Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Boy Wonder Turns 65

If you were a child in the 1960s — and your family either owned or had access to a television set (and not all families did in those days) — Batman must bring back memories from your formative years.

I was a small child when Batman was on the air. My brother was even smaller. But, as I recall, we both were ardent Batman fans.

One year, if memory serves, I had a Batman lunch box. I took it with me to school every day, and I looked forward to lunch time because that meant I could bring out my lunch box and show everyone that I was such a Batman devotee that I had the official lunch box (with the matching thermos, which was great for keeping milk cold or soup hot).

We were such Batman fans, my brother and I, that one year my mother made Batman and Robin costumes for us to wear on Halloween.

Mom had many talents, and she often made our Halloween costumes. I always assumed that she created those costumes from scratch as well because I had seen her sewing them on her old sewing machine. But not so long ago, I learned the truth. Apparently, a fabric company capitalized on the popularity of the show by producing patterns for children's costumes (see the picture at the left). Mom did make the costumes, but she followed someone else's instructions.

Yep, my brother and I were huge Batman fans. Thus, it is an odd feeling to realize that "The Boy Wonder" is 65 today.

I guess TV's Robin always did look young, even boyish — not so much to me, I guess, although I have concluded that's because the words "boyish" and "girlish" only apply to others when they have stopped applying to you, and I was quite a bit younger than Burt Ward was when he played that part.

At the time, "boyish" is not the word I would have chosen to describe Burt Ward. In hindsight, though, it is obvious to me how boyish he must have appeared to most 1960s viewers.

That clearly was by design. In the story line, Robin/Dick Grayson came from a family of acrobats, and Batman/Bruce Wayne became his guardian when his family was killed.

But "Batman" apparently was the apex of Ward's acting career. It happens that way with some actors. They become so closely identified with a role that they find it difficult to find work, and Ward was one of those actors, although he did manage to land some jobs in some projects years later and he participated in various reunions with his Batman co–star Adam West (who is now 81).

Ward appears to have moved on to other pursuits. But did you know this? At one time, he was considered for the lead role in "The Graduate" — but he didn't get the part because the production company that was responsible for the TV show wanted him to be identified strictly with the role of Robin.

So Dustin Hoffman got the role and got to utter the immortal line, "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?"

Who knows how different things would have been if Burt Ward had gotten that part?

Happy birthday, Robin.