I was just reminded of a story my mother told me about the time I was 3 and having nightmares ..this would have been in the middle 1960’s (never mind what year). She took me to a Doctor very worried about these night time fears and wild things I was saying. The doctor did his examination, finding nothing physically wrong and reassured her that it was just at thing that can happen to a toddler and not to fret too much because it would pass. As they are wrapping up this consultation, something in the chatty babbling of my 3 year old self gave the Doc an inspiration.
“Has she been watching TV?”
“oh Yes,” responds my sweet mom, “She loves that Batman show.”
The doctor told her to distract me and not let me watch it anymore…..the nightmares ended soon after. I’m not sure if I’m delighted with the Doctors brilliance or disgusted that I had to wait several years and into reruns before seeing Batman again.
When I think about all the amazing actors and wonderful shows in those 20 years at the start of television I continue to be astonished. From Vaudeville and movies came pouring into television studios the most brilliant actors, directors and writers, such talent in front of and behind the camera. One of the main reasons I loved Batman, Colombo and other shows of the 60s’ and 70’s was the incredible guest stars. Cesar Romero as the joker? Ruth Gordon and Roddy McDowall as the murder of the week? It was a delightful plethora of Broadway and movie actors on the small screen.
If we just stay with the show BATMAN which really only ran for a few short years and touch on a few guest stars – the history of film just implodes on itself:
My personal Favorite of any character and of the three actresses as Catwoman is the number one ppplllllruuuurrrrr ever vocalized by a human (there should be a reward for that right?) EARTHA KITT
a star with a minimum 2.51x.2.51×2.51 magnitude had a background of film and stage with singing and dancing recognition both in the United States and Europe through her time with the Katherine Dunham Dance troupe. She brought a certain class and smoothness to the campy Batman television show that I admired.
Carolyn Jones most notably not as her Mortica persona but as the tough and loving Ronnie of “King Creole” (1958) with the brand new movie star Elvis Presley, decorates the screen with wit and a dark cleverness as Marsha Queen of the Diamonds.
Anne Baxter a true actor of the Golden age of Hollywood appeared in 7 episodes as Olga. Her roles on film, as the Eve in “All About Eve” (1950) and Nefertiti in “the Ten Commandments” (1956) really signify the caliber of actors that worked in small episodic television shows giving early TV its glitter.
Imagine if you would at the time of these shows we couldn’t just pull up Netflix or Youtube or even google our favorite actors. It took hard work to be a film maven during this dark ages period. Libraries and late night television, the eerie balconies of second run movie houses and if you were super lucky a revival glamour night with a double feature interrupted by silly grown men in costumes who even GASP talked over your favorite films. So here I found the lovely, throaty Tallulah Bankhead right in my living room on the small black n white set (would you believe resting nicely on top an old color set that fizzled instead of playing?) with bunny ear antennas and a missing knob. Yet, there she was..beautiful, funny, dangerous from Broadway Queen in Dark Victor and Clash by Night to screen idol in films such as “Lifeboat” (1944) to television vixen, Ms. Bankhead continues to thrill the film obsessed.
The list is daunting to continue but I’m sure you are getting the picture now, Bruce Lee, George Sanders, Otto Preminger, Joan Collins, Liberace, Roddy McDowall, Walter Slezak, Elisha Cook jr…if you want a lesson in film history just follow the cast list of guest stars and dive in. Please, please..dive in …watch them all …and come back here to tell us what you found and why you loved it.
With a special thanks to Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and William Dozier for an interesting start to a life long obsession.