Adam West dies at 88

Adam West and Burt Ward in a publicity still for Batman

Adam West, star of the 1966-68 Batman television series, has died at 88, according to an obituary published by The Hollywood Reporter.

The actor died Friday after a short battle with leukeimia, the Reporter said, citing a family spokesperson.

Batman debuted Jan. 12, 1966. The show originally was to have come out in the fall of 1966. However, ABC’s fall 1965 schedule produced low ratings and Batman’s development was accelerated. The half-hour show aired twice a week.

Executive producer William Dozier opted for a “camp” approach, having trouble taking the original comic book source material seriously.

Writer Lorenzo Semple Jr., used a 1960s comic story, “Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler,” as the basis for his pilot script.

Semple delivered a story in which West’s Bruce Wayne/Batman took everything very, very seriously amid the writer’s jokes. Batman, though, didn’t have a laugh track.

Batman didn’t test well ahead of its premiere. “It was a disaster,” William Self, then the head of 20th Century Fox Television, said in an interview for the Archive of American Television. The test did not include the comic book-style effects (POW! ZAP!) nor the narration that Dozier himself would provide.

Self said that on the night of Batman’s debut he got a call on his unlisted home telephone number. “Is it supposed to be funny?” Self quoted the caller as saying. When Self said yes, the caller replied, “Then we loved it.”

Batman was a hit. West and Burt Ward, who played Dick Grayson/Robin, were suddenly big stars. A feature film with West and Ward was put into production and its came out in the summer of 1966.

The show’s impact was so powerful that other adventure shows, such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the science fiction shows of Irwin Allen, adopted a much lighter tone.

Batman, though, flamed out. By the fall of 1967, it was cut back to one night a week. The show was done by the spring of 1968.

Adam West, in the meantime, had difficulty finding work having been typecast. He declined to appear as Batman in a 1974 public service announcement promoting equal pay for women. Dick Gautier took West’s place, mimicking West’s delivery as Batman.

Also, sometime after Batman, West received some consideration to play James Bond, according to the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever.

The closest West would get to that came in 1978 movie Hooper. He plays the star, apparently himself, of a James Bond-style movie. His character is named Adam and he even is referred to as “Mr. West” at one point.

The story concerned Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds), an aging stuntman dealing with pompous “auteur” director Roger Deal (Robert Klein).

Eventually, West’s career did pick back up in character roles. He also did voice over working, including playing Batman in some cartoons.

West discussed that aspect of his career in an interview for the Archive of American Television.

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Luciana Paluzzi: Angela vs. Fiona

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy, the first U.N.C.L.E. movie.

Today, June 10, is the 80th birthday of Luciana Paluzzi. She’s perhaps best known for Thunderball.

But her character in the 1965 James Bond movie is more than a little similar to another femme fatale she played in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

How similar? Let’s take a look.

Quick explanation: Paluzzi did U.N.C.L.E. first. She and Robert Vaughn shot extra footage after production of the pilot so it could be a movie for international audiences. That extra footage (although some times a tamer version) was used in an episode called The Four-Steps Affair

To Trap a Spy/The Four-Steps Affair: Angela pretends to be the girlfriend of an U.N.C.L.E. agent (named Lancer in one version, Dancer in the other)

Thunderball: Fiona pretends to be the girlfriend/”social secretary” of a NATO pilot.

Luciana Paluzzi and Sean Connery during the filming of Thunderball

U.N.C.L.E.: Angela is really an operative of Thrush (called Wasp in To Trap a Spy, but it’s dubbed — the actors are saying “Thrush”).

Thunderball: Fiona is really an operative of SPECTRE.

U.N.C.L.E.: Angela sets up Lancer/Dancer to be killed by a machine gun.

Thunderball: Fiona sets up the pilot to be poisoned to death by an agent who has underwent plastic surgery to be the pilot’s double.

U.N.C.L.E.: Angela goes to bed with Napoleon Solo (To Trap a Spy only; in the Four-Steps Affair they just do a lot of heavy flirting.)

Thunderball: Fiona goes to bed with James Bond (Sean Connery).

U.N.C.L.E.: Angela tries to push Solo so he’ll be shot with a machine gun. He ducks and she gets shot instead. In To Trap a Spy, it’s pretty clear she’s dead. In The Four-Steps Affair, it’s stated she’s unconscious.

Thunderball: Bond is dancing with Fiona, turns so she is hit by a shot fired by a SPECTRE thug.