A “big” draw this year was the cast from Batman 1966. Unfortunately, Adam West hurt his back recently and was unable to travel, so it was down to Burt Ward (Robin) and Julie Newmar (Catwoman). Burt Ward was a youthful 20 year old when Batman was taped, so he’s still in pretty good shape 45+ years later. Julie Newmar, however, was 33 when she filmed, and she turns 80 this year. Remember her Catwoman? A femme fatale for the 60s. And hard to believe she was only in 6 episodes given her impact on the genre. She exuded sex appeal and has even written several books about her experiences as well as published collections of stories about young boys first “crushes” (not all about her, but probably most of them). I only ever saw the show in reruns, and don’t remember having much of a reaction to her, but she was attractive and pretty “sexy” for a family-oriented show. I was a bit worried about her appearance as I heard an interview with her on the radio, and she wasn’t very quick on the draw in her responses. More trying to play a sultry old Catwoman, and it was cute, but a little disturbing too. Fortunately, despite needing help getting on and off the stage, she was perfectly charming. And while not “quick” to respond to questions, she did a great job in the Q&A. Some of the highlights from their panel:
- When the show was cast, Burt was taking acting, but in the short term was selling real estate…he sold a house to a producer who referred him to an agent, and he went for the Robin audition. Out of 1100 actors, Burt was chosen because they figured he was closest to the Robin character and the producers told him he shouldn’t “act” but just be himself;
- When they filmed the show, Burt found it odd to do little pieces of the script here and there and there was no “screening” of the final version, so the cast saw it the way everyone else did — when it was broadcast in January ’66 at which time they all thought “Wow, that was pretty good after all”;
- Burt noted that when he fought Bruce Lee as Cato, it was the first fight scene that Bruce Lee ever filmed, but what was also interesting was that Bruce Lee and Burt lived in the same apartment building and used to spar together (Burt had a black belt in karate);
- One of the big actors they had on the show was Vincent Price, who played Egghead…in one scene, he was cracking eggs over the head of Burt, and Batman was supposed to burst in and rescue him. However, Vincent and Adam West kept mixing up their timings, so they kept reshooting the scene — in total, 34 eggs were broken over Burt’s head and it started to hurt. So, in the final scene, Burt was supposed to throw an egg at Vincent, but because he was mad, he threw a whole carton at him;
- Burt and Julie were asked what they thought of the new shows (The Dark Knight), and Burt hasn’t seen the last one, but they both agreed that they are much much darker than the show they did. Their show was supposed to be for families to watch, very “fun” and “light” whereas the new ones go for the R-rated adult audience mostly. Burt doesn’t really like them, but Julie liked Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Catwoman, particularly as the costumes are similar. Julie thought though there should have been more Anne in the film;
- Burt recorded two songs about Robin, one of them with Frank Zappa, which he described as a very odd experience (including meeting the Mothers of Invention);
- Burt told everyone that the scenes of them walking up buildings were not quite filmed horizontally — the capes didn’t hang right so they had to do them on an angle; and,
- Burt got hurt several times as his stunt double didn’t look much like Burt, and they didn’t like using him. In the first scene with the Batmobile, they drove out of the cave at 55 mph, turned a corner, his door popped open, and he fell out!
I was a little surprised by Burt in the panel. Although there was very little chemistry with Julie, there might not have ever been, so that wasn’t it, but he seemed a bit, umm, defensive. He said repeatedly that B&R was a family show, they were doing something different. Nobody in the room was mocking it in any way, but he kept saying that like someone was. Very odd. Equally odd was that they noted that his big passion in life is animal rescue, specifically dogs. He got asked a question early on about it, and he ducked it and changed the subject. I don’t know if there’s some contractual conflict, but he very clearly did NOT want to talk about dog rescues at the panel. Again, as with Nathan Filion, you almost got the impression he was willing to share his “public” persona, but not his personal life. This panel was moderated however, so accessibility was a bit less direct.
Photos below, and next up? Michael Shanks.