Holy Spectacle, Batman! Campy Fun with the 1960s Batman Television Series

As September 19 would have been Adam West’s 94th birthday, let’s look back on one of his best-known roles, Batman.

The campy, smash hit of the 60s was loathed by some and loved by many more. But the people who loved it the most were the ones who created and produced it. And that enthusiasm can be sensed in the final product. It’s a truism that people who enjoy their work tend to put out a better product. But you don’t have to trust my word on this because the William Dozier papers at the American Heritage Center can back me up.

Catwoman (Julie Newmar) kneeling over Batman (Adam West) tied to a giant mousetrap in the episode “That Darn Catwoman, Season 2, Episode 40, air date January 19, 1967.” William Dozier papers, Collection #6851.

A prime example of this enthusiasm is the joking nature of correspondence between executive producer William Dozier and head scriptwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. In one such letter Dozier begins by addressing Semple as Robin and ends the letter with “Batblessings.” In many of his letters to Semple, Dozier includes a bat-pun as a signoff. Even their correspondence feels camp. This jovial form of communication serves as a precursor to the entertaining use of camp for which the series became known.

This letter from William Dozier to Lorenzo Semple Jr. discusses the possibility of Burgess Meredith playing the Penguin, some production notes, and the start of scripting for the Green Hornet. Box 6, Folder 1965, William Dozier papers, Collection #6851, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The co-creators of Batman for DC Comics, Bill Finger and Bob Kane, were just as excited about this new take on the Dark Knight. Kane was very vocal in his support for the series. Finger even drafted a few episodes for the series with “The Clock King’s Crazy Crimes” making it to production. The Dozier papers include a copy of this script in case you’d like to read it.

This first page of a letter from Bob Kane to William Dozier expresses his excitement for the series. Box 6, Folder 1965, William Dozier papers, Collection #6851, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Adam West was an excellent choice for the Caped Crusader, and not just because of his skill at dancing the Batusi. Yet, while filming the pilot there was another potential Batman suited up. Lyle Waggoner lost the role to West, but a decade later wound up in another television show based on a comic book. He played Colonel Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman series. Dozier apologized through correspondence to West for not telling him about Waggoner. West’s response was appropriate to the tone of the series: “Gotham City ain’t big enough for both of us Batmans, Batman…. (or is it Batmen?)”

To learn more about the production of the Batman series and maybe find correspondence from such stars as Kirk Douglas and Bruce Lee, see the William Dozier papers at the American Heritage Center.

Post contributed by Rob Kelly, AHC Reference Department.


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