Adam West, one of the most enduring pop culture figures of the 1960s, has passed away at age 88 after a battle with leukemia. West was a hunky young actor laboring in bit parts in films such as "The Young Philadelphians", "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" and co-starring with the Three Stooges in their last feature film "The Outlaws is Coming!" when he got the opportunity to audition for the role of Batman in ABC's new TV series. The essence of the show was that it would be played as a broad comedy. West impressed the producers with his ability to pretend his character wasn't in on the joke. West played Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne as stalwart, incorrupt heroes. He approved young Burt Ward to play the role of Robin despite not having any previous acting experience. The show, which premiered in January 1966, took off like a rocket especially with young people who appreciated the funky humor and the eye-popping production designs. ABC decided to emulate the old Batman serials but presenting the show as two half-hour episodes on consecutive nights, the first one always ending with a cliffhanger. Many actors of repute competed to play villains in the show including Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Vincent Price and many others. In 1966, Fox rushed a feature film based on the series into production with West and Ward starring.
The show also inspired the short-lived TV series "The Green Hornet", which gave Bruce Lee his first dose of fame. By early 1968, however, the show's novelty had worn off and it was canceled. West struggled to find acting gigs. In 1971 he won good reviews for a dramatic performance in "The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker", playing a supporting role. West was proud of the film but it wasn't a hit and his career went back into the doldrums. West never went out of style, however, and make lucrative appearances throughout the decades at fan conventions around the world.
He also got a late career boost by providing the voiceover work for the hit animated TV comedy series "The Family Guy" as well as for the "Batman" animated series. West also enjoyed a surge in popularity whenever a new "Batman" feature film would go into production and he was a participant in the long-awaited home video release of the "Batman" TV series in 2014. In 2013, Netflix ran a documentary "Starring Adam West" in which the actor reflected on his career. For more click here.
Winston Churchill may be the famous figure of the 20th century to be most-portrayed on film. Indeed, it's hard to sell a historically-themed British film or TV series that touches upon the WWII years without making Churchill a central character. For actors the role must seem irresistible. After all, Churchill's real-life mannerisms and eccentricities remain the stuff of legend. In an age when most people are seemingly uninterested and uninformed about history, Churchill Mania is very much in vogue in some quarters. In the new film independent film "Churchill", Brian Cox becomes the latest thespian to portray the larger-than-life statesman. He does a brilliant job of it, too, having gained over twenty pounds in the process. It may seem that Churchill is one of the easiest legends to be imitated. As with John Wayne, it seems any drunk with a lampshade on his head can knock out a reasonably effective impersonation. However, Cox delivers one of the more effective interpretations of the man, playing up his physical and emotional frailties. The film concerns itself only with the period of timing leading up to the D-Day invasion- and there lies the rub. It is known that Churchill had strong reservations about the audacity of the Allies launching an "all-or-nothing-at-all" gamble to liberate Occupied France. However, the extent of those reservations has long been debated by historians. Churchill apologists have argued that his concerns were relatively minor and that he ended up being an enthusiastic proponent of the plan. His critics say that he whitewashed history in his memoirs and believe that he was reluctantly dragged into supporting the invasion only when it became clear that his objections were being overruled. The screenplay for the film is firmly in the second camp, making Churchill a man who was vehemently opposed to D-Day to the point of making himself a nuisance to Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery, who were hell-bent on taking the gamble. I don't proclaim to be an expert in Churchillian history so I can't address concerns cited by some other critics that the film exaggerates his objections to the invasion and the impact it had on the military and his wife Clementine (Miranda Richardson). She is portrayed as a long-suffering spouse who must endure her husband's constant temper tantrums and self-centeredness. This isn't a minor point. The entire plot is basically centered on Churchill's position on the D-Day invasion. The film does acknowledge a known fact: Churchill did favor a massive invasion of Europe but wanted the Allies to land in Italy, where they already had a foothold. His ideas were dismissed by Eisenhower in favor of using Normandy as the landing point. Although the film doesn't specify why Eisenhower rejected Churchill's plan, historians say it was because the fighting going on in Italy was proving to be far worse than anyone had predicted and the feat of getting an entire invasion force over so many geographical obstacles would have greatly slowed or diminished the effort. Although some critics have said that "Churchill" is a bastardization of history, there are scholars who back up the representation that Churchill was vigorously opposed to Eisenhower's plans for the Normandy invasion. As indicated in the film, he was haunted by the battle at Gallipoli in WWI, which he had planned. It resulted in massive Allied losses and Churchill was obsessed with not having another major invasion result in such casualties. What the film undeniably presents in an accurate setting is Eisenhower's momentous decision to trust his weatherman and approve the launch of the D-Day invasion, taking advantage of a sliver of barely acceptable conditions at sea. Half of his advisers told him not to do it while the other half told him he must. It's a scene filled with drama and tension- and one in which Churchill finds himself relegated to the status of bystander.