ByCraig Whyel, writer at
Film & TV news, previews and commentary
Craig Whyel

I recently conducted an internet search for “the original Batman” and found countless listings for the 1960's TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward.

That is inaccurate.

The original Batman was a fifteen-installment film serial in 1943, produced by Columbia Pictures, roughly four years from the Batman comic book premiere in 1939.

In the debut serial, Batman and Robin fighting Dr. Daka, an evil Japanese Scientist who turns people into zombies with a special machine.

Actors Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft played the title roles. If they are not familiar names it is because their careers were not particularly distinguished.

Wilson was twenty-three during filming, making him the both the first and youngest actor to play Batman. Most of his roles came during the forties and fifties. He eventually stopped acting and took a job with General Foods. He died in 2000.

As for Croft, he was sixteen when he played Robin and quit acting seven years later. He was working as a short order cook when he died in 1963 at 38.

Both men were to reprise their roles in a 1949 sequel of sorts but were replaced by actors, Robert Lowry and Johnny Duncan. There is no known reason for the switch.

The earliest screen Batman film was decidedly low-tech (as was the follow-up six years later). It is obvious that every expense was spared in the production.

Entertainment-wise, the serial didn't hold up much, unless you like seeing superheroes in poorly-fitting costumes, fighting it out in awkwardly choreographed brawls, and riding around in a bland charcoal black car.

Historically-speaking, it is significant because it marked the initial foray into what became one of the most popular cinematic franchises.


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