Friday, October 21, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 57 & 58

By Joel Eisner

While Stanford Sherman wrote some of the better episodes of the second and third season, this is not one of them. The character of Marsha Queen of Diamonds makes no sense what so ever. She is supposed to be extremely rich, which a huge collection of diamonds. Her whole purpose in the story is to add to her collection of diamonds (not unlike Clock King's adding clocks and watches to his collection), and in particular the previously unknown Bat Diamond, (it would turn up in the background of the batcave in the upcoming Shame episode, before it disappeared completely, never to be seen or heard from again). Of course, how Marsha heard about the Bat Diamond, is anybody's guess.

The character of Marsha is badly conceived, she is obviously a white woman surrounded by what appear to be refugees from an old Hollywood Arabian Nights motion picture, the only thing missing is Jon Hall. Her guardians dressed in turbans and balloon harem pants. The Grand Mogul is played by black actor Woody Strode, who is dressed in what appears to be Indian (from India) dress clothes. Nothing seems to be what it seems, we have no background on the character. She is supposed to be this beautiful woman, who can have the pick of any man she wants (with the help of a love potion) but who is she? Based on what we are given, I get the impression, that she was some Hollywood glamour type actress (something explored when she teams up with Penguin later this season) who like Rita Hayworth or Grace Kelly married a rich foreign ruler, who died and left her untold riches and a staff right out of Alladdin. But then it gets weirder, she has a aunt who is a witch. Now this episode was written with Zsa Zsa Gabor in mind, but I believe it was tailored to fit Carolyn Jones. Having just come off two years of playing Morticia on the Addams Family, she is still playing the same character. The tone of her voice and snappy comments, except for the black wig and dress, its Morticia playing Marsha (Astin had the same problem when he played the Riddler, it was Gomez Addams playing the Riddler). As you recall, Grandma Addams also was a witch who created created love potions, among other things. Blossom Rock was too ill to work anymore so we got actress Estelle Winwood.

Winwood was already in her 80's when she did Batman (When she died in 1984 she was 101 and was the oldest actor in the Screen Actors Guild. Winwood who had worked as a witch in the film The Magic Sword with Basil Rathbone (who would have been an interesting Bat villain), and in real life was the best friend of Black Widow Tallaluh Bankhead. She gave the episode some of the best comic relief, and was by far the best thing in the episode (she would continue the fun in the 3 part Marsha/Penguin episode).

Woody Strode was former football player and member of John Ford's team of regular actors, was Batman's first black villain, although they tried to pass him off as some type of Arabian/Indian character. He reallly didn't have much to do in the episode except cater to Marsha, Strode was so physically fit, he could have taken Batman down in a few minutes (Strode was also a former wrestler), but when the Mogul attempts to fight, Batman at the end of the episode, he is quickly subdued under a window in Gordon's office.

Neil Hamilton finally had a chance to get away from the office and try out his former silent screen matinee idol leading man romance acting. He would have been better off staying in the office.

Alan Napier recalled an incident working on this episode, “I enjoyed the one in which I appeared as a solicitor from England with Carolyn Jones. The writers of the episode said that I was supposed to come from Putney Hill. I said there is no place called Putney Hill; there is a Putney. They said, “Then come from where you would like to come from.’ So, I remembered one of those lovely English country names: Morton in the Marsh. An enormous thing ensued from this when it was shown in England. The inhabitants of Morton in the Marsh were up all night over the excitement of being mentioned on the ‘Batman’ show. It even extended to Birmingham, the city of my birth. I remember getting a call from Birmingham, England, at three o’clock in the morning, and I thought that one of my relations there had died or something. I wasn’t organized after being awakened from a deep sleep and said more than I would have had I realized that this was a reporter trying to get a story. Batman appeared on the front page of the Birmingham Post. It is extraordinary, the power of television—particularly what successful series do. Of course, we didn’t go on and on forever. It ran out of characters and situations.”

Among producer William Dozier’s papers was a note from Zsa Zsa which reads as follows: “Thank you for your very sweet note. Needless; to say, I am heartbroken that I couldn’t do the BATMAN, but please keep me in mind for another one, because I love the show and I’m dying to work with you. Thank you again for being so nice to me. Zsa Zsa Gabor”

Next Cliff Robertson as Shame the Cowboy of Crime.


  1. There is also a letter from Dozier to Arlene Dahl suggesting that she too was under consideration for the part.

  2. Woody Strode also played baddies in a couple of TARZAN movies, including one with Jock Mahoney, where he really got to show off his physique.

  3. TARZAN'S DEADLY SILENCE was originally a two parter that ended up in theaters as a 1970 feature, long time since I've seen it.