I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

General goings on in the 1966 Batman World

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High C
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I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by High C » Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:28 am

This has been on my mind for awhile, and I wanted to put it out there and see what others think.

I realize, looking at imdb, that Frank Gorshin had numerous TV guest credits in the years leading up to Batman. But from what I can gather, it seems the public still knew him mainly from his nightclub/lounge act as an impressionist (and a very skilled and funny one). The more I think about it, Burgess Meredith and Penguin would've been a safer choice for the pilot and first aired arc.

I've often been critical of Dozier, and his gamble on the movie certainly backfired, but it took some nerve to roll the dice with Gorshin, and of course it paid off.

What do you folks think?
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

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John Mack
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by John Mack » Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:16 pm

I agree. But remember, his gamble almost didn't pay off. It was only ABC's rough position to get something on air that pushed it through. According to legend, the testing for series did not go well, so why they decided to still go with it after that is a mystery to me. And then there's why did they build an $800,000 set on that gamble etc. All amazing to me as well.
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TP-6597
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by TP-6597 » Mon Feb 04, 2019 6:55 pm

As I was quite young at the time, I can’t speak to who had more name recognition. As far as Riddler v Penguin is concerned, I see Riddler as a much better choice to launch. He’s a much more believable villain to me. Certainly more mainstream in what was already a big leap of faith in showing a live action comic book world.

To me at least, Riddler is sort of a known type of maniacal and unstable bad guy, as opposed to a waddling bad guy in a hat and tails. For me, The Riddler was a perfect level of scary seriousiousness to balance against the good guy millionaire dressed as a giant bat. I think Dozier chose perfectly.

In the interest of disclosure, Gorshin-as-Riddler is my favorite Batman villain of all time so I’m obviously biased.
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SprangFan
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by SprangFan » Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:19 pm

I think it's safe to say the younger audience was a key target demographic for the show, and when I was a kid I didn't know who any of those guys were. Admittedly i didn't discover the show until syndication, since I was a toddler when it went off the air in 69 , so maybe they were better known 10 years earlier?

I loved Burgess' episode of Twilight Zone but I didn't make the connection. I'd enjoyed Cesar in Disney's "Now You See Him Now You Dont" opposite Kurt Russell, but I didn't recognize him in that wig and whiteface. The others I didn't know from Adam (If you'll pardon the expression).

I think Batman's debut, and much of its run, traded on novelties like bright colors, wild camera work, crazy plots and inventive graphics. It was a spectacle, and would have been with or without "name" stars. Sure there was that added appeal for Mom and Dad (sometimes more like Grandpa) to say, "Hey it's so and so from that old movie!" But I in no way consider it central to the show's appeal. Did anyone really say, "we can't miss Batman this week, Rudy Vallee's going to be on!"

In the end, the Riddler is a more colorful, manic and outlandish character than the Penguin, so it makes sense to me they'd want to go "full on crazy" right out of the gate. Did many people peruse the TV Guide listings and say "I have my doubts about the premise, but you can't go wrong with Frank Gorshin"? I doubt it. More a case of, "Are they nuts? Grown men and women dressing in tights and acting out a comic book story? This I gotta see!"
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Dr. Shimel
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by Dr. Shimel » Mon Feb 04, 2019 9:13 pm

Gorshin appeared on an episode of The Defenders in which he played a killer who displays his insanity by channeling different famous people--allowing him to essentially do his nightclub act.

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epaddon
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by epaddon » Mon Feb 04, 2019 11:30 pm

Starting out with the character of the Riddler itself was a risk. We need to remember that in 1965 the Riddler had just been reintroduced in the comics after an absence of more than 15 years and was not a well-established rogues gallery figure (Gorshin is the reason the character became an iconic part of Bat-lore). Even Catwoman hadn't been seen for more than a decade so on one level it was taking a risk starting out of the gate with a character who was likely not well-entrenched in the minds of comic readers as perhaps the Joker or Penguin might have been (though I should check on how recent and frequent those characters had appeared in the early to mid-60s)

I also agree about the risk factor of going with Gorshin. I was not aware of his "Defenders" appearance but the description is not dissimilar from the kind of parts Rich Little would do in the 70s, which were basically roles that would give him an excuse to break into his act at some point. Looking at his imdb, I can see he had some other guest shots ("Naked City") that I should also check out, but I think it's also telling that they felt the need to put in a bigger "name" in the episode in Jill St. John who had billing *ahead* of Gorshin. If someone like Burgess Meredith is cast in the pilot then you don't need a Jill St. John to be paired with him and certainly not someone who'd get higher billing. So I think in that element, the producers knew they were taking a slight risk starting out with Gorshin and that's why they felt putting in Jill, who was at that point one of the few actresses known for crossing back and forth between TV guest shots and the big screen, would also help lure in more viewers. They were lucky Gorshin proved so successful that he didn't need that kind of "backup" again as it were in his subsequent appearances.

How things were in 1965 is how this issue needs to be looked at, and not what our own first impressions were when we discovered the show years after the fact.

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Bob Furmanek
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by Bob Furmanek » Tue Feb 05, 2019 11:14 am

Here's how the first show was spotlighted in a half-page listing in TV Guide:

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Keith Mayo
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by Keith Mayo » Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:11 pm

I remember seeing Frank Gorshin all over the tube before appearing on Batman. He was on all the variety shows back then. Anyone reading Batman comic books prior to the show's debut would know who the Riddler way so I don't see it as a gamble at all.
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John Mack
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by John Mack » Tue Feb 05, 2019 10:51 pm

Keith Mayo wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:11 pm
I remember seeing Frank Gorshin all over the tube before appearing on Batman. He was on all the variety shows back then. Anyone reading Batman comic books prior to the show's debut would know who the Riddler way so I don't see it as a gamble at all.
From what I've read over the years, as I stated in my first post, the entire thing was a gamble, as most pilots are. Glad it worked :D
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epaddon
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by epaddon » Tue Feb 05, 2019 11:41 pm

The Riddler had appeared just once in fifteen years in the comic books so he was about as well-known to comics readers as the likes of Mr. Polka-Dot (to name one of the many villains that appeared once in the same span over the years).

And yes, Gorshin was prolific on variety shows, especially Ed Sullivan, but that's exactly why it was a gamble to think he could be that memorable in a distinct performance role without resorting to impressionist/dialect gimmicks.

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Keith Mayo
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by Keith Mayo » Wed Feb 06, 2019 9:46 am

epaddon wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 11:41 pm
The Riddler had appeared just once in fifteen years in the comic books so he was about as well-known to comics readers as the likes of Mr. Polka-Dot (to name one of the many villains that appeared once in the same span over the years).
The Riddler had just reappeared in the comics less than a year before the show so the character was fresh in the minds of readers.
"It's the very essence of our democracy". - Batman, S1 Ep 11

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High C
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by High C » Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:11 am

Keith Mayo wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:11 pm
I remember seeing Frank Gorshin all over the tube before appearing on Batman. He was on all the variety shows back then.
That was my point. He was thought of as an impressionist, a standup, a person with a nightclub act. He was not known as a serious actor. Burgess Meredith and Cesar Romero were.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17

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High C
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by High C » Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:15 am

SprangFan wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:19 pm
It was a spectacle, and would have been with or without "name" stars. Sure there was that added appeal for Mom and Dad (sometimes more like Grandpa) to say, "Hey it's so and so from that old movie!" But I in no way consider it central to the show's appeal. Did anyone really say, "we can't miss Batman this week, Rudy Vallee's going to be on!"
Vallee is a cherry-picked example. You think adult males weren't saying, 'hey, Julie Newmar is on this week. I gotta watch that.'

And if the caliber of the actors didn't matter, Dough-zier would have grabbed a bunch of C-listers, paid them half the going rate, and relied on the bright colors and the writing and the spectacle of it all to get ratings.

And for instance, to give Newmar her due, if your theory is correct, Dozier could've picked any no-name moll-type actress with a terrific figure and had her poured into a catsuit. They got Newmar because she was talented and already was a big name.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17

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epaddon
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by epaddon » Wed Feb 06, 2019 11:35 am

I'd agree Riddler was "fresh" but not in the overall minds of readers re-established as a big player in the Bat universe. It was the show and Gorshin himself who was responsible for that.

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Bob Furmanek
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Re: I think Dozier rolled the dice with Gorshin

Post by Bob Furmanek » Wed Feb 06, 2019 12:14 pm

Gorshin 10.1.65.JPG

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