob Kane claimed in Daniels’ Batman: The Complete History that in 1964 DC Comics considered doing so because sales of the monthly title had slumped. But Kane said that the show’s popularity led to sales increasing for the entire comic book industry. So, the show ultimately saved Batman from cancelation.
26. The show was actually a very faithful adaptation of the Batman comics of the era
Many fans of the dark, brooding version of Batman seen in modern comics and films dislike the 1960s show. Rightly or wrongly, they feel that it isn’t a true representation of the character and his world. But the show was actually a very faithful adaptation of the Carmine Infantino-drawn comics of the era, which were light in tone and full of vibrant colors. In fact, some of the show’s plots were even taken almost wholesale from the comics.
25. Adam West recorded the single ‘Miranda’ at the height of the show’s popularity
The popularity of Batman led to a merchandising empire. But did you know it also spawned a single, too? Yes, one of the oddest pieces of tie-in material to the show is Adam West’s single “Miranda.” In the bizarre song, West talk-sings as Batman – trying valiantly to romance his girlfriend but being repeatedly interrupted by Robin. And we’re not sure we can imagine Christian Bale and Ben Affleck doing something similar to promote the modern Batman movies.
24. The National Safety Council lobbied for Batman and Robin to wear seatbelts
The iconic stock footage of Batman and Robin sliding down their Batpoles, jumping in the Batmobile and speeding off to police headquarters was used in every episode of the show. But it was actually adjusted to include an insert shot of the Dynamic Duo fastening their seatbelts after the National Safety Council lobbied for it. The organization’s reason was perfectly understandable, too; it argued that the heroes needed to set a good example for the viewing public.
23. It took six crew members to rotate the Batmobile’s turntable platform
The Batmobile from the ’60s show is still loved by fans to this day. It took pride of place in the Batcave – safely positioned on a turntable that would rotate it before Batman and Robin got in. The car looked great, but it was actually a lot of effort for the production staff. It reportedly took six crew members just to manually rotate the platform 180 degrees!
22. The Gotham City map in the Batcave was actually a map of St. Louis, Missouri
In the show, the Batcave contained a large, lighted map of Gotham City made out of Lucite. But you might assume that the producers would have used a map of New York City to double for the fictional metropolis. After all, NYC was the inspiration for the creation of the city in the comics. But the show’s map was actually a reversed St. Louis, Missouri map – recognizable because of landmarks like Forest Park and Horseshoe Lake.
21. The show featured countless celebrity window cameos
What do famous faces such as Jerry Lewis. Sammy Davis Jr. and Dick Clark have in common? Well, they all appeared in the 1960s Batman TV series of course. You might remember the charmingly lo-fi scenes showing Batman and Robin climbing up the side of buildings. You’ll also know that this simply involved turning the camera to a 90-degree angle with an imitation city behind them. But this was also how the producers squeezed celebrities onto the show – featuring them hanging out of apartment windows to greet our heroes.
20. Batgirl was created specifically for the show
Batgirl emerged in Batman’s third season, yet she actually appeared in the comics first to prepare readers for her arrival on the show. But what drove the decision to introduce the character? Well, due to declining ratings, Dozier asked DC Comics to come up with a woman character who could attract a younger female audience. He even suggested that she could be Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon’s daughter. Artist Carmine Infantino then came up with Barbara Gordon, and she has been a staple in the comics ever since.
19. An eight-minute short film was created to convince executives of the need for Batgirl
Apparently, Dozier’s bosses needed convincing that Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl would be a good addition to Batman. So, he reportedly put together an eight-minute presentation film that featured Batgirl rescuing Batman and Robin from Killer Moth. She completed her mission without throwing a single punch, as that was deemed un-ladylike in the ’60s. Of course, Dozier’s presentation worked, and the rest is history.
18. Cesar Romero refused to shave off his mustache to play the Joker
Cesar Romero’s superb performance as the Joker formed the basis for the public’s perception of the Clown Prince of Crime for decades. But did you know that Romero refused to shave off his trademark mustache for the role? Yes, the makeup team apparently put white face paint over it. That didn’t really cover it up, though – meaning the facial hair was still very obviously visible in close-ups. Whoops.
17. Romero’s iconic Joker laugh may have come about by accident
As you probably know, one of the defining aspects of any Joker performance is the laugh. Romero’s was incredible – a whimsical giggle that worked perfectly for his mischievous interpretation of the character. But according to the website Watching TV Now, Romero created the laugh by accident when he simply guffawed out loud at some Joker concept art the producers showed him. Allegedly, they heard it and immediately said, “That’s it, that’s your Joker laugh!”
16. Frank Gorshin received an Emmy nomination for his iconic Riddler performance
Frank Gorshin’s maniacally energetic performance as the Riddler was another beloved aspect of the show. He was the villain in the pilot episode and in the first season, his four appearances were more than any other bad guy. And Gorshin also landed the only Emmy nomination the show ever received for acting. He was up the for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy accolade in 1966.
15. The show created a new character during a Gorshin contract dispute
As one of season one’s breakout characters, Gorshin felt he was due a raise to play the Riddler in the subsequent season. As a result, he became embroiled in a contract dispute with ABC. While this was going on, show producers simply took the script for an upcoming Riddler episode and replaced him with an original villain: the Puzzler. Alas, he was basically just a British version of the Riddler. Shameless.
14. Producers had another actor play the Riddler for one episode
Gorshin’s wrangling with ABC over a pay issue led to Dozier re-casting the Riddler for his second season appearance. Enter John Astin, who is best known for his performance as Gomez in The Addams Family. This stint was short-lived though, and by season three Gorshin was back.
13. Catwoman was played by three different actresses
Across the show’s three seasons and the spin-off movie, Catwoman was portrayed by three actresses: Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt. The former was undoubtedly the most popular, although Eartha Kitt’s performance was also highly praised – especially given how she paved the way for other African-American actresses on television.
12. The show changed Mr Zero to Mr Freeze, and the comics later adopted the moniker
You may be shocked to know that Mr Freeze’s chilly moniker originated in the ’60s show – not the source material. The program featured the coldly calculating villain in three two-part episodes and was played by three different actors. But the character had been known as “Mr Zero” in the comics before that. DC must have realized the new name was superior, because in 1968 Mr Freeze re-debuted in Detective Comics #373.
11. The Penguin’s iconic ‘quack, quack, quack’ laugh was created to cover something up
Burgess Meredith’s brilliantly memorable “quack, quack, quack” laugh as The Penguin is indelibly associated with his version of the character. But what you might not know is that it actually came about out of necessity, according to Screen Rant. Meredith had given up smoking twenty years prior to the show, so when the Penguin puffed away with his iconic cigarette holder, it would irritate the actor’s throat. He therefore developed the “quacks” to cover up the noise of his coughing.
10. The popularity of Alfred prompted DC to bring him back from the dead in the comics
Alfred Pennyworth – Bruce Wayne’s butler and surrogate father figure – is one of the most integral aspects of the Batman mythos. And he was played in the show by veteran actor Alan Napier. As impossible as it may seem, DC actually killed Alfred off in 1964. But he was brought back to life two years later due to Napier’s huge TV popularity. Incidentally, in the comics Alfred had initially come back to life as a murderous zombie character named The Outsider. Weird.
9. Chief O’Hara was created for the show, brought into the comics… and killed horrifically
Gotham City Police Chief Clancy O’Hara was created for the show and played to buffoonish perfection by Stafford Repp. The character was soon brought into the comics, but he only appeared sporadically throughout the late 1960s and ’70s. He then eventually resurfaced in Batman: Dark Victory in 2000. And – spoiler alert – in an extremely serious turn of events for such a campy character, he was murdered by a serial killer known as the Hangman. Oh dear.
8. Actress Anne Baxter was the only person to play two different characters
Anne Baxter won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1947 for her role in The Razor’s Edge. By the 1960s, though, the star was a regular on television and she holds the distinction of being the only person to play two different villains on Batman. But which characters did Baxter play? Well, she was criminal magician Zelda the Great in season one and Olga, Queen of the Cossacks, in the third season.
7. King Tut was the most-featured original villain
The Joker, Catwoman, the Riddler and the Penguin were the most-featured evil characters in Batman. Yet the fifth most common – with eight appearances – was not another luminary from the comics. Instead, it was King Tut – an original character played by Victor Buono. In brilliantly zany fashion, he was a Professor of Egyptology at Yale University. And his split personality as the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun had been triggered by a bonk on the head.
6. Horror icon Vincent Price was Egghead – a villain who deduced Batman’s identity
Egghead was another enduringly silly creation of the 1960s show. This self-proclaimed “world’s smartest criminal” had a bald, egg-shaped head. And true to form, the villain spoke almost exclusively in egg-related puns. He was played by horror icon Vincent Price, who apparently loved the role. Spoiler alert: Egghead once deduced Batman’s secret identity, but Robin used his own “memory egg-straction” machine to erase the knowledge from his memory. Brilliant.
5. Legendary sci-fi author Harlan Ellison wrote a Two-Face episode that was never made
Two-Face is the most famous villain to not appear in the Batman show. He was once scheduled to be featured in a two-parter and a story treatment was written by famed sci-fi author Harlan Ellison. Clint Eastwood was even reportedly in talks for the role. Sadly, producers decided the character’s disfigured visage was too gruesome for their comedic show. The story did eventually see the light of day in comic book form, though, in 2015’s Batman ’66: The Lost Episode.
4. The Green Hornet and Kato crossed over into three episodes of Batman
No doubt you’ll be familiar with superheroes appearing in each other’s stories thanks to the likes of Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC’s television series Arrowverse. But Batman featured a crossover of its own long before that. Crimefighters the Green Hornet and Kato – the latter played by the soon-to-be legendary Bruce Lee – appeared in a two-part Batman adventure in 1967. And it was all facilitated by Dozier, who produced both shows.
3. Shelley Winters’ Ma Parker was inspired by the real-life criminal Ma Barker
Two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters played Ma Parker on Batman. She was an elderly crime boss who took control of Gotham State Penitentiary with her criminal sons and daughter. But did you know that the character was loosely based on Ma Barker – the real-life matriarch of the Barker-Karpis gang? Interestingly, Winters would also later play Barker herself in the 1970 movie Blood Mama.
2. The car that would become the Batmobile cost vehicle customizer George Barris $1
Auto customizer George Barris bought the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car that his company would modify to become the show’s iconic Batmobile for a measly dollar in the early ’60s. Yes, that’s right: a buck. Ford had seen no future in the car when they sold it to Barris. How wrong they were, because in 2013 the Batmobile sold at auction for $4.62 million!
1. The show was almost picked up for a fourth season by NBC
Batman burned brightly for a season, but by season two ratings had declined. And the addition of Batgirl for season three didn’t improve things, so ABC cancelled it. But Burt Ward claimed in a 2016 interview with The Nation that NBC had swooped in at the last minute to pick the show up. Unfortunately, the hugely expensive sets had already been destroyed. NBC decided the hundreds of thousands it would cost to rebuild them was too much and the show stayed cancelled. With that, the curtain was finally closed on a truly iconic – and outrageous – pop-culture phenomenon.