Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 31 & 32

By Joel Eisner

Gorshin's final appearance of the season was based on a 1965 comic entitled the Joker's Comedy Capers. As the episode turned out, it might have worked better as a Joker story. I personally don't think the Riddler would have had any interest in making silent films. All that pie throwing and sleeping cream, and spiked lemonade is really not a Riddler type of crime.

It did give Gorshin and his gang a chance to change clothes several times, but Riddler in the western gear at the end of the episode just was out of character. Gorshin did get more use out of his 3 piece suit in this episode and gave him time to impersonate Charlie Chaplin. But it just wasn't enough. Even Sherry Jackson's skimpy outfit (which would be reused by Heidi Jenson as one of the poor people of Gotham City in the Archer episode) couldn't save it.

Van Jones was played by former silent screen star Francis X. Bushman, this would be his next to last acting role. He last role came later that year on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea before dying at the age of 83 from complications from a fall. Bushman had a long career as an actor and director in silent films. He was quite wealthy, so even though he appeared in a lot of low budget productions in his later years, such as The Phantom Planet, Irwin Allen's Story of Mankind (recreating his silent film role as Moses) and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, he did it just to keep active. He in fact owned the property the famous Chinese Theater in Hollywood was built on.

Neil Hamilton a former silent screen star, who had a descent career in talkies, such as playing Jane's boyfriend in the first two Weismuller Tarzan films. was not so lucky. His career bottomed out and he wound up an alcoholic, almost broke, and considered suicide. He was going to jump off the Santa Monica Mountains. However, on his way there, he met a priest (Hamilton was a devote Roman Catholic) who turned his life around and a few days later, Hamilton got a job at Universal. His last job was a small role in the 1970 Jerry Lewis film Which Way to the Front (he had worked with Lewis years before on the film The Family Jewels). Hamilton who died in 1984 from severe asthma. Hamilton was quoted during the series as saying “I was trained to know every line like I know my own name, but to say it like it was being said for the first time. Acting is a means of earning a living to me. That’s all.” Hamilton was a distant cousin to Wicked Witch of the West actress Margaret Hamiton.

Bushman was some 16 years older than Hamilton but during the episode it almost seemed that there was some form of tension between the two. They were not rivals during silent films, and even before the temper tonic effects, they did not seem to get along.

The rest of the cast was made up of Theodore Marcuse, an interesting character actor, the son of a Jewish fur designer, was a classically trained Shakespearean actor, best known as Korab the alien magician in the Catspaw episode of Star Trek. Here he played Von Bloheim a parody of Erich Von Stroheim, has little to do here (as does the rest of the gang). Marcuse died in 1967 at the age of 47 , He died a car crash. He had been drinking.

Dick Bakalyan, who would return three more times to the series (once as an Egyptian standup comedian, who runs afoul of King Tut, and twice as henchmen to Louie the Lilac and the Joker (as the Martian). Here he is given little to do like the others.

Burt Brandon, rounded out the gang, little is known about him, besides this episode he guested on Girl from Uncle and That Girl. He was originally from Norway and born under the name of Alf Jacobsen. He died in 2004.

Sherry Jackson was best known as the oldest daughter on the Danny Thomas Show. Born in 1942, she was 24 when she appeared in this episode but by 1980 her acting career was over. She appeared on both Star Trek and Lost in Space, as an android and a seductive alien hillbilly witch respectively.

Gorshin would next appear as the Riddler in the feature film and not return to the series until third season. More on this when we get to the Astin Riddler episode.

Next The Penguin retuns in a fishy adventure as the final episode of the season.

1 comment:

  1. Francis X. Bushman did not appear in the 1923 TEN COMMANDMENTS (Theodore Roberts played Moses), but actually the 1925 BEN HUR (as Messala).