Sunday, June 11, 2017

Thoughts on Adam West

By now, you've probably heard that Adam West, the actor who played Batman in the 1960s TV series, died on Friday night aged 88. West will always be remembered for that role, and for some of the other TV work that he did, but he also appeared in some serious movies. Chief among these would be a small role in the Paul Newman movie The Young Philadelphians.

West's death makes me think of some other actors who started off doing work in serious movies, but wound up becoming best remembered for roles on TV series. The best-known of these would be William Shatner, although I suppose most of the cast of Star Trek would fit here. Shatner had a smaller supporting role as an adjutant to Spencer Tracy's judge in Judgment at Nuremburg. He does just fine, although to be honest it's not a particularly difficult role. He also played one of the brothers in The Brothers Karamazov. DeForest Kelley had a slightly longer film career before Star Trek came along, mostly because Kelly was several years older.

Carroll O'Connor will be best remembered for playing Archie Bunker, but he had some pretty good film roles before that, probably most notably in Point Blank. His All in the Family co-star Rob Reiner would become a prominent director, much like Happy Days star Ron Howard.

Raymond Burr will probably always be most famous for Perry Mason, but he actually had a very substantial career playing heavies in the decade before Perry Mason, as I've mentioned when blogging about a bunch of his movies -- and he was quite good as the heavy.

It makes me wonder what would have happened to a lot of these actors had TV never come along.


Wendell Ottley said...

O'Connor doubled-down on the TV thing because he also played Chief Gillespie on the series In the Heat of the Night.

Jack Klugman did the same thing. While he didn't have a lengthy filmography, he did have a major role in 12 Angry Men. He would then star in The Odd Couple and later Quincy.

Great post.

Wendell Ottley said...

Sorry to double up on the comments, but I got so caught up in the TV thing, I forgot about AW for a moment. Forgive me, for being insensitive, especially since I have my own post about him dropping tomorrow. He's the Batman I grew up with and will definitely be missed.

Ted S. (Just a Cineast) said...

Jack Klugman was also quite good in The Days of Wine and Roses and I Could Go on Singing.

And then there's Larry Hagman, who among other things played the President's interpreter in Fail-Safe. Which makes me think of the other prime-time soaps, and John Forsythe of Dynasty in a pair of Hitchcock films. And it was really a revelation seeing Joan Collins in those 1950s films she made.