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SECRET ORIGINS OF THE BATMAN TV SHOW
Part Three: HOW TO BUILD A BAT!

RECAP: A screening of the 1943 Batman serial at the Chicago Playboy mansion had given an ABC-TV executive the idea to do a Batman TV series. Now, Executive Producer William Dozier had to cast actors to play Batman, Robin, Alfred, Aunt Harriet, Commissioner Gordon and Police .Chief O’Hara, not to mention a small army of Bat-Villains.

As Associate Producer Charles FitzSimons put it, “We were looking for actors willing to play Alice In Wonderland as though it was Hamlet.“ Who was the first .person cast? The butler did it! British-born Alan Napier, a cousin of Neville Chamberlain, was hired to play Alfred. "I was actually the first person hired for Batman," Napier recalls, “because Charles FitzSimons was an associate of my agent years before, and had moved on to be Dozier's assistant.” Like Dozier, before doing the show, Napier had never heard of Batman and never read a comic book! (My God, who WERE these people?!?! What world did they live on?)

According to Napier, “My agent rang up and said, 'I think you are going to play on Batman... you are going to be Batman's butler.' I said, 'How do I know I want to be Batman's butler?' It was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard of. He said, 'It may be worth over $100,000.' So I said, ‘I am Batman's butler!’ ”



SECRET ORIGIN of the BATMOBILE

As casting continued, George Barris was hired to create the Batmobile. Barris was a renowned custom auto designer who had previously created the famous Munster Coach from "The Munsters" TV series, as well as numerous other one-of-a-kind automotive masterpieces.

Barris didn’t want to just stick a bat-symbol on the front of a sedan, as had been the norm for the comic book version (pictured right: Batman #20, 1943). He wanted the bat characteristics to be .incorporated right into the car itself. To make the Batmobile, Barris customized a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, pictured left. This particular car had done some "acting" long before it was ever transformed into the Batmobile -- it was first seenon the big screen in "It Started With A Kiss" .(1959), starring Glen Ford and Debbie Reynolds.

In this movie, married couple Ford and Reynolds win the futuristic car in a lottery. Because of this, they are forced into a higher tax bracket, and have problems coping with their new status. "It Started With A Kiss" is a dated and rather zanyromantic comed y, but it's still interesting to watch for Bat-fans because it shows the "undeveloped" Batmobile in action. Click the movie poster(pictured right) to go directly to the film's DVD pageon Amazon.com! If you have microscopic vision, you can seen the car on the poster -- it's the center of the three small pictures at the bottom of the poster, right under the film's name. Barris took this same car and modified it to make thefamiliar Batmobile!

Below, from drawing board to TV screen: Below is Barris' original concept sketch of the Batmobile...
followed by a photo of the finished car as it appeared on the show. There were actually five different Batmobiles, each with a different purpose. One for slow driving, one for exhibition, one for chase scenes, etc. The finished cars weighed three tons each. The fiery exhaust system was created by igniting Kerosene and blowing the flames out the exhaust pipe with a fan. Barris created the first Batmobile in just three weeks!
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..BILL and BERTON, aka BATMAN and ROBIN

After landing his first Hollywood contract, young Bill Anderson changed his name to Adam West. West went on to appear in a Three Stooges short and on the TV series "The Detectives," but it was his part in a commercial for Nestles Quik that lead to him landing the Batman role. The ad, scene pictured left, was a satire of the then-current James Bond craze. West played Captain Q, a suave, Bond-ish sort of hero who loves Quik. The Batman producers agreed that West’s talent for deadpan humor made him ideal choice to play Batman.

Berton Gervis, Jr.
was barely in his twenties when he landed his very first professional audition -- for the role of Robin. During the audition, Gervis, wearing an early prototype of the Robin uniform (pictured right), displays his martial arts abilities. After auditioning more than 1,000 actors, the producers settled on one actor, and Berton Gervis Jr. was offered the part of Robin the Boy Wonder, the sensational character find of 1966.

Bert's mother's maiden name was Ward, and he would be playing Bruce Wayne's young "ward," so Gervis changed his name to the more "Hollywood" sounding Burt Ward. His payment for the role, in the show’s first season, would be a whopping $350 per week -- but it sure beat collecting soda cans for money and trying to survive on one meal a day, as Ward .and his fiancee had been doing before he landed the part.

ABC wanted to see at least one alternate set of actors in the roles, so Lyle Waggoner (left) and Peter Dell were also tested for the parts -- but when the ABC executives saw both screen tests, they agreed with William Dozier that established actor Adam West and complete newcomer Burt Ward should be offered the sought-after roles of Batman and Robin. Needless to say, they accepted.
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Pictured below are the triumphant Dynamic Duo -- Ward and West -- in the superhero uniforms they wore for their screen test. The Boy Wonder's uniform looks almost exactly the same as the final version, but the Caped Crusader is sporting an "old look" Batman symbol (no yellow oval), and some extra-pointy ears. He looks a lot like the Batman did in the 1943 serial (right) that inspired the TV show!
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Dozier completed the cast by hiring three veteran character actors. Then-current Batman comic books had recently killed Alfred and replaced him with Bruce Wayne's doting Aunt Harriet, but the show opted to use both characters. The comic would later revive Alfred, and phase out Aunt Harriet. Gotham's Police Force was represented by a soap opera star and a sitcom staple:
.Madge Blake, a former regular on "Leave It to Beaver," was cast as Aunt Harriet, a mother figure for Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. QUOTABLE QUOTE: "Oh Bruce! I wouldn't want Dick exposed to any criminal elements!"

Neil Hamilton
from "General Hospital" was picked to play Police Commissioner James Gordon. QUOTABLE QUOTE: "I don't know who he is under that mask of his, but I know when we need him. And we need him now!"

Stafford Repp, who had appeared on "I Dream of Jeanie," was chosen for the role of Police Chief O’Hara. QUOTABLE QUOTE: "You know what this could mean to Gotham City, don't you? Tis an ill wind that blows across this proud borough tonight!"

.WAYNE MANOR and the BATCAVE

Where is the "real" stately Wayne Manor? It's a Tudor-style mansion located on 380 South San Rafael Avenue, in Pasadena, California, about 15 miles northeast of downtown .Los Angeles. This house was used for exterior of the Wayne family home, with interior shots being done on a studio set.

A fire in October 2005 destroyed several other homes near "Wayne manor," and led to initial reports that it had burned down too -- but when the smoke cleared, it turned out that the "Wayne" home was OK after all. Holy smokes!

Far underneath Wayne manor lies Batman’s secret base of operations: the Bat Cave. This set happened to have been built on the exact same spot as the "gate to Skull Island" set used in the original King Kong movie (1933). Fittingly, the cost of constructing the new Batcave was a Kong-sized $800,000. In 1965, that was a tremendous amount of money to risk on an unproven show. Pictured below: An original concept sketch of the Bat Cave, and the final product as it appeared on television.
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."HI DIDDLE RIDDLE"

The budget for the pilot episode of Batman was about half a million dollars. The episode's script, titled "Hi Diddle Riddle," was loosely adapted from Batman #171's ."Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler," written by Gardner Fox, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff and inked by Joe Giella. As we saw previously, this comic was one of the half-dozen or so books William Dozier had purchased after agreeing to produce the show.

The script was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr., a TV veteran who had worked on hits such as Burke's Law, Kraft Suspense Theatre, and Vacation Playhouse. According to Dozier, he hired Semple to write the all-important first Batman episode because he was "the most bizarre thinker I knew." Now, Dozier needed just one thing: the perfect actor to play the Riddler. Who would it be?
RIDDLE: What do you get when you saw a comedian in two? ANSWER: A half wit!
.FRANK GORSHIN as THE RIDDLER

Though he was once "cut in half," the late Frank Gorshin was anything but a half-wit. Known as a brilliantly funny celebrity impersonator, Gorshin had also done several dramatic roles on shows such as Star Trek, where he played a half-black, half-white alien (pictured left). .Given his lean frame and crazed comic energy, Batman Executive Producer William Dozier thought Gorshin would be perfect to play Edward Nigma, a.k.a. the Riddler, the series premiere "guest villain."

"When I was first approached to play the Riddler," Gorshin said in 1966, "I thought it was a joke. Then, I discovered the show had a good script and agreed to do the role, but only on a show-to-show basis. Now, I am in love with the character."

Where did Gorshin get the Riddler's wonderfully maniacal laugh from? "I developed the Riddler's fiendish laugh at Hollywood parties. I listened to myself laugh and discovered that the funniest jokes brought out the high-pitched giggle I use on the show. With further study, I came to realize that it wasn't so much how I laughed as what I laughed at that created a sense of menace."



LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

Shooting for the Batman pilot episode began in mid 1965. The interior work was done on various stages. The only exterior shot of the Batcave, showing Batman and Robin driving out of the cave in the Batmobile, was filmed in an area of California's Griffith park known as Bronson Canyon.
But when shooting was ready to begin, George Barris still hadn't quite finished .painting the Batmobile. With time running out, the car was delivered to the studio with only a primer coat .applied.

"In the first shots the car was in the black primer, which really didn't come on so strong," says Barris. "We went into the 3/4 inch re d fluorescent glow edges to accentuate the Bat-face and fins. It made it much more dramatic."

But there was still one small problem. The cave entrance was very narrow. The Batmobile could fit through -- but just barely. As a precaution, the car was shot driving slowly through the cave’s opening, then the film was speeded up to make it look as if Batman and Robin were racing to Gotham City at top speed. As the many tourists who still visit it every day know, the famous Hollywood sign is clearly visible from the Bronson Canyon "Batcave."
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During shooting, scenes from the pilot episode were shown to ABC executives, and they were reportedly "rolling in the aisles." Anticipating a hit, the network ordered 16 shows before the pilot was even finished filming, and scheduled the series for a fall 1966 premiere.
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As filming on the Batman pilot wrapped, things were not going well for ABC. It was becoming increasingly obvious that the alphabet network's current slate of prime-time shows was a ratings disaster. Arch-enemies NBC and CBS (there was no cable at this time) were absolutely crushing them, and the season wasn't even halfway over yet! The failing network knew that no ordinary heroes could rescue it -- it would take a pair of superheroes.
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.In desperation, ABC decided to move the premiere of Batman up to January 12, 1966, just a few months after the pilot episode had finished filming. New shows always premiered in the fall, but ABC couldn't afford to wait that long. With each passing week, their anemic prime-time line-up was sinking further and further toward the bottom of the ratings.

Trying to make a silk bat out of a sow's ear, the network hyped the event as "The Second Season!" and began a massive PR campaign designed to create interest and excitement around the wildly different new series. Holy Premature Ejaculation! Batman isn't coming next fall...
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.Atomic batteries to power... turbines to speed...

With the series premiere set for "tomorrow" -- Wednesday, January 12th, 1966 -- a significant chunk of America's entertainment industry went to bed praying feverishly for a hit, and dreading the consequences of a miss. Which would it be?

Test screenings of the pilot episode had been disastrous. Audiences had hated the pilot episode, and their comments had been so negative that if ABC hadn't already bought 16 episodes of the show, it would never have been broadcast. But now, there was no turning back. With the first episode about to air, there was only one real riddle left: Will this Bat fly?


CLICK HERE FOR PART FOUR...

Never Before Seen In The HIstory of Comics

How "REMARKABLE RUSE OF THE RIDDLER"
was adapted to make "HI DIDDLE RIDDLE"!

SECRET ORIGINS OF THE BATMAN TV SHOW PART FOUR
"THE REMARKABLE RUSE OF THE HI DIDDLE RIDDLER!"