Adam West, the actor best known for playing Batman on the classic ’60s TV show, died Friday after a battle with leukemia, his family said on Saturday. He was 88 years old.
West was not the first actor to play the Caped Crusader, or the crimefighter’s millionaire alter-ego Bruce Wayne, but his campy portrayal is considered by many to be the gold standard.
“In my eyes there was only one real Batman — and that is and always will be Adam West,” Burt Ward, who played the hero’s trusty sidekick, Robin, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Born William West Anderson in Walla Walla, Wash., the chisel-jawed West moved to Hollywood in 1959 and got his feet wet with Western TV series like “Bonanza” and “Overland Trail.”
Seven years later, he scored the gig of a lifetime, after a producer saw his crime-fighting potential in his performance of Captain Quik in a Nestle commercial.
West first donned the Batsuit in 1966, subduing bad guys such as Cesar Romero’s Joker, Vincent Price’s Egghead (one of the only two villains to learn Batman’s true identity) and Burgess Meredith’s Penguin — and wooing a few too, such as Julie Newmar’s Catwoman.
It didn’t take a gizmo from his character’s utility belt for West to recognize his good fortune.
“I mean how many actors are lucky enough to play a character that becomes iconic?” he told the Guardian in 2014.
By today’s superhero standard’s, West was an atypical Batman — straightlaced and doughy in his skintight spandex, compared to the buff — and much more serious — versions of the character later played by Christian Bale and Ben Affleck.And his character’s idiosyncratic observations were hardly the stuff of today’s action movie stars. “Salt and corrosion. The infamous old enemies of the crime fighter,” he once said.
West played the masked hero for three seasons and one film, and lent his smooth, deep voice to many Batman cartoons and video games. As recently as this year, he recorded the cartoon “Batman vs. Two-Face.”
While West appeared in nearly 50 films, the actor never escaped Batman’s shadow.
“You get terribly typecast playing a character like Batman,” he told the Associated Press three years ago.
He was offered to play superspy James Bond in 1970’s “Diamonds are Forever,” he wrote in his memoir, but turned it down.
In his later years, West’s most famous role was himself.
The actor made frequent guest appearances on comedy series where he played exaggerated versions of himself, such as on “Family Guy,” on which he voiced Mayor Adam West of Quahog, Rhode Island.
Hollywood quickly took to Twitter to respond to West’s passing.
“#AdamWest was such a wonderful actor & so kind, I’m so lucky to have worked w/ him & tell him how much he meant to me & millions of fans,” tweeted actor Mark Hamill.
George Takei wrote, “RIP Adam West. You’ll always be Batman to me.”
West, who married three times, is survived by his wife, Marcelle Tagand Lear, his four children and two stepchildren.
“Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight, and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives,” the West family said in a statement. “He was and always will be our hero.”