I keep saying I won’t turn this blog into just obituaries, but there are some deaths I just can’t let go by without marking their passing. Adam West is one of those.
While most people look at someone like William Shatner as victims of typecasting, it was really Adam West who suffered the most. West was much like Clayton Moore (of Lone Ranger fame) in being so closely associated with the one role and never managing to branch out from it. Unlike Moore, though, West was never banished from the uniform, or even the role for that matter. He returned to the Batman role once in live-action and a few times as a voice artist, the most recently being Return of the Caped Crusaders which I saw in a special theater screening a while back. It’s ironic then that Shatner was cast in the sequel, something that sounds like was far enough along to still be completed after West’s death yesterday.
Whether or not the people behind the Return of the Caped Crusaders were aware of West’s leukemia, they had to have known that you can’t take your health for granted when you’re in your late 80s. It reminds me of the heavy use of Christopher Lee in his latter years, especially how they managed his filming for The Hobbit when he was very frail.
I won’t use this blog post as a summation of Adam West’s career other than to say that somewhere in the 90s he was able to establish himself as a brand. His Family Guy persona, that of an egocentric eccentric Mayor bordering on senility, was really the culmination of a transformation that was already well underway.
By the time Facebook came out West was able to settle into a home that allowed him to be surrounded by his fans 24/7. I was following him while he posted photos of his various cooking projects, like a turkey or a pot-roast. It felt as if he was like an old uncle or something. A few of the other remaining holdouts from the 60s are enjoying similar treatment on social networks. But the fact remains that West was able to keep working steadily up until his death is a triumph of not so much escaping typecasting but using it to his advantage, and always doing it with the same sense of fun as the Batman TV show.
Godspeed, Adam West.
I had a very special relationship with the Batman character growing up, one that was heavily dominated by West’s portrayal. I’ll be writing a separate blog post about that one.