Secrets Learned from Reading Billion Dollar Batman

I'm currently reading Billion Dollar Batman by Bruce Scivally. It's a well-written, wonderfully researched history of the Dark Knight character, as the sub-title says, from its origins in dime-comics through his portrayals on radio, film, and television, making him one of the most valuable franchises in entertainment, a fictional superhero recognized throughout the world.

The book reveals a lot of interesting anecdotes and fun facts. It sheds light on Bob Kane, who invented the Caped Crusader. We see his passion and creativity, his entrepreneurial savvy, but we also see how he possibly took credit for some of the ideas that stemmed from his collaborating artists. 

Page after page, new revelations emerge. Did you know that Batman's cape was red in the original movie serials, because it looked better on black-and-white film? Did you know that Batman's first radio appearance was in a Superman audio show?

The most interesting tidbits for me were discovering the actors who might have been cast in some of the now familiar roles of the 1960s Batman TV series that went to others.  Frank Sinatra might have been interested in playing the role of the Joker (although I'd heard some folks mention for years that it was Frank Gorshin's the Riddler that he really wanted to play.)


Jose Ferrer was actually the first choice, but the Clown Prince of Crime fell into the capable hands of Cesar Romero (before Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger eventually placed their unique stamps on the role.)


The producers wanted Mickey Rooney as the Penguin, but luckily Burgess Meredith landed the part.


Suzanne Pleshette might have had a chance to be Catwoman, before Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, and Anne Hathaway donned the black feline costume.


Legendary actress Bette Davis might have been Zelda the Great before Zsa Zsa Gabor.


Even the role of Batman himself was almost played by Lyle Waggoner before Adam West won the job.  Screen test footage exists as evidence to show how close he came.


The only information missing from the otherwise comprehensive book is a detailed chronology of the animated shows about Batman throughout the years, but maybe that's a sequel waiting in the wings.

If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, Billion Dollar Batman is available to be borrowed for free. Happy reading!

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