The iconic actor also was a reluctant Wild West hero in the Three Stooges comedy The Outlaws Is Coming.
Adam West, the actor who became a pop-culture icon with his high-camp yet poker-faced portrayal of The Caped Crusader in the popular 1960s Batman TV series, died Friday evening in Los Angeles after a short battle with leukemia. He was 88.
Before making his mark as the masked crime fighter, West earned his spurs in several TV westerns. In 1959, he played the legendary Doc Holliday no fewer than three times, in episodes of Lawman, Sugarfoot, and Colt .45. He also appeared as Wild Bill Hickok in a 1960 episode of Overland Trail, and had other guest-starring roles on Cheyenne, Maverick, Bronco, Bonanza, The Rifleman, Laramie, Gunsmoke, and Tales of Wells Fargo.
On the big screen, West served well as a straight man to The Three Stooges in The Outlaws Is Coming! (1965), playing a buttoned-down Boston editor who becomes an unlikely hero while investigating (with a little help from Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe) a land-grabbing scheme in the Wyoming Territory. In a slightly more serious vein, he starred as a Texas Ranger on the trail of bandits in the 1965 spaghetti western The Relentless Four.
As Variety writer Brain Lowry noted in his obituary, West was “defined and also restrained” by his role as Batman. After three seasons as star of the ABC series, Lowry wrote, the actor found it difficult to land more dramatic roles, “and while he continued to work throughout his career, options remained limited because of his association with the character.”
Even so, West remained active as a supporting player in films and television, and did voice work for many animated projects — including, of course, various Batman spinoffs and reboots. He recently enjoyed a career resurgence thanks to his voiceover portrayal of the spectacularly corrupt mayor of Quahog, Rhode Island, on TV’s Family Guy. (The character, it should be noted, was named Adam West.) And he continued to attract new generations of Batfans as Batman remained popular in syndicated reruns and on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Burt Ward, who played Robin to West’s Batman in the 1966–68 series, paid tribute to his costar Saturday in a prepared statement: “I am devastated at the loss of one my very dearest friends. Adam and I had a special friendship for more than 50 years. We shared some of the most fun times of our lives together. Our families have deep love and respect for each other. This is a terribly unexpected loss of my lifelong friend. I will forever miss him. There are several fine actors who have portrayed Batman in films. In my eyes, there was only one real Batman — that is, and always will be, Adam West. He was truly the Bright Night.”