Though Batman may be the last word to come to mind when you think of classic Hollywood movie stars, the goofy, groovy show of the 1960s was a Mecca for seasoned silver screen performers. Here the old-time movie stars could cut loose and camp it up as outrageous and colorful villains. Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero and Frank Gorshin (as The Penguin, The Joker and The Riddler respectively) were the usual suspects; their long careers were effectively overshadowed by their regular appearances on the series. But there was much more evil in the television Bat universe. Here are some of the most memorable guest appearances:
Roddy McDowall as Bookworm
Clad from head to toe in creaky brown leather, McDowall makes reading the basis of a career in evil:
George Sanders as Mr. Freeze
Sanders was elegantly goofy as one of three Mr. Freezes on the series (Eli Wallach and director Otto Preminger also played the role):
Ida Lupino as Dr. Cassandra
Lupino teamed up with then-husband Howard Duff (who was also her husband on the show) to play the clever thief Dr. Cassandra. In this wild episode near the end of the series, she releases a host of super criminals from prison including: Romero, Meredith, Gorshin, Julie Newmar as Catwoman, and Vincent Price as Egghead. Here Lupino zings Batgirl with a sharp comeback:
Shelley Winters as Ma Parker
The often over-the-top Winters is a perfect fit for Batman villainy. Unlike many of these guest stars, her performance doesn't seem like much of a departure for her:
Vincent Price as Egghead
Price made multiple appearances as the chrome-domed, cowardly Egghead. Here he captures Batgirl:
Tallulah Bankhead as Black Widow
With her theatrical, gravelly voice and outrageous manner, Bankhead was the perfect Batman villain. She was also the campiest star on a show that was all about camp. Watch her spit out her lines with gusto, like Cruella Deville brought to life:
In addition to these memorable stars, there were also guest appearances by Michael Rennie, Anne Baxter, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Joan Collins, Van Johnson and even silent movie actor Francis X. Bushman. What a shame they never hired Joan Crawford or Bette Davis; those two would have been fantastic!
Next week: same bat time. Same bat channel. The less villainous classic star appearances on Batman.