Saturday, September 21, 2013

Batman 1966 Fantasy Casting: Wayne's World

One of the things that interested me and inspired me to start a 'blog and a Facebook page, was the possibilities a question like "What if?" meant.

Right now, I'm re-reading Joel Eisner's The Official Batman Batbook. There's a new, updated version available, but I have the original. I'm reading it while watching the first season on YouTube and reading the new DC Batman '66 comic book. I'm sure that this is probably a limited diet to quench my Bat-thirst, but this is where I am right now. I'd love to get my hands on Jim Beard's Gotham City 14 Miles, but that will have to wait awhile. I've read Bob Kane's Batman and Me; Adam West's Back to the Batcave; Burt Ward's Boy Wonder: My Life in Tights and Batmania by James Van Hise and Hal Shuster.  I've seen the tele-film adaptation of West's and Ward's Memoirs and I've watched the Biography episodes on the show and stars. I would imagine Yvonne Craig has written about her role as Batgirl. I'm not sure if Julie Newmar has. I doubt that any other of the guest stars did, but they've talked about it in interviews.

Reading Eisner's book, though, I come away with a few points: first, that the show was a huge success, initially. It had a huge debut and the first season was phenomenal.  Secondly, the 1966 live-action Batman television series was a show that every one wanted to be on. Thirdly, the show was cancelled after three seasons when the novelty wore off.

Reading the episode descriptions and the cast interviews in Eisner's book, I think fans of the show can agree that the show unflinchingly followed a rigid, narrow formula and very rarely strayed from it. This is probably why both the success of the show and interest in it waned.

Batman also played it safe, taking a dark and Gothic figure and turning him "Campy". According to Eisner's book the show was actually nominated for a Emmy as a sitcom! It was played light-hearted, for laughs. Serious, darker villains like Two-Face, The Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Clayface and Dr. Hugo Strange never appeared on the series, while The Riddler was elevated to a more prominent place in the rogues gallery than The Joker; and "The Clown Prince of Crime" was more mischievous than deadly.

If given the chance, I would re-cast the series. I would have cast runner-up Lyle Waggoner as Gotham City DA Harvey Dent; Jessica Walter as Pamela Isley. See that here. Raquel Welch as Julie Madison; Donna Reed as Dr. Leslie Thompkins; Meredith MacRae as Kathy Kane. See that here. Raymond Burr would have been Julie's Father Judge Madison; Lauren Hutton as Vicki Vale; Moses Gunn would have been Lucius Fox.

Batman '66 #3 saw the debut of two exciting new things: Arkham Institute - which is a cool version of Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane - and, Dr. Quinn.

'60's funny girl Goldie Hawn from Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In and Cactus Flower would be perfect in the role of The Joker's moll, Harley Quinn, the former Dr. Harleen Quinzel in the 1992 Bruce W. Timm and Paul Dini produced Batman: The Animated Series. Goldie would be the ideal devotee to The Clown Prince of Crime, right down to giving him the nickname, Puddin'.

If Bruce is engaged to an actress, then his youthful ward Dick Grayson would have to be romantically linked to singers, like Annette Funicello, Brenda Lee, Sandra Dee and Haley Mills.


Sandra Dee might be ideal as The Maid of Steel, Supergirl. Only this Supergirl would be adopted by the Kents, who are still alive and living on the farm in Smallville. So, instead of adopting the Linda Danvers identity that everyone is most familiar with, she would be adopted as Kara Kent, Clark's cousin as well as Superman's cousin. This would be perfect to develop storylines that would spotlight Dick Grayson and Robin and possibly introduce a 1960's live action Teen Titans.

In addition to Sandra Dee as a possible Supergirl, LuAnn Haslam would be a great cast as Betty Kane, alias Bat-Girl. Originally, she was Kathy Kane's niece and she had a crush on Robin. In the 1980's, she was re-imagined as tennis player Bette Kane, also known as Flamebird. She still had an infatuation with Robin.

LuAnn was Becky Thatcher in the Hanna-Barbera live action-animation mix The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The 1966 live action Batman had a lot of potential - a lot of unrealized potential. Potential that may have been wasted by hugging a formula and flogging it and milking it until it dried up. The show could have easily have continued beyond three seasons. If the episodes had been different from one another and unique; and the cast an ensemble of colorful supporting characters, not just the villains and heroes.

What if?

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