It has come time to say goodbye to an icon. Not just any icon, mind you, but one of the greatest TV superheroes that has ever lived. It is with true sadness that we report the death of Adam West. The beloved actor passed away late Friday night at the age of 88.
A true cult legend and memorable 60s superhero mainstay, Adam West is perhaps best known for playing Batman on the small screen. He was deft at keeping a serious face as the absurdity of his series crashed around him in colorful comic book bravado. With tongue firmly in cheek, he was always able to bring a smile to most anyone's face as soon as he spoke in that trademark timber.
Adam West became an instant pinnacle of pop culture when his series, simply titled Batman, debuted in January of 1966. In later years, his career become the victim of typecasting, when the show was canceled after just 3 seasons. Little did the actor know at the time that the series would live on in infamy, and is perhaps even more adored now than when it first appeared on small screens across America.
Adam West lost his battle with leukemia on Friday night. A spokesperson for the family announced the news early Saturday morning. The Hollywood Reporter says that the man died peacefully surrounded by his wife Marcela and his six children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The family had this to say in a statement to the public.
"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."
Adam West had struggled for a few decades after his successful run as TV's Batman. But in recent years he found a new level of fame when he took on a much different kind of job. He voiced the character of Mayor Adam West on the hit Fox animated series Family Guy, ruling over Quahog as a favorite of creator Seth MacFarlane.
Adam West has quite a few movie credits to his name. in Paul Newman's 1959 drama The Young Philadelphians he played a wealthy Main Line husband. 1964's Robinson Crusoe on Mars featured West as one of the first two humans to ever step foot on the red planet. And he lent his voice to the 1997 animated short Redux Riding Hood, which garnered an Oscar nomination. He also had a very memorable role in Mario Van Peebles's 2003 biopic Baadasssss! which depicted the making of Peebles' dad's iconic blaxploitation movie Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. He would later go onto appear as himself in a 2016 episode of The Big Bang Theory and he recently appeared on the DC Comics comedy series Powerless, where he served as the uncredited narrator and played the character of Chairman West.
Adam West hails from a ranch just outside of Walla, Walla, Washington. His first big break came playing the James Bond type character Captain Quick in a Nestle's Quik commercial, which helped win over producer William Dozier and landed him his gig as Bruce Wayne on Batman. West was a contract player for Warner Bros. and appeared in quit a few of their TV series leading up to his title role in the campy comic book show. He was busy filming the Western The Relentless Four when he got the call to take on the iconic cowl back in 1965.
Adam West signed his Batman contract on the spot. And he was able to approve who would play the role of Robin the Boy Wonder, settling on Burt Ward as his co-star. About his eternal role as the caped crusader, Adam West had this to say.
"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. 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."
Batman hit the air on ABC, debuting at 7:30pm on January 12, 1966. A Wednesday. And life would never be quite the same for Adam West in the coming years. The show was supposed to run for an hour each episode. But when a slot opened in the schedule, ABC decided to split the hour into two half hours that would air the same week, with the first always ending on a cliffhanger. The show was an immediate hit, and was even nominated for an Emmy for outstanding comedy series during its first year, losing out to The Dick Van Dyke Show. Before the first season of Batman finished its run, 20th Century Fox quickly rushed a movie into production featuring the entire Batman cast. It was in theaters during the summer of 1966, leading into Season 2 which kicked off that September.
During its second season, the show's ratings began to drop. And after three seasons on the air, the show was canceled in March 1968. Adam West soon found himself struggling to lock in gigs, and was often forced to appear in his iconic costume to make ends meet. In 1971 he took on the schlock drama The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker and followed that up with the 1980 Showtime mainstay The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, which some considered to be soft core porn at the time, but has sense found redemption as one of the erotica classics of its time. It was during this period that Adam West and his family downsized their living style, moving from the glamorous town of Pacific Palisades to the more humble Ketchum, Idaho.
Adam West would return to the spotlight to voice Batman in a number of animated series that included The New Adventures of Batman, Legends of the Superheroes, SuperFriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show and even The Simpsons. In 2014, Warner Bros. released ABC's Batman on DVD, once again thrusting Adam West into the spotlight. He followed up this resurgence with a new animated movie in 2016 called Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, which paired him once again with Burt Ward, and held the iconic look of the 60s TV show.
One other notable role was as the headliner in Lookwell, a rejected 1991 NBC pilot that has since gained cult notoriety. It was created by Conan O'Brien and Robert Smigel. It revolved around a once-famous TV detective who decided to solve real crimes in his later years. He was also the subject of a documentary called Starring Adam West that debuted in 2013. This resulted in the actor getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012. Adam West had this to say about his show being canceled and how he eventually moved forward with his life.
"The only thing I thought is that it would be the end of me, and it was for a bit. But then I realized that what we created in the show ... we created this zany, lovable world. I look around and I see the adults, I see you grew up with me, and you believe in the adventure. I never believed this would happen, that I would be up here with illustrious people like yourselves. I'm so grateful! I'm the luckiest actor in the world, folks, to have you still hanging around."
Adam West will forever be remembered as one of the best to put on the Batman suit, and for a whole generation of fans, he will be remembered as the quintessential caped crusader. Our thoughts go out to Adam West's family. May he rest in peace.