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Frank Gorshin - Riddler dies


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Frank Gorshin died May 17 in LA, from complications of pneumonia. Mr. Gorshin's associate has announced the sad news on the 1966 BATMAN Message Board; a press release obituary is pending at this time.

1966 BATMAN Messge Board

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Guest ranster627

Thanks for the very quick post ... you beat most news stations ... I always loved Frank Gorshin ... aside from his stint as Riddler, he was amazing with his imitations!

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Remembering TV's Riddler

By Joal Ryan

FrankGorshin.jpg

Frank Gorshin wasn't always crazy about the Riddler's tights. But he didn't begrudge what the Riddler's renown did for his career.

Gorshin, the nightclub comic who moved up to the big room as TV's original conundrum-coining Caped Crusader foe on the 1960s Batman series, died Tuesday at a Burbank, California, hospital, it was reported.

The "complete entertainer," as his official biography proffered, had been battling lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia, his family said.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Gorshin's wife, Christina, said her husband "put up a valiant fight."

Lee Meriwether, Catwoman to Gorshin's Riddler in the 1966 Batman movie, called her costar "an extremely gifted man."

Gorshin was 71, per the birth date given in his bio. Easier to pin down was the source of fame for a noted impressionist who made a career of speaking in many voices: the Riddler. "That was the catalyst that elevated me from opening act to headliner," Gorshin told National Public Radio in 2002.

When Batman premiered on ABC on Jan. 12, 1966, Gorshin was not an unfamiliar face. He'd done Ed Sullivan, sharing one historic 1964 bill with the Beatles. He'd done movies, chiefly 1960's Bells Are Ringing. He'd done Vegas.

Then he did the Riddler.

Outfit in the archvillain's question-mark-covered green body-stocking, Gorshin bedeviled Gotham City's finest--Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, respectively--with a manic energy, a hyena laugh and assorted tranquilizer guns.

Sample Riddler riddle (from the 1966 Batman feature): "What does a turkey do when he flies upside down?" (Answer, as Robin explained: "He gobbles up.") Gorshin appeared in eight episodes, encompassing four cliffhanger storylines broadcast on back-to-back nights, in Batman's first breakout season. Then he picked up an Emmy nomination. Then he did the movie, teaming up with Bat enemies Cesar Romero (the Joker), Burgess Meredith (the Penguin) and Meredith (Catwoman).

Then Gorshin got a little worn out on the costume.

"He didn't like the tights--I know that," Meriwether remembered Wednesday. "Back then, they were cotton and they [only] had a little bit of stretch in them...[in the movie], they gave him a gorgeous suit to wear--oh, it was wonderful."

Gorgeous or no, the suit wasn't enough to lure Gorshin back for Batman's second season. The show made due with John Astin in the tights and Maurice Evans as Riddler wannabe, the Puzzler.

Gorshin returned for Batman's third and final season, guesting in the one-shot 1967 adventure "Ring Around the Riddler." After, Batman went into syndication, Gorshin went into showrooms; the Riddler went onto Jim Carrey (in 1995's Batman Forever). "I'm the only one left--of the villains from the [original] movie," Meriwether said, a sigh in her voice. "...We lost Cesar so early [in 1994], and then Burgess [in 1997], and now Frank--oh, dear."

As an impressionist, Gorshin estimated he did about 50 stars, from Kirk Douglas to Rodney Dangerfield.

A major Vegas draw post-Batman, Gorshin continued to rack up Hollywood credits. Befitting the legacy of the green tights, he appeared in several sci-fi/comic-book series, including: Star Trek, the 1969 episode, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield," which required him to wear black-and-white face paint in place of the Riddler mask; Wonder Woman; Buck Rogers in the 25th Century; and Lois & Clark.

Gorshin reprised his Riddler self in the odd 1979 NBC failure Legends of the Superheroes, wherein the likes of Robin the Boy Wonder (played by the thirtysomething Burt Ward) gathered to roast, Dean Martin-style, Batman (played by Adam West).

Meredith said Gorshin never resented his signature role. None of her fellow Bat villains did, she said. "We all loved the challenge of bringing reality to cartoons," Meredith said, "and that what I think [Gorshin] loved about it--the actor's challenge."

In recent years, Gorshin gave voice to the latter-day Batman baddie Dr. Hugo Strange on the animated series The Batman, courted a Tony nomination (but didn't quite get there) for his performance as comic George Burns in the one-man Broadway show Say Goodnight Gracie and became one of director Quentin Tarantino's rediscoveries.

On Thursday night, Gorshin will be seen, alongside Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot) and John Saxon (Enter the Dragon) in the Tarantino-helmed two-hour CSI season finale. For Gorshin, the project was a homecoming: CSI, after all, is set in Vegas.

Born Apr. 5, 1934, in Pittsburgh, Gorshin pursued show biz in earnest following stints in college and the Army.

According to Gorshin's bio, his most prized possessions included a Hollywood Reporter review that explained what it was he did for a living. "He is an actor--a fine actor. He is a singer--a fine singer. He is a comic--a splendid comic," the article is said to have declared.

No riddle about it.

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