Alan Napier was the third-billed star of Batman, and is, somewhat remarkably, the only series regular who has a memoir currently in print. The book, Not Just Batman’s Butler, was written by Napier around 1970, and writer James Bigwood has edited and annotated it. At some points, Bigwood has filled in some quite large gaps that Napier left concerning his acting career, as the actor tended to focus more on his personal life. Batman does get a chapter, but it’s among the shortest in the book. So, is it worth the bat-fan’s time to pick up this 356-page tome? We’ve read the book and we try to answer that question in this episode.
ALSO: The Golden Orchestra’s version of Hefti’s Batman theme, and your mail about episode 146, in which we revealed the Batman at Washburn fan film!
Still, you guys were rather disappointed with the lack of attention Napier's biography paid to his Batman experiences. I do understand that Napier may have enjoyed the attention and checks, he had a very long career before Batman that he felt should be recognized. I can appreciate that he did not dedicate even an entire chapter to the series, because to Napier, it was a lucky break, but not that which defined him as an actor. Unlike the stars of the show, he was a known character actor for several decades, so portraying Alfred was not the zenith of his career.
Oh, a couple of shows ago, I posted something about individuals selling misconceptions about Batman in the decades since its cancellation, such as the idea that there was a current of sexual innuendo running through the series. I believe you thought I was referring to Burt, but in fact, I was pointing the finger at Adam. Long before their biographies, I saw both at car shows and conventions in the 70s, and it was Adam who added the sexual element to his recollections about the series ("curious stirrings in my utility belt..." / Newmar, Newmar, Newmar, etc,). At the time, Burt mentioned a number of things about the show (like being injured more than once, his favorite guest stars, dealing with sudden stardom, etc.), but his "show" was often G-to-PG rated material. On the other hand, some of Adam's stories would dip into the R / borderline X-rated end of the pool.
I can’t speak for Tim when I say that I wasn't really disappointed in the relative lack of Bat-content in Napier’s memoir. But I was feeling a little (perhaps needlessly) apologetic for presenting a Bat-related autobiography (to Bat-listeners) that doesn’t deliver much material about Napier’s role on and in the series. It’s a pleasurable reading experience and tells us a great deal about the actor’s experience, pleasures, pain, skills, and personality—all of which certainly makes me watch Napier’s Alfred performances much more closely and enriches that experience for me. However, the reader who picks up the book specifically because it’s titled Not Just Batman’s Butler and hopes for a tell-all, or merely a tell-something, is likely to be disappointed. We wanted to make clear what our listeners will get if they decide to pick up this charming, lengthy reminiscence of a distinguished character actor’s life and career.
I guess I feel it's similar to some past classic rock bands/artists who seem more interested in playing their 'new album' when they tour years after their prime instead of playing the hits and pleasing the fans. I guess it's a tough balance between obligation to the fans and obligation to one's own standards. There is no easy answer, and by all accounts, he was a very good and caring person. But I do think sometimes in this world you have to give to get, and more info about Batman likely would have made the book more accessible.
As for his other roles, I recommend checking out a B-movie called Island of Lost Women, which you can find on the internet if you search for it. It's not nearly as lurid as the title indicates. Napier plays a scientist who has taken his daughters to a deserted island because he believes society is a lost cause. Of course, his neat way of life is shattered when two guys crash land their plane there (but miraculously are unhurt and begin, of course, romancing his daughters). The character is a learned man, to be sure, but very un-Alfred-like.
BTW, I'm surprised you guys didn't mention his appearance in the 1974 mini-series QB VII. His character's name: Semple.
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
I went into this podcast knowing absolutely nothing about Alan Napier's life outside of the '66 Batman series. His list of acting credits is incredible. I can't imagine anyone else on the show had such an extensive career beyond the show. Am I wrong? Certainly a life worth celebrating.
REPENT, SINNERS! Nice find, High C.