Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Frank Gorshin, 1934-2005

Actor Frank Gorshin, expert impressionist known best for his role as the Riddler on the '60s Batman series, died last evening in Burbank, reports the Associated Press. He was 72.

I grew up watching old tapes of Batman, and remember how Gorshin's manic performance as the Riddler crackled against the deadpan Adam West and over-earnest Burt Ward (as the caped crusader and Robin). He was Jim Carrey before Jim Carrey was Jim Carrey. Gorshin did plenty of B-list movies, some more mainstream (like 12 Monkeys), some TV (his final performance will air tomorrow on CSI), and proved a success on Broadway with his embodiment of George Burns in Say Goodnight, Gracie a few years ago.

He also did a little movie called Manna from Heaven in Buffalo in the spring of 2001. I was an extra, and sat opposite him in Shea's Performing Arts Center for a very long day of shooting. He was lively, a born agitator, but not impatient with the disorganization of the shoot. For the climactic scene, Gorshin danced onstage at Shea's with Shirley Jones. He played a cantankerous poop named Ed. It was a fine performance in a sub-par movie, which I guess was the story of his life.