Remembering Frank Gorshin, born April 5, 1933 and passed away on May 17, 2005.
Frank John Gorshin, Jr. was an impressionist, comedian, and actor who played Commissioner Bele in TOS: “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”.
He is best remembered for his portrayal of The Riddler in the 1960s Batman television series, for which he received his first Emmy nomination (the only one for the series). Other Trek alumni he worked with on the series are Roy Jenson, Sherry Jackson, Theo Marcuse, Yvonne Craig, Joan Collins, Gil Perkins and director Robert Butler. Gorshin also played The Riddler in the 1966 Batman film produced to capitalize on the TV show’s success. The film also featured Lee Meriwether, Gil Perkins, Dick Crockett and George Sawaya. The character of The Riddler was subsequently voiced by Michael Bell on the 1970s series Challenge of the SuperFriends and by John Glover in the 1990s Batman animated series.
After serving in the Army during the Korean War, Gorshin had a role in the 1957 film The True Story of Jesse James, starring Jeffrey Hunter and featuring Frank Overton and Clegg Hoyt. In 1959, he made an uncredited appearance in the western Warlock, as did Paul Comi. TOS actor DeForest Kelley and guest actor Whit Bissell had larger, credited roles in this film.
Gorshin’s first substantial role was in the 1960 film Bells Are Ringing, with “The Omega Glory” guest actor Roy Jenson.
Early in his career, Gorshin performed his impressionist/comedy act many times on The Ed Sullivan Show. He, Charlie Brill and Georgia Brown were among Sullivan’s guests on the legendary 9 February 1964 show which featured the American debut of The Beatles. In 1965, Gorshin had a supporting role in the popular Disney film That Darn Cat!, which also featured Karl Held and Liam Sullivan.
Gorshin also had a role in the 1978 mini-series Greatest Heroes of the Bible. Other Star Trek alumni featured on this series include Ted Cassidy, Jeff Corey, Nehemiah Persoff, John Schuck, and Dean Stockwell. Gorsin’s other television work up to this point had included guest appearances on The Defenders (with the aforementioned Frank Overton), The Untouchables (in an episode with Stefan Gierasch, Gilbert Green, and Jason Wingreen), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (with Nancy Kovack), The High Chaparral (starring Henry Darrow), The Interns (with Stephen Brooks, Skip Homeier, and Sandra Smith), Ironside (with Joan Pringle, Kenneth Tobey, and Jason Wingreen), and Charlie’s Angels (with Meg Wyllie).
In 1979, Gorshin appeared in a two-part episode of the cult science fiction series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, on which Tim O’Connor was a regular cast member. He had roles in several films and made-for-TV movies during the 1980s, in addition to guest-starring in a 1988 episode of Murder, She Wrote with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine regular Rene Auberjonois and Star Trek: The Next Generation guest actor Matt McCoy.
In 1993, Gorshin appeared in the film Amore!, which also starred TOS actor James Doohan. That same year, he was seen in the film The Meteor Man, featuring Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Jr., Wallace Shawn, and Deborah Lacey. In 1995, he made an appearance in the acclaimed science fiction thriller, Twelve Monkeys, co-starring Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country actor Christopher Plummer. Gorshin and Plummer had previously worked together in 1987’s The Gnomes’ Great Adventure.
In later years, Gorshin portrayed classic cartoon characters like Foghorn Leghorn, Daffy Duck, and Yosemite Sam in various animated shorts. This talent for mimicry would lead to his masterful portrayal of legendary comedian George Burns in his one-man play Say Goodnight, Gracie. He also played the role of Burns in his final film, 2005’s Angels with Angles, with Amy Wieczorek as Burns’ wife and partner, Gracie Allen. Another of Gorshin’s last films was the 2002 comedy Manna from Heaven, which co-starred Louise Fletcher and Seymour Cassel.
In 2003, Gorshin reunited with most of the surviving Batman cast members, including TV Catwoman Julie Newmar and movie Catwoman Lee Meriwether, in the TV special Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt. Brett Rickaby portrayed a young Gorshin in flashbacks to his Batman days. Also appearing were Jason Marsden, Julia Rose, Jim Jansen, Ray Buktenica, Steve Vinovich, Joel Swetow, Christopher Darga, Ivar Brogger, and Todd Merrill.
Soon thereafter, he voiced a completely different DC Comics villain, Dr. Hugo Strange, for the latest animated Batman series called The Batman.
Gorshin died in Burbank, California, on 17 May 2005 following bouts with lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia. He was 72 years old.
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